Portugal – Czechoslovakia
Estádio da Luz, Lisbon: It was time for the great decider. Despite the knowledge of Portugal having to score an unlikely four without reply, there is no lack in pre-game atmosphere inside the ground. An estimated 40k crowd, practically a half-full stadium, had gathered more in hope than in expectation to see the Portuguese’s final match on the road towards Italia ’90. The pre-match table sure spoke favourably of Czechoslovakia making it through, as they could afford to lose by three and still progress to the World Cup finals. However, defeat will not have been an option for their boss, the well respected Dr Jozef Vengloš. They will have wanted to win through with their heads held high. Indeed, should they win, or draw scoring three times or more, they would surpass Belgium and claim group victory.
Since these two’s previous encounter, a match played less than six weeks earlier in Prague, and where Czechoslovakia had gained a late, vital triumph with ten men thanks to a wonderfully executed Bílek free-kick, Czechoslovakia had given themselves a further boost through scoring thrice at home to Switzerland, despite never being utterly convincing. They were a physically very competent team, and were towards the end of the 80s a team very much on the up. They may not have counter-attacked their way into the hearts of neutral fans, but they had the ability to boss a match through sheer physical presence: They could run and they could challenge. They were built on a rock solid defensive foundation, and they had match winners at both ends of the pitch. This was their eighth match of 1989, and their only defeat had come in Brussels against group leaders Belgium. In their previous qualification campaign, they had suffered the most unlikely of defeats in a 3-0 reverse in Finland, but only three of the players starting that ill-fated match in Helsinki were starters here in Lisbon. And with the Doctor now in charge, they were not accustomed to losing.
Portugal had done well in scoring three times in their most recent qualifier in West Germany (!) against Luxembourg, but other than that they had found goals relatively hard to come by so far in the qualifcation. A six goal treat in an anniversary match in March against their former colony Angola had showed that they were capable of rallying up the goals, but tonight’s opposition was of a different calibre. The hosts will have hoped that an early goal could perhaps spread some jitters among the away players, but even then they would need a miracle to get the tally they needed. As it were, Juca would chose a surprisingly cautious team for their plight, setting his troops up in a 4-5-1. The visitors would arrive at 4-4-2, but Czechoslovakia had shown earlier in the qualification that they could be versatile if need be. 5-3-2 was also not beyond their capability.
Portugal team news
During their opening seven qualification ties, Portugal had made use of 28 players. A 29th would appear from start here, with Setúbal midfielder Jorge Ferreira being the prefered choice as the holding man this time around, a role usually reserved for Marítimo’s Nunes until then. The tall, not always impressive Nunes had begun six out of the seven qualifiers hitherto, but he had injured himself in Marítimo’s league match away at Portimonense ten days earlier. Nunes would only play another 45 minutes of league football in 1989/90. In the 2-1 defeat in Czechoslovakia, Juca had set his team out in 5-3-2, playing with three central defenders. This was the only one of their qualifiers where he had attempted such, and he had scrapped this idea after less than half an hour with Czechoslovakia having had forward Griga sent off early. Juca had been back at 4-5-1 for the trip to Luxembourg, and this was his choice again on this occasion tonight. Silvino kept goal throughout their qualification campaign, and ahead of him both full-backs started for a seventh successive time, though Veloso might have been in midfield for Luxembourg away. At the heart of their defence, Frederico and Venâncio were beginning to know each other well, again being prefered over Sobrinho. The big surprise came in midfield, where there was no starting place for Paneira. The Benfica ace, dropping to the bench, had to give up his place to César Brito. In the inside half roles were the enigmatic Rui Barros and the experienced António Sousa. The latter had only featured twice until tonight, and there was again no António André to be seen. The attacking left-sided midfield role went to Benfica’s Pacheco, who had made his debut in the 1-1 home match against the Belgians earlier in the year, then as a replacement for Paulo Futre. Futre, despite in action for his club side Atlético Madrid around this time, had been absent in Luxembourg, and was again nowhere to be seen, leaving Juca’s favoured forward Rui Águas to deal with the lone striker’s role.
Czechoslovakia team news
Czechoslovakia would only make one change to their starting eleven from the 3-0 win against the Swiss, their last outing: Němeček replaced the futile Weiss as the right-sided midfielder. This very position had seemed to cause Dr Vengloš a surprising amount of concern, as another Sparta man, Čabala, had performed rather haplessly in the home win against Portugal. With Bielik, though perhaps more a right-sided defender than a midfield option, possibly struggling with injury ¹ at this crucial point for international fixtures, the energetic Němeček would seem to fit the bill. Other than that, they would again appear with Kocian as libero, a role which Chovanec had also held earlier in the qualification. Kadlec had marked Águas in the opposite fixture, and the Vítkovice man would be given the same duties again. Straka, who had often played more as a right-sided central defender rather than a full-back in their last couple of matches, would be seen in a wider defensive capacity this time around, again with Bílek opposite. The ever-impressive Hašek would keep the captain’s armband throughout 1989. He had been donned this for their first fixture of the calendar year, the 2-1 friendly win in Austria, when Chovanec, captain until then, had not featured. Hašek had not looked back ever since, and was a firm favourite with the manager. Up front, for the second match running, Skuhravý and Luhový would form the partnership, with Griga down in the pecking order after his sending off in the home fixture against the Portuguese. Vengloš had come to Lisbon without a recognized forward among his five man strong substitutes’ bench. There was also an inclusion for uncapped Slavia Praha defender Šimůnek, a player seen as an attacking right-back, but of such a build that it can not be deemed impossible for him to have deputized occasionally in central defence. Czechoslovakia had only made use of 20 players throughout their qualification campaign, a shared lowest tally with Luxembourg for Group 7.
