Czechoslovakia unimpressive, but notch all-important win

1–0 (17) Tomáš Skuhravý
2–0 (87) Michal Bílek
3–0 (88) Ľubomír Moravčík


1990 World Cup Qualification
UEFA Group 7
Video: Full game
Wed. 25 October 1989
Kick-off: –
Stadion Letná, Prague
Att.: 33,759
Ref.: Eero Aho (FIN)
L1: Esa Palsi (FIN)
L2: Rauno Munukka (FIN)


Czechoslovakia would come close to qualify for the 1990 World Cup if they were to defeat Switzerland by a couple of goals – a comprehensive win would take away much of the tension for  the decider against Portugal. The guests were already out of the reckoning for a place in Italia’90, but could take positives from their previous match, against Belgium (h), and the start of Stielike’s reign.


Czechoslovakia team news
Two changes for Czechoslovakia compared to the team that beat Portugal earlier that month. Griga was suspended after his red card, his replacement being Milan Luhový. Luhový had been rated pretty highly by Dr. Vengloš by the start of the qualification for the 1990 World Cup, but had spent most of his time among the substitutes so far in 1989. This was his chance to prove his worth.

There was also a change on the right hand side of midfield in Dr. Venglos’ lopsided 4-4-2: Ivan Čabala was not maintained in the team (in fact he would never play for the national team again), instead giving way to Vladimír Weiss, another character that had fallen somewhat out of sorts lately. An attacking substitution, as Čabala is all about work rate, while Weiss is a player who likes to run down the touchline and deliver crosses. There was still no Bielik to be seen anywhere, so there is good reason to believe that he was injured, meaning that the choice of formation was a temporary solution to this problem.

Dr. Vengloš is a manager who doesn’t pull off many surprises. True, he had nominated striker Pavel Černý among the substitutes, but this was because Luhový was replacing Griga. It probably meant, however, that Daněk slowly was disappearing from the national team pool.

Switzerland team news
Stielike had also lined up a non-symmetrical formation for this match. This is standard for him. The biggest surprise was the introduction of uncapped Marcel Heldmann (Wettingen), who was given sole responsibility for the right hand side. The opposite side was more congregated, with Baumann the left wing back and  winger Christophe Bonvin recalled to the team after being absent for more than a year (last seen as a sub against Belgium away).  Alain Sutter appears to have sustained an injury that kept him away from football this autumn, but Bonvin is far from a bad replacement. Also worth noting that young Dominique Herr kept his place in the team, having done a good job against Ceulemans in their previous game.

It has proved difficult to pin down the exact time for kick-off in this encounter, but based on the light conditions, somewhere around 5.00–5.30 PM is likely.

Referee? Mr. Aho from Finland.

Czechoslovakia (4-4-2)

1 Jan Stejskal27Sparta Praha
2 František Straka31Bor. Mönchengladbach
3 Miroslav Kadlecsub 61′25TJ Vítkovice
4 Ivan Hašek (c)26Sparta Praha
5 Jan Kocian31St. Pauli
6 Vladimír Weisssub 73′25Inter Bratislava
7 Michal Bílek24Sparta Praha
8 Jozef Chovanec29PSV Eindhoven
9 Milan Luhový26Dukla Praha
10 Tomáš Skuhravý24Sparta Praha
11 Ľubomír Moravčík24Plastika Nitra

12 Vladimír Kinier31Slovan Bratislava
13 Luděk Mikloško27Baník Ostrava
14 Pavel Černý27Hradec Králové
15 Vaclav Němečekon 61′22Sparta Praha
16 Viliam Hýravýon 73′26Baník Ostrava
Manager: Dr. Jozef Vengloš

Switzerland (3-5-2)

