Czechoslovakia – Luxembourg: Comfortable in the end for physically imposing hosts
L 1: Leslie Irvine
L 2: Andrew Ritchie
(All Northern Ireland)
Written by: kaltz
A sunny Tuesday afternoon in the Prague spring: Three matches in and it is status quo for Luxembourg. They’ve not picked up a single point, and it doesn’t look very likely that they’ll break that trend behind the Iron Curtain. Czechoslovakia are in desperate need for both the two points and also a good few goals to boost their goal difference and possibly their egos after going down in Belgium Saturday 10 days earlier. Three points from three matches, and a defeat to perhaps their greatest group rival, will not have been what Dr Vengloš would have wanted. They were also behind Portugal, who had opened their points account in impressive manner, with five out of six from three successive home matches. Pressure was indeed on Czechoslovakia to succeed.
Dr Jozef Vengloš was without his goalscorer from the 2-1 defeat in Belgium: Milan Luhový was nowhere to be seen: not in the starting eleven and not among the five substitutes on the home bench. The same had been the case with Tomáš Skuhravý in Brussels, but here he was seen leading the line with Sparta Praha colleague Griga. The only other change to the starting eleven saw Václav Němeček replace Lubomír Vlk. No less than six players from likely Czechoslovakian champions Sparta Praha, for a third successive season, were in the starting line-up, with a further two on the bench.
Luxembourg had not played at all since the 1-0 defeat in Portugal half a year earlier, and manager Paul Philipp had to make do without his star forward Robby Langers. That meant there was a starting space again for Armin Krings, up top next to Guy Hellers, the nation’s other star player. It was unfortunate that they could not have both Hellers and Langers featuring at the same time. Hellers would be playing in an advanced midfield role, or perhaps as a deep second striker. Young Union Luxembourg midfielder Marc Birsens came into the side on behalf of missing Théo Scholten, which saw Gérard Jeitz moved out to the left hand side in order to accomodate the 22 year old in a central position alongside the seasoned Carlo Weis. The predominantly ineffective Jean-Paul Girres was given another chance on the right hand side of midfield. The Luxembourg back four consisted of the same four players that had featured in Portugal, and Bossi would be playing more or less at full-back, with Scheuer, left back in the opening half in Lisbon, appearing at centre half in Prague.
When these two had met in Luxembourg City the previous October, the game had been settled by two first half goals: Hašek with a sweet left foot strike and Chovanec directly from a right hand corner had seen Czechoslovakia triumph back then.
|1 Jan Stejskal||27||Sparta Praha|
|2 Michal Bílek||24||Sparta Praha|
|3 Miroslav Kadlec||sub h-t||24||Vítkovice|
|4 Ivan Hašek (c)||25||Sparta Praha|
|5 Ján Kocian||31||St. Pauli|
|6 Václav Němeček||sub 71′||22||Sparta Praha|
|7 František Straka||30||Borussia Mönchengladbach|
|8 Jozef Chovanec||29||PSV Eindhoven|
|9 Stanislav Griga||27||Sparta Praha|
|10 Tomáš Skuhravý||23||Sparta Praha|
|11 Ľubomír Moravčík||23||Plastika Nitra|
|12 Vladimír Kinier||31||Slovan Bratislava|
|14 Július Bielik||on h-t||27||Sparta Praha|
|15 Roman Kukleta||24||Sparta Praha|
|16 Vladimír Weiss||on 71′||24||Inter Bratislava|
|22 Luděk Mikloško||26||Baník Ostrava|
|1 John van Rijswijck||55′||27||Union Luxembourg|
|2 Hubert Meunier (c)||29||Avenir Beggen|
|3 Pierre Petry||27||Jeunesse d’Esch|
|4 Marcel Bossi||29||Progrès Niedercorn|
|5 René Scheuer||27||Red Boys Differdange|
|6 Jean-Paul Girres||28||Avenir Beggen|
|7 Marc Birsens||22||Union Luxembourg|
|8 Carlo Weis||23′||30||Thionville|
|9 Gérard Jeitz||sub 76′||28||Union Luxembourg|
|10 Guy Hellers||34′||24||Standard Liège|
|11 Armin Krings||sub 89′||26||Avenir Beggen|
|12 Paul Koch||22||Red Boys Differdange|
|13 Jeff Saibene||on 76′||20||Aarau|
|14 Denis Scuto||24||Jeunesse d’Esch|
|15 Théo Malget||on 89′||28||FC Wiltz 71|
|16 Patrick Morocutti||21||Union Luxembourg|
This was how the teams lined-up from kick-off, with a very traditional and conservative 4-4-2 from the visitors, whilst the home side saw a bit more mobility within the various positions, especially with Chovanec coming forward from his libero role. Němeček perhaps didn’t seem to enjoy too much playing out wide, a territory into which skipper Hašek was occasionally also seen storming. Kadlec kept focus on his defensive duties, while Kocian was very efficient in his role as the midfield anchor man.