Portugal v Czechoslovakia head to head read three wins for each as well as two draws from eight meetings. There had indeed been a massive 5-0 scoreline earlier, but this honour had gone to Czechoslovakia rather than the Portuguese, and had come in the qualifiers ahead of the 1976 European Championships in Yugoslavia, a tournament which, of course, Czechoslovakia would famously go on to win. Four previous clashes in Portugal had twice ended in draws and twice with single goal wins for the hosts.
Referee was the well respected David Syme, a 45 year old Scotsman, taking charge of his third match in the 1990 qualification campaign. He had previously overseen Belgium’s 1-0 home win against Switzerland in this very group, as well as Spain’s 2-0 win at Malta in Group 6. This was his ninth international fixture altogether since his debut as far back as 1977, when at the age of 33 he had officiated in a 2-1 friendly win for Iceland at home to Nordic brethren Norway.
¹ The 27 year old Bielik had started three out of Czechoslovakia’s five first qualifiers and come on as a sub in one, but was nowhere to be seen for the national team’s four matches between September and November. He also missed out on three out of Sparta Praha’s four ties in the first two rounds of the European Cup, only featuring in the 2-2 second round home draw with CSKA Sofia medio October (the Prague club would lose the away leg 3-0, thus seeing their European campaign come to a rather premature end for the third year running, having gone down heavily to Steaua București in 88/89, as well as losing to Anderlecht the season before).
|2 João Pinto (c)||7′, sub h-t||27||Porto|
|4 Venâncio||25||Sporting Lisboa|
|6 Jorge Ferreira||23||Vitória Setúbal|
|7 César Brito||sub 83′||25||Benfica|
|8 Rui Barros||23||Juventus|
|9 Rui Águas||29||Porto|
|10 António Sousa||32||Beira-Mar|
|12 Neno||27||Vitória Guimarães|
|13 Pedro Xavier||on 83′||27||Estrela da Amadora|
|14 Oceano||27||Sporting Lisboa|
|15 Vítor Paneira||on h-t||23||Benfica|
|16 Sobrinho||28||Racing Paris|
|1 Jan Stejskal||27||Sparta Praha|
|2 František Straka||31||Borussia Mönchengladbach|
|3 Miroslav Kadlec||25||Vítkovice|
|4 Ivan Hašek (c)||82′||26||Sparta Praha|
|5 Ján Kocian||31||St. Pauli|
|6 Václav Němeček||22||Sparta Praha|
|7 Michal Bílek||24||Sparta Praha|
|8 Jozef Chovanec||29||PSV Eindhoven|
|9 Milan Luhový||sub 87′||26||Dukla Praha|
|10 Tomáš Skuhravý||24||Sparta Praha|
|11 Ľubomír Moravčík||sub 89′||24||Plastika Nitra|
|12 Vladimír Kinier||on 89′||31||Slovan Bratislava|
|13 Luděk Mikloško||27||Baník Ostrava|
|14 Jiří Němec||23||Dukla Praha|
|15 Milan Šimůnek||26||Slavia Praha|
|16 Vladimír Weiss||on 87′||25||Inter Bratislava|
Portugal, in need of four goals, were at 4-5-1. Their back line was familiar, and with captain João Pinto as the most attacking of the two full-backs. Frederico could be described as libero, being slightly deeper than his central defensive partner Venâncio. Ferreira had been brought into the defensive central midfield position, and he had Barros to his right and Sousa to his immediate left. Brito was playing wide right, with freedom to roam out of position more than Pacheco who was at left wing. Águas was by now the prefered choice as Portugal’s sole striker.
The visitors had lined up in a rigid 4-4-2. Kocian was the spare man behind Kadlec in central defence. The latter was Águas’ man-marker. Bílek at left-back saw to Brito, and on one occasion was spotted tracking Brito all the way across to the opposite defensive side. Straka at right-back kept an eye on Pacheco, but with less marking responsibility than Bílek. In midfield Chovanec (right) and Hašek were in the centre, and they had two workmanlike wingers in Němeček (right) and Moravčík. They had drilled a whole lot of discipline into that midfield four, which was operating as a tight knit unit in front of their defence. It may also be worth noting that although Hašek wasn’t man-marking Barros, he was rarely far away from the home side’s schemer. Up top, both Skuhravý and Luhový were giving chase to the home side’s players whenever Portugal were attempting to build from the back.