1 Martin Brunner26Grasshopper
2 Dominique Herr24Lausanne
3 Herbert Baumann25Luzern
4 Martin Weber32Young Boys
5 Alain Geiger28Saint-Étienne
6 Marcel Koller 55′, sub 70′28Grasshopper
7 Blaise Piffarettisub h-t23Sion
8 Heinz Hermann (c)31Servette
9 Kubilay Türkyilmaz22Servette
10 Christophe Bonvin24Servette
11 Marcel Heldmann22Wettingen

12 Michel Sauthier23Sion
13 Olivier Rey24Sion
14 Marco Lorenzon 70′23Sion
15 Martin Andermatton h-t27Grasshopper
16 Stephan Lehmann26Sion
Manager: Uli Stielike

Tactical line-ups

Match Report – First Half

A vociferous crowd had gathered at the Letná stadion in Prague this evening, eagerly expecting the home side to record another win and fasten their grip on the second qualifying berth. Switzerland kicked off the game by Koller and Türkyilmaz, passing the ball to Piffaretti (who immediately failed a dribbling attempt).

The Swiss off to a good start
To our surprise, this was to be a fairly open-ended half of football. While everyone would fancy Czechoslovakia at this stage, who still had all to play for as well as home advantage, Stielike had evidently instilled a professional attitude in his players. The Swiss haven’t always been that dangerous inside the opposition’s third half so far in these qualifiers, but they started this match in a quite bright fashion, carving out a few half-decent opportunities inside the opening 15 minutes.

To mention the highlights, there was a probing run by Türkyilmaz, a couple of dangerous looking crosses by Bonvin, and, finally, a shot from Piffaretti from outside the 16 yard box that went just wide of the post. There appeared to be a lot of space between the lines in the Czechoslovakian team, making it rather convenient for the likes of Bonvin and Türkyilmaz – the only two Swiss in this team of an attack mould – to express themselves. Some initial anxiety must have spread in the home crowd.

Bílek’s good form continues
Czechoslovakia’s last match had seen Michal Bílek come out as the somewhat unlikely hero, scoring two goals to give them the win over Portugal. Usually seen as a cog in the larger machine, Bílek was this autumn increasingly looking like one of the most important players in the team (let’s not forget his goal against Romania either). The beginning of the first half against Switzerland only confirmed this impression, as Bílek surprisingly more or less dictated the tempo of the game from his left back position, showing good control and quite sensibly distributing the ball all over the pitch. We’ve seen Czechoslovakia use Bíleks right peg for constructive purposes before, but nothing at all similar to this frequency.

In comparison, the usual conductor of Czechoslovakia’s play, Jozef Chovanec, cut a much more anonymous figure. The Swiss had lined up with a quite hard-working midfield trio (in fact, all three are known for being industrious) and never gave Chovanec any time to make his pinpoint passes. Chovanec can be a slow player at times and if the opponents take their measures, it is possible to prevent him from performing his duties as playmaker. The Swiss very much succeeded in this. Instead, Bílek somehow stood forth as the dictator to which the guests had no measures. Stielike had no designated player to close down Bílek (the closest being Hermann, while Heldmann needed to keep an eye on Moravčík) and hence the guests were suffering from the time and space they freely gave to Bíleks right peg.

Luhový to the fore
We’re seeing a bit different approach by the Czechoslovakians in this game compared to the most recent qualifiers, as they are less eager to hoist the ball forward in the direction of the two strikers. If it’s not a total transformation of style, there is less of a tendency to use the long ball. Dr. Vengloš had made a new pairing up front and this may have influenced the style of play. Skuhravý was still playing as a target man, but the by far busier of the two was Milan Luhový, who we saw in the role as a deep-lying forward.

Martin Weber was the man-marker whom Luhový had to face, and he did admirably to shake off Weber when coming deep to take part in link-up play. We have seen previously in these qualifiers that the Young Boys center-half is no easy opponent, and nobody had probably done so well to frustrate him as Luhový was doing during these 45 minutes of play. He is known as a proven goal scorer in his domestic league, but was here showing that he has all-round qualities, with his mobility and agility complementing Skuhravý’s more static behaviour. Skuhravý was here the more advanced of the two forwards and apparently struggled to make his presence felt in his tussles with Dominique Herr, another young player of a rather bulky stature.

