Could d’Roud Léiwen take after compatriot Marc Girardelli in the snow-covered hills of Europe?
When looking at their record in the previous qualifiers, it becomes clear that Luxembourg’s best performances use to be narrow defeats. In the 1988 Euro qualifiers, they had even managed to hold off a draw with Scotland, albeit at a point where Scotland didn’t have anything at all to play for. Not too much else to be cheerful of from those qualifiers, except perhaps one of these narrow defeats in Dublin to eventual group winner Republic of Ireland (1-2, McGrath scoring the winner 15 mins before the end). Likewise in the 1986 World Cup qualifiers, Luxembourg had twice lost by a one-goal margin only to Yugoslavia: in the home fixture, Yugoslavia had to wait for the 89th minute to find the winner.
Luxembourg’s national stadium, Stade Municipale, went through a rebuilding process in 1989 and 1990, meaning it would be unavailable for some of the qualifiers on home soil. They would play the opener against Switzerland on Stade Municiapel, but if the rebuilding started in 1989, it isn’t clear why they played in Esch-sur-Alzette for the game against Czechoslovakia in October 1988. Neither is it clear why their two last games weren’t played in Esch-zur-Alzette (evidently their reserve national arena) but in Lille and Saarbrücken. UEFA requirements?
Paul Philipp continued as manager for d’Roud Léiwen. There was no pre-qualification friendly before the opener against Switzerland. Luxembourg’s only friendly in 1988 had been against Italy (0-3). That friendly saw the debut of Marc Birsens and Patrick Morocutti, but not a lot of changes were expected in the team that would kick off d’Roud Léiwen’s campaign for Italia’90 in September.
21.09.1988 Luxembourg 1-4 Switzerland
Luxembourg (4-4-2): van Rijswijck – Meunier (c), Weis, Bossi, Petry – Girres (Scuto 63), Hellers, Jeitz, Scholten – Langers, Krings (Morucutti 73)
Luxembourg stood no chance as expected, but saw a worrying amount of goals conceded. Langers’ strike ten minutes from time was a mere consolation. Weis demonstrated that he is hardly the ideal choice as sweeper, and the midfield often got pushed too deep, thus unable to support the front two
18.10.1988 Luxembourg 0-2 Czechoslovakia
Luxembourg (4-4-2): van Rijswijck – Meunier (c), Petry, Scheuer, Bossi – Jeitz (Girres 82), Hellers, Weis, Scholten – Langers, Krings (Morucutti 62)
The first of the two Luxembourg matches that italia1990.com do not possess. A second straight defeat for the plucky Luxembourgers, but the margin of loss will perhaps have been less than expected.
16.11.1988 Portugal 1-0 Luxembourg
Luxembourg (4-4-2): van Rijswijck – Meunier (c), Petry, Bossi, Scheuer – Girres, Weis, Jeitz, Scholten (Thomé 82) – Langers, Krings (Malget 62)
This was an improved showing from Luxembourg in a low-paced match. Again, the forwards were left isolated, and Hellers’ absence left a big gap in midfield. On a lighter note, the defence managed to keep tight apart from that one moment of brilliance from home skipper Gomes
09.05.1988 Czechoslovakia 4-0 Luxembourg
Luxembourg (4-4-2): van Rijswijck – Meunier (c), Scheuer, Petry, Bossi – Girres, Weis, Birsens, Jeitz (Saibene 76) – Krings (Malget 89), Hellers
Clearly inferior against strong opponents, but Luxembourg managed to shut Czechoslovakia out with one exception until a late goal rush from the hosts. Hellers was back in the side, but this time they were without Langers up front
01.06.1989 Luxembourg 0-5 Belgium
Luxembourg (4-4-2): van Rijswijck – Meunier (c), Petry, Scheuer, Bossi – Girres, Jeitz (Saibene 76), Birsens, Scholten (Malget 83) – Langers, Krings
In a match played on French soil, Luxembourg managed to restrict Belgium to just the one goal in a dull first half. Whenever Standard Liège midfielder Hellers is not playing, there is no one to feed the forwards from central midfield, as both Jeitz and Birsens are typical hard workers. Langers was quite lively and could have scored on at least two occasions, but he was probably the only bright spot
11.10.1989 Luxembourg 0-3 Portugal
Luxembourg (3-5-2): van Rijswijck – Birsens, Weis (c), Bossi – Girres, Hellers, Malget, Saibene, Groff (Jeitz 71) – Langers, Reiter (Scholten 59)
italia1990.com are unfortunately not in possession of live pictures from this match, but it seems very likely that team manager Philipp had scrapped the traditional 4-4-2 for 3-5-2 for the visit of the Portuguese. Meunier, who had captained the side in their five first qualifiers, was nowhere to be seen, and there had been a starting berth for Malget, possibly in a holding midfield role. Up front, Reiter joined Langers, and the speedy Groff took up Scholten’s place to the left in midfield.