During the half-time break, Portugal had taken off their captain João Pinto and replaced him with wide midfielder Vítor Paneira. Paneira, to our great surprise, inherited Pinto’s right-back spot. The idea will have been to bring even further attacking capacity from the back, although Pinto himself was no stranger to providing an attacking outlet. Paneira’s role would be of an even more attacking nature, as one could’ve suspected. This forced Moravčík into taking even greater defensive responsibility through backtracking. Sousa took over the captaincy for the second half.
The second Portuguese substitution saw Pedro Xavier on for Brito. Straight swap. As for the away team, they introduced Weiss for Luhový towards the end, probably as the striker had tired. Weiss, usually seen as a right-sided midfielder, slotted into Luhový’s role next to Skuhravý. There was also a couple of minutes for Kinier, typically a full-back, as he replaced Moravčík, who had taken a knock and who was knackered. Doctor Vengloš clearly had no intention of interrupting his back four right at the end, and so Kinier came on in Moravčík’s position, to assist Bílek in the remaining few minutes.
Estádio da Luz was about as noisy as it could get in half full surroundings. There seemed to be an air of anticipation among the home crowd, although the majority of them will have realized the daunting task ahead of their national team. Not only did they have to win against a side renowned for not shipping a lot of goals, but to win resoundingly. The size of Portugal’s assignment could have struck fear into many a player, so the crowd had to do their utmost in order to try and give their selectees a pre-match lift. Truth be told, though, Portugal had already wasted their opportunity by only collecting one point from a possible six in three clashes with Belgium and Czechoslovakia. The visitors, so secure in their own abilities, will have felt confident prior to the start of the match, despite the boisterous setting. They would be relying on their footballing know-how to silence the audience.
The home side kick off through Águas and Brito, probably the two players most likely to cause damage to the Czechoslovakian rear lines. Brito, as was often the case when he was summoned into play for the national team, would feature in a wide capacity, this time around filling in on the right hand side, a position usually kept for the exciting Vítor Paneira. However, despite his grandiose talent, Paneira had not quite been able to live up to expectations, although at 23 he still had a lot of time yet to deliever. Brito is clearly a different type of player to Paneira: Stronger in his physique, something which could come in handy against a sturdy opponent such as Czechoslovakia. Indeed, in lone striker Águas, Portugal also had someone who was able to use his body strength to good effect, but it remained to be seen whether he could shake off the Czechoslovakian defence. He had been marked by Kadlec in the opposite fixture in Prague, and it would prove likewise here in Lisbon. Kadlec versus Águas would become a frequent fixture within the match.
A new midfield trio
The home side knew they had to get on the front foot from the word go. They could not afford to concede possession and let the visitors take the initiative. And so they pass the ball about confidently early on, denying the visitors the opportunity to gain early momentum. It is clear that Jorge Ferreira is Nunes’ replacement at the rear end of their central midfield, and Ferreira shows signs even early on that he is just about as tough as he looks, not shying away from anything in direct combat with opponents. However, performing in the holding midfield role, you also need to have a certain ability to direct a pass, and this does not seem to be Ferreira’s strongest point. Another thing noted by the new face in the Portuguese line-up, is his willingness to shoot from distance. At times this will prove a less effective weapon, as he is typically wayward with his efforts. Around Ferreira are inside halfs Rui Barros and Sousa, to his right and left respectively. In the early proceedings, Portugal are happy to let Sousa orchestrate. The seasoned midfielder, now 32, is well capable of stroking a precise pass, and he has enough vision to know where and when to hit his pass. Featuring in only his third qualifier, he shows signs of proving an asset for the hosts in this fixture. There are also a couple of early indicators that Rui Barros is willing to come relatively deep to collect the ball. His forte is advancing past an opponent ball at feet, though he will be less influental in this aspect of the match onwards. Czechoslovakia are obviously well aware of Barros’ capacity, and in captain Hašek they have the man who is well capable of disrupting any star opponent. Hašek is the left of the two central Czechoslovakian midfielders, and so he will often be seen in Barros’ immediate vicinity.
So why would Juca opt for a seemingly defensive formation in a match where he needed his players to score at least four times? Portugal had been gung-ho without much effect against Luxembourg in their opening qualification tie, and it is possible that Juca had learnt a lesson from that game. And Czechoslovakia could clearly not be put in the same bracket as Luxembourg, meaning that Portugal would risk too much in throwing everyone and everything forward early on, even if counter-attacking was not this Czechoslovakian side’s greatest focus nor strength. The home side needed to be patient in their eagerness; they would have to hope for perhaps a lucky bounce or a deflected shot to open their account. Not that the visitors were in any sort of mood to give away anything for free. Czechoslovakia were defending in two resilient banks of four, where libero Kocian was at the heart of their defence, and where in particular the midfield four were giving chase to the home team’s players. Even the front two were instructed to never stop harrying the Portuguese players, and both Skuhravý and Luhový remained true to these tactics throughout. The visitors could indeed go on and win the qualification group should they get both points tonight, albeit their primary focus was to keep a clean sheet and thus secure their passage into the World Cup finals.