1-0: Bílek and Moravčík the creators
1-0 was a textbook attack, with Bílek the inevitable architect. The situation started at the midway line, as Bílek took a quick free-kick to release Moravčík down the left touchline. Moravcik, distancing the inexperienced Heldmann, got all the time he wished for to put in a cross for the left wing – the cross was really brilliantly struck, gaining plenty of height, and was nodded home by Skuhravý, who found Brunner in no man’s land. 1-0. A lovely attack in all its simplicity. Switzerland couldn’t be faulted for not closing down Bílek this time, as it was a free-kick situation, but Heldmann surely should have kept a closer eye on Moravčík.

It should in fact have been 2-0 a few minutes later when Skuhravý was played in behind the Swiss defensive line, rounding Brunner and putting the ball in the empty net, before Mr. Aho ruled it offside. Yet, replays suggest that Skuhravý was perhaps a couple of metres onside at the moment when Hašek played him through. This is just another example of how easily linesmen anno 1989 are fooled when a defender (here Baumann) belatedly pushes out to play offside. We’ve seen plenty of these in the qualifiers for the 1990 World Cup.

Moravčík, who had a splendid assist for the 1-0 goal, was having one of his better performances in the Czechoslovakian jersey this afternoon. So far in the qualifiers we’ve certainly seen glimpses of his qualities, but there were also long periods when he was more quiet. Here, however, he experienced a small breakthrough for the national team, being instrumental in the first goal and generally looking very sharp throughout. He is essentially unpredictable, and his opponents always struggle to tell whether he will go wide or cut inside. That being said, he did face favourable work conditions as the Swiss fielded a depleted right hand side. On the opposite flank, Vladimír Weiss had been given the nod after a long time on the bench. Unfortunately, there was little to suggest that he added anything to the team. He was simply quite poor and didn’t manage to position himself in the relevant areas of play – neither when going forward nor defensively.

The Swiss midfield trio
Switzerland were the team coming closer to control the midfield area – revisiting the scenario from the reverse encounter, were they in fact had been quite dominant in that department. Then, they had established their dominance by the authority of Geiger, while this time there was a more defined central midfield consisting of three players: Piffaretti,  Koller and Hermann. There was no clear division of labor between the three, except that Hermann (the most gifted one) more frequently ventured forward to join the attack. Koller is arguably the most aggressive of these players and did a quite good job in closing down the Czechoslovakian midfielder. He was generally reluctant to go forward, mostly confident in staying back and distribute passes – Koller has vision and passing skills, which is why he’s a libero for his club team, Grasshoppers. Hermann is also much about work rate, but often used the backup of the two others to go forward when possible. This might have been of his best performances in the qualifiers so far, as he evidently thrived in his more attacking capacity. Koller and Hermann are of course familiar faces, while we only had the chance to see Piffaretti on a few occasions before so far. Piffaretti is a box-to-box player, putting in a workmanlike performance in midfield. He did join the attack  now and then, however.

It was surprising to see Czechoslovakia being pushed as much back as they were in the first 45 minutes – often retreating deep into their own half. It was no infrequent sight to see the likes of Hermann and Koller given much time on the ball far beyond the midway line. Czechoslovakia generally aren’t a very good pressing side and will often rely on their three central defenders to recover the ball. This might be one of the weaknesses of the team.

The Swiss attack down the left hand side
Both managers had chosen a lopsided formation that made them look wanting on their right hand side. The Swiss had already paid for this when Moravčík was given an easy one-on-one situation with Heldmann in the build-up for the first goal. A tendency of Hermann’s to drift into the middle didn’t help Heldmann’s cause either, and one feels that Czechoslovakia could have exploited this faulty construction even better. But the home side themselves had glaring holes as mentioned above – and the Swiss were more cynical about using the opportunities this gave by intentionally focusing play on their left hand side. Time and again the guests tried to release Bonvin and Türkyilmaz down that flank.