Bielik came on for Kadlec at half time and enjoyed a lot more freedom to join the attack than his predecessor had done. Indeed, it only took 18 seconds after the restart for him to create Czechoslovakia’s first opportunity, as his cross for Skuhravý was headed just over. Bielik performed much more like an attacking full-back than as part of a three man defence. Dr Vengloš had instructed Kocian to keep an eye on proceedings behind him whenever Bielik ventured forward. At the start of the second half the manager had also moved Němeček away from the flank and into a more central role behind the two forwards, but he still wasn’t too heavily involved in play. Němeček was possibly just having an average match. Weiss, when he was brought on, was told to stay closer to the touchline, and revelled during the few minutes that he got. He was also seen coming inside, and played a major role in Skuhravý’s second and Czechoslovakia’s fourth, as he fed the excellent Moravčík down the wing. The home team’s number 11, equally comfortable with both feet, crossed immaculately for the big forward to score with Czechoslovakia’s third header of the afternoon. Bílek would also from time to time keep more of a defensive image, as also Straka was willing to cross the halfway line and contribute inside Luxembourg’s half. So with a lot of positional changes and football that was sweet to the eye, Czechoslovakia really rolled over the poor visitors as the game wore on. This will have been Dr Vengloš’ version of total football.
It takes Czechoslovakia 30 seconds to state their intent, when Kocian aims a 50 yard pass for Griga to chase, but it is hit too long and the ball runs out of play. They continue to be all over the visitors early on, and 5,25 in it pays off, when Chovanec’ sweetly lifted left-footed pass just clears the head of Marcel Bossi and drops onto the foot of Hašek, whose first touch sees the ball ricochet on to Griga. The Sparta Praha forward rams it home with his left foot, leaving van Rijswijck with no chance. One could well say that it was a case of ‘what the doctor had ordered’, as the man in charge at the Czechoslovakian bench would have wanted an early goal to settle any nerves.
His team selection was indeed an interesting one, and though it did contain quite a few attacking players, some could perhaps have claimed that he could’ve let out a defensive midfielder when facing Luxembourg at home. However, Dr Vengloš knew he had to get his team’s balance right. And he had. The experienced Kocian sat just in front of the three central defenders. However, those three behind him were allowed to venture forward, though no one did more so than Chovanec, the elegant sweeper. At times he looked more like a midfield director than someone originally in a defending position. Kocian fell back into defence when either of the three decided to join in attack, and although there was little risk in Luxembourg committing a lot of men forward at the same time, Czechoslovakia knew they would never shirk away from their defensive responsibilities.
With the industrious captain Hašek and the energetic Bílek in midfield roles just ahead of Kocian, the home side had players who could tear the Luxembourg midfield apart. They would both run all day, Hašek in particular. And then there were options of feeding either Němeček on the right or Moravčík on the left, if they did not opt to let one of the two strikers challenge the over-worked Luxembourg backline. It was plain to see that all of this was too much for the visitors to deal with.