There are some fine tussles all over the pitch. Neither player is shirking away from their responsibilities, and challenges are full-blooded. The match carries a great aura of determination from both sets of players, unsurprisingly. Ferreira has a late challenge on Hašek after three minutes, and this is probably why Portugal’s skipper João Pinto receives a yellow card as early as just beyond the six minute mark: Because his was the second poorly timed tackle on a Czechoslovakian player. However, Moravčík, who was on the receiving end this time, had made the most of it, going down clutching his ankle even though Pinto’s challenge was not as mean as Ferreira’s on Hašek. The Scottish referee was a commanding presence on the pitch, and you would not dare questioning his authority; that you would do at your peril.
Another battle which would become a familiar feature, was that between Brito and Czechoslovakian left-back Bílek. The latter had perhaps at times been seen as a less solid defender (in terms of positioning), but he was nevertheless a firm favourite with the manager, starting each and every one of their eight qualifiers. Bílek would need to stay strong in the one on ones with the inventive and agile Brito, and such were the visiting left-back’s instructions that he was even seen monitoring Brito’s run diagonally across the penalty area, leaving the pair end up in Straka’s right-back territory. This was more or less a one-off, though, so whenever Brito later would go and search other areas, Bílek would not track him down. Dr Vengloš felt he could ill afford to see his left-sided defender out of position.
The game has good pace to it. This comes with the collective determination from both teams. Portugal are in charge of affairs, and the crowd want a penalty given on nine minutes as Águas goes to the ground inside the area after a challenge from Straka. The replay shows there’s clearly contact between the pair, but the striker goes over too easily, and Mr Syme is never even contemplating falling for Águas’ attempt. So far the ball’s almost non stop been inside Czechoslovakia’s half, but they stand firm thanks to their enormous physical capabilities. Portugal have efforts from distance through both Sousa (free-kick) and Ferreira, and they bring both their central defenders into the box for corners. However, this also draws the Czechoslovakian forwards back to defend, and in particular Skuhravý’s a huge presence inside his own area. Portugal will realize that causing the visitors problems from set-pieces might be beyond their capability. They chose to focus play towards the right, where Brito, with Pinto behind him, continue to test Bílek’s resolve. Portugal are not as productive down the opposite flank, where Benfica’s Pacheco has been drafted in for only his third international. Pacheco is rather light-weight, and in terms of strength is little match for the imposing Straka. Also, it should be noted that despite left-back Veloso’s ability to dally on the ball, he is not as contributive in an attacking sense as Pinto is along the right hand side. On 16 minutes, Ferreira again lets fly from distance, but again he fails to connect properly, and the ball drifts harmlessly wide. Portugal are finding the Czechoslovakian resilience as strong as they would have feared.
Chovanec, the visiting player based in Holland, had lost the captain’s armband to Hašek early in the calendar year of 1989, and he had also had to move away from the libero position which he had been occupying in some of the earlier qualification matches. Kocian, much through his sheer and brute strength, seemed a favourable choice at the heart of the defence in difficult away matches, and so PSV’s Chovanec had to make do with a central midfield position. Chovanec’ strength was being in possession. He could produce some fine and accurate long range passes, and he was strong enough to make himself a nuisance in challenges. However, he was fairly one-paced, and although he might have been in possession of a rapid imagination, his feet were typically not capable of following suit. At times, this would slow down the Czechoslovakian play, even if captain Hašek by Chovanec’ side tried with his quick feet to up the ante when needed. Yet, there appeared to be a lot of sluggishness about the visitors in Lisbon. When an opportunity to catch the home side on the break arose, they would not accept it, and so Silvino remained relatively untested for the first chapters of the opening period. Skuhravý and Luhový were good at closing down opponents, but they seemed to have little understanding between themselves when Czechoslovakia crossed the halfway line. Their link-up play was almost non-existent. Both Luhový and particularly Skuhravý would be hoping that either wing player, Němeček down the right and Moravčík on the left, could provide them with telling crosses. The two Czechoslovakian wide players, though, were more focused on backtracking and denying the opponents space. Both Němeček and Moravčík showed a lot of discipline, something which might have come more naturally to the former than the latter.
As the first half reaches its halfway point, there are signs that the visitors are gradually eating their way into the game, having weathered the home side’s initial siege. Moravčík will be the first away player to have a shot, as he connects first time mid air from outside the penalty area following a corner, though it is a comfortable save for Silvino to make low down to his left. With their great physical attributes, would Czechoslovakia not prove to be a big threat on attacking set-pieces? You would think so. However, they showed a reluctance to commit a lot of bodies forward, understandably, and were so usually outnumbered by the Portuguese. And the home side’s central defenders were also of fine size and strong in the air. Frederico, who again was the spare man in their defence, albeit never seen as deep as Kocian at the opposite end of the pitch, proved his worth against Luhový on a couple of occasions, whereas Venâncio would relish any challenge with Skuhravý. Venâncio was possibly the better equipped of the two with the ball at his feet, and he would never shy away from any challenge on the ground. One good example came on 26 minutes, when he clattered into Němeček midway inside his own half. It had seemed a fair challenge at first sight, but the replay revealed a nasty tackle from behind which ought to have produced a second yellow card for a Portugal player.