Bonvin was often finding himself in favourable situations together with Herbert Baumann, who increasingly showed himself eager to assist him (especially after 1-0). Baumann has a fine left foot and in tandem with Bonvin he managed to put in a few crosses in the course of the first half. Türkyilmaz too was keen to run into the channels created on that side, proving himself as a handful for the Czechoslovakian defence. Surely Dr. Vengloš must have regretted his tactical choices? Bonvin moreover had the habit of switching sides, at occasions showing up on the right hand side. One was left thinking that not only was he a good replacement for A. Sutter, but perhaps also an alternative for the notorious right winger position which had troubled especially Jeandupeux so much.

The game went into a rather untidy phase after the goal, with very little flow due to numerous free-kicks – still not on level with Czechoslovakia-Portugal, but yet. You couldn’t call Czechoslovakia a very aggressive side, but there appears to be a tendency for their matches to be littered with free-kicks. The number of infringements made the game lose much of its rhythm, making the match somewhat drab at times.

Czechoslovakia may not have been so unhappy about this, though, as they didn’t seem very eager to go for the second goal. Their best chance to add to their lead came after a corner, when Chovanec surprisingly played the ball to Bílek, who had positioned himself, unmarked, outside of the 16 yard box. Bílek’s volley was hit with real venom but a few inches wide off the post.

Match report – second half

Stielike made one substitution made at half-time, with Blaise Piffaretti giving way to Mario Andermatt – a revisit by the man who had looked like a first team regular in 1988, before being neglected since Jeandupeux’s late period.

Unimpresive home side
Czechoslovakia hadn’t really had all that much to offer before the break. Disappointingly, nothing by the opening of the second half suggested that things were about to improve. You would think that they were intent to better their goal difference so as to have a clear advantage on Portugal before their decider in November. However, it was actually hard to tell whether the hosts  were happy with their lead or if they had committed to find another goal. If the latter, they were not doing terribly well.

The home side had also adjusted their pressing somewhat, now defending a bit lower before closing down their opponents. This meant that they would often wait to close down until the opponents had passed well beyond the halfway line, thus narrowing the gap between defence and midfield. This strategy however does little to solve the old problem of theirs, that of breaking forward with pace, as the distance between the spot where they win possession and Brunner is too far for their somewhat slow players. There was a commitment to send men forward, but they failed to break down the Swiss defence, often not advancing much beyond the half line before coming to a halt.

Neither team was having the upper hand, with little quality on display in the final third. In fact, the Swiss were perhaps the team coming closer to actually create anything, forcing Czechoslovakia to concede a few corners (without result). In terms of chances, the start of the second half was quite unremarkable.

Stielike shores up the right hand side
The home side’s first half had been lit up by three players: Bílek, Moravčík and Luhový. The second half was to be a different story, as all three of them nearly disappeared from the game. Especially Bílek became a shadow of his self in the first half, when he had acted more or less as a sort of left back playmaker. What had happened?

Part of the explanation was that Stielike had silenced Moravčík with his half time change. By instructing Heldmann to act more as a wing back than a wide midfielder as well as fitting Andermatt into the right sided midfield slot, Stielike had done much to prevent Czechoslovakia from attacking down that flank. Andermatt is a physical figure with good defensive qualities, and here too he was primarily intent on not letting Moravčík and Bílek continue their showmanship. Stielike’s tactics appeared to have paid off. Still, it is probably also right to say that Czechoslovakia to a less degree actually focused their play down that flank after the break – for reasons which are hard to grasp given its relative success in the first half.

Placing Andermatt on the right hand side meant that Hermann switched sides in the Swiss midfield trio. The Swiss’ alleged world star was now working more in tandem with Bonvin in front of him, meaning that much of the guests’ attacking force was concentrated on the left hand side. Perhaps not a bad move, for Dr. Vengloš was seemingly less worried about the problems on his team’s right hand side than his counterpart had been. Türkyilmaz and Bonvin were still causing problems, although the clear-cut chances were few and far between. A long shot by Türkyilmaz is worth mentioning, which Stejskal unconvincingly fumbled past the post to yet another Swiss corner (of which Switzerland had a few).