25.10.1989 Belgium 1-1 Luxembourg
Luxembourg (3-5-2): van Rijswijck – Scheuer (Scholten 83), Weis (c), Bossi – Girres, Saibene (Jeitz 75), Birsens, Hellers, Groff – Langers, Malget
Luxembourg put on a confident display and frustrated their hosts all afternoon as they thoroughly deserved their draw and first point of the qualification. Falling behind four minutes from time seemed to be yet another case of misery, but they got their reward through Hellers’ calm finish just over a minute from time. Philipp had got his tactics spot on as they cut off Belgian supply lines in nullifying the threats from Van der Elst and Scifo. Scheuer did a splendid job in keeping Ceulemans anonymous.
15.11.1989 Switzerland 2-1 Luxembourg
Luxembourg (3-5-2): van Rijswijck – Bossi, Weis (c), Scheuer – Girres, Saibene, Birsens, Hellers, Groff – Malget (Scholten 83), Morocutti (Reiter 64)
Another credible performance from Philipp’s plucky selection. They appear to have found themselves in this 3-5-2, and even without quick striker Langers they were often a handful for the hosts, who eventually came good after Malget’s crisp first half finish had given Luxembourg the upper hand. The visitors succumbed to two second half goals, and unfortunately van Rijswijck was unable to prevent substitute Bonvin’s finish at his near post for 1-1. Hellers was unfortunate to tackle the ball into the path of Knup, who assisted Türkyılmaz for 2-1. But no reason to feel too downbeat. This team should continue to grow stronger.
Having been a 4-4-2 team for the five first matches of the qualification, manager Philipp decided to switch to 3-5-2 for the home clash with Portugal, their first autumn fixture in ’89. Resultwise, it may not have signalled much of an improvement, but Luxembourg knew they would never be anywhere near the gifted Portuguese anyway unless the visitors had an off day. Luxembourg kept with this formation despite the 3-0 reverse, and their next task was Belgium away. The home side needed to win to be guaranteed a first place finish, but were below par for the entire match, and had to see the inspired underdogs return back home with a sensational point following a late leveller. Belgium 1, Luxembourg 1 might just have been the single most amazing scoreline from the European section of the qualification. Three weeks later, in their last fixture, they would go in front in their away fixture against the disappointing Swiss, albeit end up on the wrong side of a 2-1 scoreline. They had given the Swiss an almighty scare, and thus rounded their qualification off with two performances which would have given a lot of hope for the future.
Manager Philipp, a temperamental figure, often seen waving vehemently in the direction of officials whenever a decision went against his team, had been sent to the stands during the 4-0 defeat in Czechoslovakia, which saw him suspended from the touchline for the subsequent home fixture with Belgium. These two matches saw them go down by their greatest margins of defeat. Luxembourg’s players, those who played at home, were part-timers, and only star players Langers and Hellers were earning their wages through football. Stylish midfielder Hellers was a regular at Standard Liège, a club regularly featuring in the top half in the Belgian league. The speedy Langers, a forward, had done very well in the second tier of French football, until Nice, a top flight side, signed him for the 1989/90 season. He would go on and have two good seasons there, and though the players around them were desperately lacking in quality on the international stage, these two made sure Luxembourg were no total pushovers.
Luxembourg had a few rugged players at the back. In particular Marcel Bossi, an ever present during the qualification, was a tough customer. However, he, like the rest of their defenders, lacked in pace. They would adopt Pierre Petry in a libero capacity, and he looked a slim, athletic player. The experienced Carlo Weis, who started the qualification in midfield, would round off in Petry’s libero role. In midfield, the worksome Jeitz would give a fine account of himself in some of the games, whereas one of the up and coming players in Birsens made more of a mark later on. And up front, even the big and burly Théo Malget proved he did have some qualities, striking home a leading goal in Switzerland. An enthusiastic young wide man by the name of Joël Groff seemed an interesting prospect along the left flank, and if Philipp could hang on to his star players and perhaps get in another couple of players of promise, Luxembourg could possibly emulate their one point tally for the next qualification.
Final position: 5 (out of 5)
Total record: 8 0 1 7 3-22 1
Home record: 4 0 0 4 1-14 0
Away record: 4 0 1 3 2-8 1
Number of players used: 20
Number of players including unused substitutes: 21
Ever-presents (720 mins): 2 (van Rijswijck and Bossi)
Leading goalscorer: Langers, Hellers, Malget (all 1)
Yellow/red cards: 10/0
|van Rijswijck, John||8||8||720||1/0|
– game by game
|Player||Sui (h)||Cze (h)||Por (a)||Cze (a)||Bel (h)||Por (h)||Bel (a)||Sui (a)||Apps||Mins|
|Pos||Player||Average rating||Number of rated games|
28.03.1990 Luxembourg 1-2 Iceland
Line-up: Koch – Birsens, Petry, Bossi – Girres, Weis, Goergen (Thomé 65), Scuto (Jeitz 76), Groff (Scholten 57) – Morocutti, Malget