Not a lot had been seen in the first 30 minutes of Rui Barros, Portugal’s diminutive midfield star. He was playing in a role which ought to have suit him well, as the right inside half. On a couple of occasions early on, he would come deep to collect the ball, but this skill was more the strength of his inside half colleague Sousa than Barros’ own. Rui Barros was at his best when he could skip past a man with the ball glued to his feet. He showed a glimpse of what he was capable of as he took the ball past challenges from both Bílek and Kocian, but his final touch saw the ball just cross the goal line and his efforts had been in vain. They would need more inspired moments from one of their more imaginative players, would Portugal. Shortly after Barros’ run, another player who had barely been in the match so far, left sided midfielder Pacheco, lets fly from distance as he wastes a free-kick from 28 yards high and wide. Stejskal, the visitors’ ‘keeper whose reputation keeps growing throughout the qualification, remains untroubled.
Notes on Czechoslovakia’s defenders
Czechoslovakia’s potential set-piece threat is on display just after the half hour mark, as they decide to let the big Kocian join from the back. Portugal left-back Veloso had rather unnecessarily grabbed hold of Skuhravý just outside the left corner of his own penalty area, and as Bílek swung the free-kick into the centre with his right boot and Frederico’s attempted headed clearance found its way through to the Czechoslovakian libero on the far post, Kocian just can’t keep his volleyed effort down; it clears Silvino’s bar by a yard. Had it gone under, the home goal would have come under serious threat. Yet the signs were encouraging for the visitors, who were clearly growing in confidence as they took courage from their defensive display so far. Their checking all across the pitch was bearing dividends. So far, their midfield had concentrated on denting Portuguese efforts, but they did indeed carry elements of creativity, something which was typified through Chovanec, when given time and space, and Moravčík. Still, more often from any dead ball situation rather than open play would they draw attention from the home side’s defensive mettle.
A couple of player feats should be noted. Kadlec, who was doing a terrific job in marking Águas, had in the past matches been seen advancing into enemy territory ball at feet. He would do so on one occasion here too, and the player closing him down was Rui Barros. Perhaps was Barros not so well known for his defensive contribution, but he did splendidly in getting a tackle in and stopping this particular Czechoslovakian attempt from developing. Seeing players show aspects of their game with which they are hardly connected is always good. This incident had shown that Rui Barros was not without defensive fibres.
Bílek v Brito continues to be one of the most frequent duels on the pitch. The visiting left-back has a busy afternoon as Portugal usually wish to attack down his flank, and Brito is involved a lot. Bílek has to concede a couple of corners as he blocks attempted crosses, and he shows fine defensive skills. He is also not tempted to stray out of position, and his discipline is impeccable throughout. Could this be Bílek’s most wholehearted defensive display as a left back (we all remember his performance as a midfielder against Belgium at home) during the qualifiers? Possibly.
Czechoslovakia will have been very content with their first half display, reducing the home side to efforts from distance. Indeed, it was they who had had the best chances of scoring, and a few minutes before the half time whistle, Chovanec had struck an effort from just outside the area which Silvino had gathered, albeit without much trouble. If this trend continued for the second half, Czechoslovakia would be able to celebrate World Cup participation at the final whistle. Did Portugal have something in their locker to at least claim one final, impressive scalp? They would need to up their game after the break should they put Czechoslovakia to the sword.
For the start of the second half, Juca has made one change to his side. Portugal captain João Pinto, who had not carried any visible knocks towards the end of the first half, had been taken off and replaced by wide midfield man Vítor Paneira. One could say it was unexpected. So what position would Paneira take up, with Brito already occupying Paneira’s favoured right sided midfield spot? Furthermore, who would captain Portugal for the second half? The answers to both questions were about to be revealed as the visitors kicked the second 45 into motion through their forward duo Luhový/Skuhravý. Midfield man Sousa had taken the captain’s armband, whereas Vítor Paneira went to right back as a direct replacement for João Pinto! One may argue that Juca hardly had a great deal to lose, as they were still craving four goals to make Italia ’90, but surely there were other elements in this eleven that could have been substituted rather than Pinto. Had the home skipper picked up an injury during the first half after all, or had he perhaps even been feeling unwell? Pinto was relatively attacking in his full-back role, and there was every reason to think that Paneira’s interpretation of this position would even surpass João Pinto’s attacking mindset. Other than this, both teams were unchanged.
There had been few indications during the first half to suggest that Czechoslovakia were facing a second period onslaught. In fact, they had been the closer to opening the scoring, but they would have been sufficiently happy with a goalless score. They knew they had earned the rights to claim a 0-0 score so far through endeavour and hard work, and the final half would see more of the same. Their players had followed Dr Vengloš’ tactics impeccably, and after a first half which had been a good spectacle with a lot of nerve, it would be interesting to see which direction the second 45 would take.
Portuguese wide play
Portugal left winger Pacheco had only been a bit part player before the break, but he is given an early chance to impress after the second half kick-off. He receives the ball in the left wing position, though rather than trying to take the ball past Straka, he decides to swing a cross in towards the centre of the area. It is headed out for a corner by Kocian. Pacheco prepares to swing the left wing flag kick outwards with his left foot, but the ball crosses the goalline on its way into the box. This action could be said to have typified Pacheco’s rather unimaginative performance. One alternative to taking João Pinto off, surely would have been to replace Pacheco with Paneira, and let César Brito start the second half in the left wing role? Too late for that now anyway. And only moments after Pacheco’s failed corner kick, the usually dependable Veloso, Portugal’s trusted left-back, always sporting an exemplary moustache, fails to control a simple pass in his direction from Ferreira, as he’d taken his eyes off the ball. It rolled under his foot and trickled out for a throw-in. If these opening actions were anything to go by, Portugal had already conceded the concept of knocking four past Stejskal.