It was perhaps surprising to see that Philipp had put Scheuer into the heart of the defence to try and take out Skuhravý. In their previous outing, the 1-0 defeat in Portugal in November, Scheuer had started the game at left back and then moved into the centre, but he had now switched roles with hard man Bossi from kick-off, the latter now wide left in defence, tasked to look after Němeček. And Petry, who had played as right sided central defender in Portugal, was now playing central left, nearest to Bossi, as Skuhravý often prefered to attack the central left of the Luxembourg penalty area, thus leaving Scheuer central right. Only skipper Meunier at right back had the same role as he had had in Lisbon. And midfield saw another positional change, with Jeitz, centrally alongside Weis in Portugal, out wide here. Jeitz would let his shin pads go after 23 minutes, seeing the game through socks around ankles. Birsens had come into the central role next to Weis, but he made little difference to or from, as they were steamrollered for most of the half (and, indeed, the game). Weis, often trying to be a source of creativity, but with desperately little help from his midfield colleagues, saw yellow for a tackle on Bílek just to the right of his own penalty area. He protested, but it was all in vain as the non-fussy Northern Irish referee told him to shut it. And rightly so. Weis’ tackle on Bílek had warranted a caution. Like in their last qualifier, Girres was seen right wide in midfield, and again he hardly made an impression. Hellers, an omission last time around, often came deep to try and take part in any build-up play that the visitors might contribute with. But the Standard Liège player was not able to have a lot of influence on the match. Krings was mostly left isolated up front.
Mr Donnelly, the referee, gave Czechoslovakia an indirect free-kick just ten yards out from van Rijswijck’s goalline after the ‘keeper had been punished for using too many steps. So often a goalkeeper gets away with it without any retribution from the officials, so he will have been surprised to have been awarded a free-kick against. However, Kadlec could not take advantage, as his shot hit the wall. There’s a good few decent opportunities for the home team during the opening 45, whilst it will take more than 18 minutes from kick-off until Jan Stejskal gets to touch the ball for the first time. Petry is perhaps fortunate to escape a penalty when he appears to clip the heel of Bílek inside the area. Hellers is not so lucky when he ironically applauds the referee giving Hašek a free-kick after a challenge from Birsens out wide. Mr Donnelly calls him over and shows him the yellow card before the game can resume. However, what was more remarkable, was that the Luxembourg manager, Philipp, was sent to the stands for having vented his frustration at the linesman on the near side, when his physios were not allowed out onto the pitch to treat Krings, who had gone to the ground after an aerial challenge with Kadlec. This happened in the 28th minute, and Philipp went to have a seat in Luxembourg’s part of the press zone.
During the last seven minutes of the half, both Chovanec and Skuhravý strike well with their respective left boots, but on both occasions van Rijswijck is equal to the efforts. A more efficient side would have gone into the break more than just 1-0 up, but there would probably be more in store for the second half. Czechoslovakia had after all showed some promising stuff. Luxembourg’s only chance had come when Krings had a moment of clairvoyance and played in Hellers to have a run at goal on 37 minutes, only to be obstructed by Chovanec on the edge of the area. Hellers rolls the resulting indirect free-kick into the path of Weis, whose fiercly struck effort’s blocked down by culprit Chovanec. Three minutes from time Weis tries to play Krings through, only for the linesman to flag him offside. The Luxembourg forward doesn’t realize that the whistle’s gone, so he continues and fires home past Stejskal, but the home ‘keeper wasn’t bothered.
The teams reappear with one change: Czechoslovakia have replaced Kadlec with Bielik, and it does actually appear to be a straight switch at first, though Bielik does not exactly hold back when given the opportunity to trot forward down the right hand touchline. And his first involvement almost yields a second home goal 18 seconds in, when Skuhravý heads his cross just over having got in behind Bossi who does seem to be slow in orientating himself at times. It was him who lost track of Hašek and Griga for the opening goal.