Kadlec injured
Kocian is the free man in the Czechoslovakian defence, and now and then he uses his licence to stride forward with the ball at feet. Yet, Kocian’s forward runs are somewhat primitive, as he can be a bit uncertain what to do with the ball, meaning that he sets pace with the ball until someone stops him (often illegally). Kadlec is a player more comfortable in this, and we often had the chance to see him venture forward in this match –  with Straka watching Türkyilmaz, he was frequently surplus to requirements in central defence and tried his best to make use of himself in other areas. He also had the chance to show his ability to strike the ball with real venom at a free kick – his shooting lacks accuracy, though, and Brunner perhaps hadn’t too big difficulties in saving.

Kadlec’s game came to a precipitated end when his nose was hit by an elbow, with a stream of blood and a long stay behind Stejskal’s goal being the result. There took some time before Czechoslovakia’s team doctor and his assistant (who both have become common sights in these qualifiers) managed to decide on whether Kadlec could continue or not. In the end the doctor had to call for the substitute. It might have been a broken nose. Vladimir Kinier was among the substitutes, but Dr. Vengloš instead looked to the versatile and alway reliable Václav Němeček to do the job in central defence.

A late challenge by Marcel Koller on Jan Kocian earned him the only booking of the game. You could argue that Koller was unfortunate to hit Kocian, but Mr. Aho, after some hesitancy, decided to brandish the yellow card. Koller had been on the receiving end on some rather rough challenges by Kocian in the first half, and was clearly frustrated to see himself booked for the incident.

The Skuhravý “show”
Bílek and Moravčík had much quieter second halves, as did Luhový. It was almost as if Dr. Vengloš had told his players to shift focus from Luhový to Skuhravý, for gradually there appeared to be a switch of scenery in Czechoslovakia’s style of play, with more and more going in the direction of Skuhravý.

Indeed, Skuhravý more and more became a focal point in this second half – showing what a frustrating player he can be to watch. With Skuhravý around, a free-kick is never far away, it seems, either one way or the other. If it is not he himself who tumbles over, he is certainly not shy of causing infringements. But usually it is given in his favour when attempting to control the ball at feet. It isn’t always easy to say whether the opponents use excessive force, or if he actually lacks a bit of balance to keep his bulky figure on two feet when challenged. He had quite a number of tussles with Dominique Herr in this encounter, and the young Swiss defender generally impressed with giving Skuhravý more than a match in the aerial battles (but lost out on 1-0 goal, as we’ve seen).

Midway through the second half, you had to confess that it all had gone very scrappy. There was a plethora of small infringements and free-kicks, with a large number of them involving Skuhravý.

Czechoslovakian surge?
In the 70th minute, Stielike made another interesting move, sending Marco Lorenz of FC Sion on for his debut by taking off Marcel Koller. This was an attacking move, as Lorenz (normally a forward?) would take up a position as right winger, roughly reflecting the position of Bonvin on the left hand side.

This substitution was less fortunate than the first one, at least in its immediate corollaries. With the central midfield decimated by one player and the formation switching to a 3-4-3 system, the Swiss needed some time to re-organize themselves. Czechoslovakia exploited this confusion and enjoyed their perhaps best spell all evening, in which they finally managed to establish pressure inside their opponents’ half.

Curiously, the three incidents that took place inside this brief spell all involved the three players who had excelled in the first half. Moravčík, having momentarily switched sides, was apparently tripped inside the penalty area when taking on a Swiss defender. Penalty? A difficult call, but anyway good to see Moravčík so dynamic – he had perhaps stuck more to the chalk this evening than what he has usually done. There was also a free header from Luhový on the ensuing corner, but straight into the arms of Brunner (headers aren’t his best ability). And finally a good move down the left hand side with Moravčík and Bílek working in tandem, with the latter firing a shot that went agonizingly wide. A terrific shot, really.