Only four minutes into the second half, and it is Paneira’s first involvement as a right-back. We’ve seen him seek central areas of the pitch previously during these qualifiers, and as he carries the ball out of defence, he sets off on a run towards the centre circle again. In just the right moment he plays a well weighted pass in the direction of Pacheco, and this time around the winger gets his decision making right as he searches for Águas in the centre. The Portugal number 9 is being tightly marked by the impressive Kadlec all night, though this time he goes to the ground in a challenge with Kocian inside the area. Kadlec proceeds to divert the ball away for a right wing corner, and Águas tries in vain to appeal to the referee that he’s been fouled. Czechoslovakia are tough customers. They take no prisoners. Águas has not had the easiest of nights, but he’s kept plugging away. Portugal have been able to push Czechoslovakia back early in the second half, just as they had been for the opening 20 minutes or so in the first period. Perhaps the preconditions assisted in making it so, but it was no mean feat to continuously pin as strong an opponent as these back inside their own half for prolongued spells. In fact, Portugal were having a fine game. It was just that they were measured against the most unlikely of eventualities, which meant they would have to score no less than four times to succeed. In fact, a mere single goal victory would be an achievement.
Czechoslovakia keep their shape
Czechoslovakia’s defensive unit kept answering questions from the home side. They were so far equal to or better than anything the Portuguese had been throwing at them. They were well marshalled at the back by Kocian, whose sturdiness was impenetrable. Likewise, Kadlec was doing a great job in keeping Águas quiet, and even their full-backs followed suit, with Bílek so far blocking crosses from his left hand side and monitoring Brito’s movements, as well as Straka on the right typically getting the better of the less than impressive Pacheco. Add to that a hard working midfield four and two strikers who never stopped giving chase, and you would realize the size of what the home side were up against. Mind, should Portugal make it beyond the visitors’ defence, they would still have the sound Stejskal to outwit. The visitors were safety first in their approach, and if in any doubt they would boot the ball anywere, either forward or into touch. They would find it difficult to keep hold of the ball in the first phase of the second half, as the home side were bent on getting that opening goal and thus showing a lot of tenacity and aggression in regaining position. In short, it was a good game.
Portugal going nowhere
With about 15 minutes of the second half gone, Portugal were still in the ascendancy, but they had yet to trouble Stejskal. Ferreira, the tigerish defensive midfielder, had had three long range attempts during the opening period, and he’d had another pop around ten minutes or so in the second half. He would not need a second invitation to shoot, no matter how failed his attempts had been earlier. Again it had been blocked. Brito, who had been relatively quiet in the first ten minutes after the break, was starting to come to life, and though yet perhaps not building up a prolific partnership with Paneira down the right hand side, he was realizing he had to try and conquer Bílek through other measures than advancing down the wing. So on one occasion he cut inside and fired a low left-footed effort just wide of Stejskal’s upright, though the ‘keeper had it well covered. Portugal were huffing and puffing, but yet little had materialized. Sousa, now the home captain, was beginning to exert greater midfield influence, and his passing ability was coming to the fore. Rui Barros, though, was kept quiet, and this was a lot due to Hašek’s watchful eye.
Stejskal and Silvino’s very different evenings
Czechoslovakia’s approach to the second half had been calculated so far: They were happy to sit back and soak up the pressure, well aware that their defence would usually be superior to Portugal’s attack. Vítor Paneira was seen more and more inside the opposing half, just as expected. Juca would hardly have brought him into the right-back position if he had thought Paneira would be doing a lot of defending. He did seem quite confident, did Paneira, and he would be able to get a couple of crosses in. When he did, either Kocian or Kadlec would be there to force the ball away. The home side were going nowhere. However, approaching the halfway point in the second period, they will carve out their best opening yet, as the increasingly dominant Sousa plays a well weighted pass for Brito to the right of the area, Bílek for once having let him out of his grasp. And sight. As Brito collects, he is facing Stejskal who comes rushing out of his goal to close him down, and Brito has to hurry his shot. Stejskal is equal to Brito’s attempt, and pushes it wide of goal and out for a right wing corner. It had been a great opportunity for the home side to breach the deadlock. Brito shakes his head in disbelief.
Coming up to the 70 minute mark, the visitors had yet to be anything of an attacking force since the break. Portugal’s grip of the game had shown no signs of relenting, and one would have to praise the mentality of the home side’s players for giving it such a go. Had Silvino even made contact with the ball in the second half? Perhaps for a goal kick. He had yet to be called into action. Not that Czechoslovakia cared as long as the score was still 0-0. Weiss had been seen warming up for the visitors, so perhaps had Dr Vengloš been contemplating a switch? Weiss was usually operating along the right hand midfield flank, so maybe was this a sign of Němeček’s time being up? The tireless midfielder had played an anonymous role, yet he had been of great assistance to right-back Straka. Little threat had come from the Portugal left wing.