Straka looks to be the one sitting deep at the start of the second half, with Chovanec being free to take up a midfield role. With Hašek and now also Bielik occupying the attacking right flank, Němeček’s presence in this territory seems surplus to requirements, so he slots into a role just behind the two strikers. The home side does not intend to losen their grip on Luxembourg. Central defender Petry takes a big knock to the head from Griga, and looks shaky as he is aided off the pitch by the physio and his assistant. The referee had not deemed it necessary to halt play even if he had noticed the Luxembourg number 3 lying on the ground motionless. Petry is back in action again briefly after, and plays on like nothing happened. The Luxembourg defenders do like to give van Rijswijck an option for playing goal kicks short, but Czechoslovakia are aware that this is what the visitors want, so Němeček, Griga, Skuhravý and Moravčík more or less take turns in cutting off this possibility.
The visiting goalkeeper sees yellow ten minutes into the second half as the third visitor to do so. But what for? Difficult to say. The Czechoslovakian attacks are relentless; there’s no let-up for the overworked visiting defence. A second goal is just a matter of time away: Griga heads a Chovanec corner via the crossbar and over. Bílek hits a free-kick from 25 yards half a yard over van Rijswijck’s goal. Skuhravý heads a Griga cross…over. Then Griga fires straight at the Luxembourg ‘keeper from a few yards out. The Doctor decides to make a change. He needs his side to up their efficiency. Němeček takes a seat as Weiss comes on. No respite for the busy Bossi, the guests’ left back.
The Luxembourg goalkeeper’s done well, but he misjudges Bielik’s cross when Skuhravý can head home the hosts’ second. 15 minutes to go and Czechoslovakia start to smell blood. They will score two more within the next seven minutes, and there’s countless chances to add to the tally. Bílek’s header for 3-0 comes from all of 16 yards but is so powerful that a poorly positioned van Rijswijck’s merely a spectator. It is a hat-trick of headers as Skuhravý completes the rout six minutes from time, assisted by Moravčík’s left-footed cross. The winger can swing them in with both feet. The big number 10 is unstoppable from short range. And Hašek adds a fifth a couple of minutes later…almost. Skuhravý assists him with a ball into the area, and his low shot strikes the left hand post and runs back across the goalline before it is cleared. Czechoslovakia look like scoring every time they come forward. Luxembourg just want the game to end. However, as soon as the waves of attacks began, they subside. The home side are content with a few minutes left on the clock. The Swiss made a change with Aarau based Saibene replacing Jeitz on the left hand side of midfield, but there’s nothing he can do to prevent the Czechoslovakians from dominating completely. Malget gets a couple of minutes for Krings at the death. Thomas Oliver Donnelly will eventually signal for full time, and the travelling contingent can breathe a huge sigh of relief.
There was a massive gulf in class, as expected. There were probably a few nerves in the home camp early on as they needed to get the defeat in Belgium out of their system, and Griga’s early goal will have been soothing. Although they pegged Luxembourg back for most of the half, they were unable to create big openings, apart from a couple of stinging left foot shots by Chovanec and Skuhravý. Second half they were far more agile and stretched the visiting defence time and again with intelligent running both across and into the box. Moving Chovanec into midfield seemed wise, as his clever mind predicted openings which no one had managed to see before the break, and when you have a player like Hašek in your team you will always cause trouble, simply because his energy levels are second to none: He’ll run any team into the ground. Add to that the aerial threat from Skuhravý and fine positioning by Griga, and one could see this 13-14 minutes spell of attacking play which just tore Luxembourg apart coming. The three goals came like a blitzkrieg. And suddenly it was over. Czechoslovakia are back in second position due to better goal difference than Portugal.