Sensing a second and vital goal, Dr. Vengloš introduced his second sub, Viliam Hýravý coming on for Weiss. The latter had been entirely ineffectual all evening, and you need to question Dr. Vengloš’ inability to see this. Hýravý was a substitute like for like. The Czechoslovakian surge didn’t last for too long, though. Once Switzerland had found their shape again after Lorenz’s substitution, the match returned to its scenario at the start of the half, with the guests with most of the possession and the hosts finding the way to the opponent’s goal too far. On the contrary, it was the Swiss substitute who had an impact on the closing stages, as he made a few lovely runs down the right byline (exposing the defensive weaknesses of Bílek).

Two faily important goals
The last five minutes of the match would prove to be crucial not only for this encounter, but for the outcome of the entire group, giving Czechoslovakia the win and a pretty secure lead on Portugal before the last group match.

It all started with Bílek picking up the ball after an unsuccessful free-kick and playing Němeček through on goal (an example of the Swiss’ hazardous offside trap, seen before in these qualifiers), albeit from a narrow angle. Němeček tried to lift the ball over Brunner, who only just managed to parry it to a corner. The corner, in turn, saw Chovanec again attempt the ploy they had used before the break, passing the ball to un unmarked Bílek outside of the penalty area. How come that the Swiss had not learnt? It was a pinpoint pass from Chovanec, showing his very neat passing skills when given time on the ball, and Bílek hammered it home on the volley to give Czechoslovakia the 2-0 lead they had sought after.

… and 3-0 immediately followed suit: Hašek won back possession straight from kick-off, held the ball up well before passing it to Moravčík on the edge of the penalty area. The Plastika Nitra man outmanouvred Hermann and curled the ball in the top corner of the opposite angle. A remarkable change of fortune for Czechoslovakia after a quite depressive half of football – the three goal win of course ensured that they would have a brilliant advantage on Portugal before their encounter in Lisbon (well, in fact there was no practical difference between a two goal and a three goal win for this matter, but yet).


This is far from an impressive performance by Czechoslovakia, but they somehow manage to find three goals which put them firmly in the driver’s seat before the decider against Portugal. There are positives to be taken here from the emergence of players like Bílek and Moravčík, who have developed into important first team figures, but there are actually worrying signs too: they are pegged back for much of the game, unable to close down with any intensity and often find the way forward too long – they are notorious for being poor on the counter-attacks. Skuhravý is good at holding up the ball, but his end product is usually free-kicks that slow down the tempo of the game. And why did Dr. Vengloš persist with the ineffectual Weiss for so long?


1 Stejskal 6.6
2 Straka 6.6
3 Kadlec 6.7
4 Hašek 6.7
5 Kocian 6.8
6 Weiss 6.3
7 Bílek 7.4
8 Chovanec 6.6
9 Luhový 7.1
10 Skuhravý 6.8
11 Moravčík 7.5

1 Brunner 6.6
Caught in no man’s land for the first goal.
2 Herr 6.9
Enjoyed a good tussle with Skuhravý, and often comes out victorious in the aerial combats.
3 Baumann 6.9
4 Weber 6.5
Struggles to keep Luhový in check.
5 Geiger 6.6
Looks more ordinary than we’ve been used to see him so far.
6 Koller 7.0
Very combative and even pushes forward in the second half.
7 Piffaretti 6.5
A bit of a pedestrian performance this.
(15 Andermatt 6.7
Battling performance. Helps Heldmann stopping Moravčík.)
8 Hermann 6.8
Good first half, somewhat wasteful after switching sides.
9 Türkyilmaz 7.1
Powerful and always a willing runner.
10 Bonvin 7.0
11 Heldmann 6.3

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Vlaidimir Beist

    I feel let down by this performance – expected more of Czechoslovakia at this stage.

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