On 74 minutes Portugal again look for the Sousa/Brito combination. The home playmaker gains control of the ball deep inside his own half, towards the left of the pitch. Immediately he looks for runs ahead of him, and Brito had again managed to wrestle himself free from Bílek’s shackles. Had the left-back not learnt a lesson from six minutes earlier? Again, Bílek’s positioning had to be questioned, and he was ball watching as Sousa treaded his pass through. Brito gets to Sousa’s through ball, but Stejskal has come darting off his line to thwart the winger. The wide man tries to lift it over the ‘keeper, but he can’t get enough air under the ball, and Stejskal is able to parry it away to safety. For the second time the Sparta stopper had come to the visitors’ rescue, as Sousa and Brito again had combined well.
Czechoslovakia were able to breathe again for a few minutes after Stejskal’s last intervention. Portugal had put them under the cosh for half an hour, and at some point the home side’s grip would have to lose its potency. For a couple of minutes Czechoslovakia are even able to pass the ball around just inside Portugal’s half, though they are unwilling to make any forward risks, always keeping plenty of men behind the ball. Weiss had earlier been seen warming up along the touchline, but no change had yet to materialize. Now, in fact, it looked as it could be the home side to make the first substitution since the half time break, though Veloso, of all people, would have the next attempt at goal as he took a pass from Paneira and directed a right foot shot towards Stejskal’s goal from almost 30 yards. The ‘keeper again had the ball covered, as the left-back’s effort went just wide of the right hand post. In the wake of the shot, something seemed to have happened between Hašek and Barros. The referee confers briefly with his linesman on the near side before showing the Czechoslovakian captain the yellow card. It is fair to say that Hašek didn’t agree with the decision, and he is shaking his head. Perhaps something had been said? It is difficult to determine on background of video evidence alone, as the camera’s focus had been elsewhere.
Substitutions and a glorious chance for Weiss
After a failed Hašek cross from the left, which goes behind for a Silvino goal kick, it is the home side who make a change when they replace the exhausted Brito for Pedro Xavier. It is a like for like swap. Brito had had a decent game and a good tussle all night with Bílek. It had also been the Benfica man who had had their two greatest opportunities, both which had been saved by the visitors’ goalkeeper. Xavier, a 27 year old from Estrela da Amadora right on the outskirts of Lisboa, was on for his fourth cap.
With seven minutes left for play, the referee awards Portugal a fairly cheapish free-kick 25 yards out, right in front of Stejskal’s goal. Mr Syme had spotted Barros being infringed by Němeček, though it had seemed quite innocuous. Czechoslovakia line up a defensive wall, but Portugal’s second half captain Sousa strikes the ball well, only to see Stejskal again turn the ball away and behind for a left wing corner. Had the ‘keeper not got to it, the ball would’ve crept in, so it had been another good save by the blonde stopper. Stejskal had positioned himself well, so he did not have to stretch much to fist the venomous free-kick away.
Frustration is getting the better a couple of the home side’s players towards the end. Venâncio is seen lunging at Luhový around the halfway line, and the striker does well to avoid the tackle. A couple of minutes earlier, substitute Xavier had kicked out in Hašek’s direction after losing the ball. It was so unnecessary, but perhaps their dropping discipline levels could be understood. They had given their all, yet they had been unable to penetrate the visitors’ goal. Czechoslovakia make their first substitution when they replace Luhový with Weiss, who slots directly into the departing striker’s role up front. Within a minute of entering the pitch, Weiss is played in behind the home defence, who firmly believe that the substitute is offside. There’s no flag from the linesman on the far side after Moravčík has played him in, and as he bears down on Silvino’s goal, he finishes with his right foot low and just to the left of the post. It was by far the visitors’ greatest opportunity of the evening, and had Weiss been able to direct his shot inside of the goal frame, they would’ve overtaken Belgium as group winners. Not that it mattered a lot. Just after Weiss’ glaring miss, Dr Vengloš brings defender Kinier into action, replacing the full-back for Moravčík, who had done well to set Weiss up. In doing so, however, Moravčík had been tackled heavily by Ferreira near the touchline. A combination of the effects from this tackle and exhaust saw the wide man unable, or unwilling, to continue. Kinier would slot into Moravčík’s left sided midfield role for the remaining couple of minutes, the manager not wanting to disrupt his defence at this point of the game.
There is time for a poor left-footed effort from Águas from outside the area and the ensuing goal kick, before the ref puts the whistle to his mouth one last time. It is all over, and the game has finished with a no score. The visiting players are jubilant, and put their arms up to celebrate World Cup participation. They do not care about Weiss’ late miss, which would have given them victory both on the night and in the group as a whole. Portugal’s players sportingly shake hands with the joyful visitors. They had given their all, but it was not enough. Stejskal, with three fine second half stops, had been something of a match winner.