1 Stejskal 6.6
does not have a save to make all afternoon
2 Bílek 6.9
a cautious display in midfield, where he is by far the most adventurous of the home side’s players. Even seen at the back for spells during the second half. Tremendous headed goal from 18 yards for 3-0
3 Kadlec 6.6
plays it safe and remains at the back for the majority of his 45 minutes on the pitch
(14 Bielik 7.2
gets into an awful lot of crossing positions, and is unfortunate not to register at least one assist. An attacking display down the right hand side despite being part of the three man defence)
4 Hašek 7.3
his engine sees him run the visitors into the ground. Unfortunate not to score when he hits the inside of the left hand post late on
5 Kocian 7.0
with his physique he is never properly tested by the visitors, and keeps the defensive shield well throughout, even if it is scarcely needed. Maintains the balance in the team as there are so many of his team mates who are focused on moving forward
6 Němeček 6.4
never his game. Did not seem comfortable in his wide right role, and even when he came more inside after the break he could not make his mark on the game. Deservedly substituted
(16 Weiss –
immediately after coming on seems to make a difference with his wide running, and gets into a couple of fine crossing positions. A big improvement from Němeček, but by the time of his arrival the overworked visiting defence has begun to tire)
7 Straka 6.9
the longer the game progresses, Straka seems satisfied being the last man in defence, leaving more creative tasks to team mates
8 Chovanec 7.4
originally the libero, takes a lot of midfield responsibility, and spreads passes both right, left and centre. Tests the visiting goalkeeper, and generally has a fine game
9 Griga 7.1
makes fine runs off the ball, causes the visiting defence a lot of trouble, and links up well with his partner up front. Fine finish for 1-0, should have scored at least one more
10 Skuhravý 7.5
always a big handful due to his strength in the air, and gives his marker a big run-around all afternoon. Scores with an easy header after the ‘keeper had committed himself for 2-0, then throws himself ahead of his marker for the final Czechoslovakian goal. Also tested the goalkeeper with a big hit from his left boot
11 Moravčík 7.5
keeps width throughout and has an excellent assist for Skuhravý’s second. More than a match for the overworked Meunier
1 van Rijswijck 6.5
probably at fault for 2-0, but other than that makes a couple of fine saves, and as usually remains calm. Is not supposed to concede a headed goal from 18 yards, but Bílek executes it so well that van Rijswijck should not take blame for the third home goal
2 Meunier 5.8
simply unable to live with Moravčík the longer the game progresses, and endures a difficult afternoon
3 Petry 6.5
a committed display by the deepest of the Luxembourg defenders, who takes a couple of big knocks but nevertheless picks himself up to finish the match. His pace an asset)
4 Bossi 6.3
always tries to live up to his hard-man image, but often arrives a fraction of a second late. Despite this, he could leave the pitch with his head held high as there were people on worse performances around him
5 Scheuer 5.8
has more or less an impossible task against the sensationally strong Skuhravý, and should not be too disheartened even if his man scored from two headers
6 Girres 5.9
tries to carry the ball forward on a couple of occasions, and the home side fail to close him down enough, thus giving the impression of Girres having one of his more positive matches. However, has little idea of what to do with the ball once he is inside enemy territory. Provides a bit of cover for his captain on the right hand side, but clearly lacks pace and physique to live with the Czechoslovakian players
7 Birsens 5.7
loses possession too easily, and his inexperience at this level showed
8 Weis 6.0
tries to be supportive of Hellers, but simply does not have the necessary quality on the ball to try and feed his team mate. Also losing out a lot defensively, and overrun by the home team’s midfielders
9 Jeitz 5.8
does not come to his right out in a wide position, even if he does, literally, run his socks off
(13 Saibene –
did not seem out of place after coming on, despite Luxembourg being under the cosh. Possibly a starter next time around?)
10 Hellers 6.3
tries to be the link between midfield and the sole forward, and he does leave the impression of being comfortable on the ball, but receives preciously little help and cannot prevent total dominance from the home side
11 Krings 5.8
an impossible task up front on his own, and does not possess necessary pace in order to trouble the Czechoslovakian defence
(15 Malget –
hardly gets to touch the ball during the few minutes that he gets in the lone striker’s role)