Whether they had belief or not prior to kick-off that they could actually win by the necessary four goals to proceed to the World Cup at the expense of the visitors, Portugal lay siege on Czechoslovakia’s goal and dominate the opening 20 minutes. The second part of the first half is much more even, as the visitors grow into the game. Kocian’s far post volley had been the best opportunity in a decent half. The second half again sees the home side dominate, and they will have two great opportunities through Brito, who was denied by the impressive Stejskal on both occasions. Czechoslovakia are not bothered to venture forward, and again have Stejskal to thank for beating away a Sousa free-kick. Right at the end the visitors should have won it as Weiss bore down on Silvino’s goal, but his shot went just wide. Not that it mattered much. They were displaying scenes of extacy at the final whistle, as the goalless draw had been more than enough for them to go on and claim World Cup participation.
1 Silvino 6.7
made a couple of simple first half saves, completely unworked in the second half until Weiss’ opportunity on the stroke of full time, where he came out to narrow the angle
2 João Pinto 6.8
faces little competition from Moravčík along his defensive side, so he is able to focus mostly on attacking contribution. Some deep, fairly hoofed crosses, not at his commanding best. Replaced at half-time, could be due to not feeling well, a knock, tactical dispositions or the early booking which he had picked up
(15 Vítor Paneira 7.0
more and more attacking as the second half progressed, never had to showcase any defensive attributes in this for him unusual right-back role. Often an outlet, got into a couple of decent crossing positions, but found his options limited)
3 Frederico 6.9
the Czechoslovakian strikers were little threat when in possession. Frederico did well in aerial challenges with both forwards. Took out necessary depth when needed
4 Venâncio 6.9
pretty much the same as his central defensive partner, without the depth. A couple of cynical fouls, probably should have been booked
5 Veloso 6.8
a conservative display, but his forward approaches are limited due to fine defensive work by Němeček. Interesting long distance effort which goes just wide
6 Ferreira 7.0
combative midfielder who put himself about, but whose passing was not always accurate and whose shooting was wasteful. A necessary element in order to balanse an otherwise attacking midfield
7 Brito 7.1
among the more inventive during Portugal’s dominant opening 20 minutes, and posed a threat with his directness from the right wing. Enjoyed some fine tussles with Bílek all night long, and eventually wasted the hosts’ two greatest opportunities
(13 Pedro Xavier –
not much time to make an impression, and wastes a headed opportunity when he should have made a better tactical judgement)
8 Rui Barros 6.7
a less effective performance by the little schemer, who too often fell into Hašek’s trap. We did, however, notice a couple of defensive contributions, a possibly underrated feature of his game. Completed 90 minutes for an eighth successive qualifying match
9 Rui Águas 6.7
committed to the cause, but up against a very solid Czechoslovakian defence, and unable to pose a goal threat
10 Sousa 7.3
decent first half, but grew in stature as the second half progressed, and played some key passes. Assisted Brito for both the winger’s big opportunities. Bossed midfield in the second half
11 Pacheco 6.2
never able to make an impact from the left wing, where the combined efforts of Straka and Němeček were always too much. Quite light weight, and even his passing and crossing at times let him down
1 Stejskal 7.5
claimed a couple of crosses commandingly before the break, and made three vital stops in the second period. Very assured, never a moment’s lapse in concentration
2 Straka 6.9
not too difficult against a tame left winger, and always cautious when his team were in possession. Strong in the challenge as always
3 Kadlec 7.3
terrific man marking job on Águas, and showed ability with the ball on the deck on a couple of occasions as well
4 Hašek 7.1
does a lot of “dirty” work as he reduces Barros’ influence on the game, and is rarely seen darting forward in trademark runs. Involved in a lot of challenges, gave as good as he got
5 Kocian 7.4
hardly put a foot wrong all evening, and such a giant in the air. Close to scoring with his first half volley on the far post
6 Němeček 6.9
seemingly invisible, yet a strong defensive display as he worked for the cause of the collective throughout. On the receiving end of a couple of big tackles, but never moaned
7 Bílek 6.8
good first half display in which he locked horns with Brito and got a couple of vital blocks in, but was found out of position at key times twice in the second half. Unable to make much use of his trusted right foot, but always pegged back in his own half, especially as Paneira was almost camped inside the visitors’ half in the latter part of the second half
8 Chovanec 6.7
a couple of vital clearances, but uneffective as a playmaker, probably more due to the tactical outlays of the game rather than his incapabilities. His lack of pace slows the team down
9 Luhový 6.5
ran and closed down, yes, but such difficult circumstances to perform well as a striker in. Little understanding with his forward partner. Taken off because he’d run himself into the ground
(16 Weiss –
came on to continue Luhový’s job, and should have netted the winner as he raced through to finish wide of the post with only Silvino to beat)
10 Skuhravý 6.5
kept in check even in the air, but like forward partner Luhový he kept giving chase all night and earnt his wages. Never a single cross to work with
11 Moravčík 6.8
an effort from distance in the first half, but was mainly committed to the team’s cause and so assisted left-back Bílek inside their own half. Mightily tired towards the end, and was more than happy to be replaced just before full time, probably using a knock he’d received as an excuse to come off
(12 Kinier –
made a defensive headed clearance. That was about what he had time for after coming on in Moravčík’s position)