Portugal – Luxembourg: Far from convincing from hosts despite win
So it was time for the Portuguese to start their 1990 World Cup qualification campaign. Luxembourg had already got under way with two home defeats, and were living up to their pre-qualification billing as the group 7 whipping boys. This was of course a ‘must win’ match for the hosts, and the home crowd would not just expect a win but also a few goals along the way. Incredibly, it was only the Portuguese’s second international of the calendar year. A month earlier they had drawn 0-0 in Sweden. Only five of those starting in Gothenburg would also kick off in Portugal’s first qualifying match. Luxembourg were away from home for the first time in 1988, and had lost thrice on home soil earlier.
The two countries had met in a friendly in Portimão, Portugal, two and a half years earlier, with the home team running out 2-0 winners. Only tonight’s captain Fernando Gomes had been starting back then. There had been a good few changes in the away squad as well, with only three players, goalkeeper van Rijswijck, right back and skipper Hubert Meunier and centre back Marcel Bossi, appearing from kick-off in that earlier tie in Portimão south in Portugal. Ten from the starting eleven in Luxembourg’s previous qualification outing against Czechoslovakia would start in Porto. The only one who came in was right sided midfielder Jean-Paul Girres, who replaced Guy Hellers.
Portugal boss Juca included two full debutants in right back Jaime (Alves) from Boavista and central defender (Luís) Sobrinho from Lisbon club Belenenses. He chose an attacking 4-2-4 formation from start, with Nunes as the holding midfielder. Nunes had seemed to pick up a knock in a traning session before the tie, but would complete the match without any visible trouble. On the right wing, Vítor Paneira from Benfica would gain only his second cap, whilst captain Fernando Gomes was at the other end of the scale, winning his 48th. Veteran striker Jordão would make his penultimate appearance in an international shirt at the age of 36. Paul Philipp, the Luxembourg manager, would field a more experienced side, with every single one of his starting eleven being in double appearance figures. They were captained by their most experienced head as far as number of internationals went: right back Meunier, who won his 53rd cap in Portugal.
This was the first ever qualification tie to be held in Boavista’s Estádio do Bessa. Boavista had finished the 1987/88 season fifth, but were always inferior to the city’s big brother FC Porto, who had not just won the domestic league title a few months earlier: In 1986/87 they had even won continental club football’s most prestigeous tournament by beating Bayern Munich 2-1 in the final of the European Cup in Vienna. Portuguese football as a whole seemed to be on the up again after the dismal exit from Mexico ’86 and the no show for ’88, with Benfica having reached the very same final in 1987/88, only succumbing to PSV Eindhoven on penalties after a 0-0 draw in Stuttgart. Apart from with the big three (add Sporting of Lisbon to the two already mentioned), attendances were poor. Even the national team had suffered, with one quite appalling attendance figure standing out from the previous qualification campaign, that ahead of the 1988 Euro: 3,632 were registered through the gates for the 0-0 draw with Switzerland. This was in Porto’s ground. To kick-start a new qualification campaign, there would be a certain level of optimism about the national team, and bigger crowds would again be flocking to the stadia.
20,000 was given as the official attendance for this particular tie. However, various sources are operating with various figures, with a couple of them telling of even as low an attendance as 5,925, which is clearly wrong. Live footage from the match show big huddles of crowds both on the far side terrace and stand as well as behind the goal which Luxembourg are defending during the first half. There is no stand behind the other goal, whereas quick glimpses reveal that at least a good few spectators are gathered on the near side terrace as well. Porto had beaten Boavista 1-0 on this very ground in front of 25,000 during the 1987/88 league season, with Rui Barros getting the game’s only goal. Surely, if they were able to attract such a crowd for the city derby, they would also accumulate more than a paltry 6k for a qualification opener. One should therefore not be in doubt as to 20,000 being as near to the correct attendance figure as one gets.
|2 Jaime Alves||23||Boavista|
|4 Morato||24||Sporting Lisboa|
|7 Vítor Paneira||22||Benfica|
|8 Rui Barros||22||Juventus|
|9 Fernando Gomes (c)||31||Porto|
|10 Paulo Futre||22||Atlético Madrid|
|11 Jordão||sub h-t||36||Vitória Setúbal|
|12 Neno||26||Vitória Guimarães|
|13 António Veloso||31||Benfica|
|14 Jaime Magalhães||on h-t||26||Porto|
|15 António Sousa||31||Porto|
|1 John van Rijswijck||26||Union Luxembourg|
|2 Hubert Meunier (c)||28||Avenir Beggen|
|3 René Scheuer||26||Red Boys Differdange|
|4 Pierre Petry ¹||27||Jeunesse d’Esch|
|5 Marcel Bossi||28||Progrès Niedercorn|
|6 Jean-Paul Girres||27||Avenir Beggen|
|7 Gérard Jeitz||27||Union Luxembourg|
|8 Carlo Weis||10′||29||Thionville|
|9 Théo Scholten||sub 82′||25||Jeunesse d’Esch|
|10 Robby Langers||28||Oreléans|
|11 Armin Krings||35′, sub 62′||25||Avenir Beggen|
|12 Paul Koch||22||Red Boys Differdange|
|13 Marc Birsens||22||Union Luxembourg|
|14 Denis Scuto||24||Jeunesse d’Esch|
|15 Théo Malget||on 62′||27||FC Wiltz 71|
|16 Marc Thomé||on 82′||25||Red Boys Differdange|
¹ Petry was seen wearing the number 5 shirt during the first half, meaning both of the Luxembourg central defenders were wearing the same number. He would switch over to the more correct number 4 shirt at half time.
Explanations are needed for the tactics board.
First half: Juca knew that nothing but a win by a big margin would be tolerated against a team that was not expected to pick up any points during their qualification campaign. And so he set up his team in an overload formation: it could be argued whether it was 4-3-3 (with Futre clearly more attacking down the left hand side than Paneira was on the opposite side), 4-2-4 or even 4-1-5, with also Rui Barros more or less featuring as a third central striker to the right of Jordão and captain Fernando Gomes. The lack of balance in the team was evident, yet the part time visitors were not capable to do much about it. In addition, the home side also had both full-backs bombing down their respective sides, Jaime on the right probably more so than Álvaro on the left. Nunes was the holding midfielder, and often indeed the only player in addition to the two central defenders with responsibilities reminiscent of anything of a defensive nature. The overload lead to an often congested visiting penalty area, and since the home side rarely played the ball into space (indeed, there was precious little space into which to play balls anyway), it did seem a bit strange why veteran striker Jordão had even been selected. His strength is clearly in the air, and it was not as if the Portuguese were trying to aim for his head ever so often. Despite their strong desire to score goals in abundance, a more balanced tactic could probably have proved more effective.
As for the visitors, they were happy to defend in numbers, clearly only intent on keeping scores down. They will have been happy with the way the first half had paned out, as they restricted the home team to only a few attempts on goal. It is possible that manager Philipp had wanted to play with Petry as the sweeper, as they had started their qualification campaign with Weis in such a role in the 4-1 home defeat against the Swiss (sadly, there is precious little information about their subsequent 2-0 home defeat against Czechoslovakia). However, Luxembourg were pushed so deep throughout the first half that there was not a lot of room in which to sweep, so his fellow defenders appeared more or less to be in line with him. Petry had acted as the left-sided defender in the defeat to the Swiss, but this role seemed to belong to the rugged Scheuer here, even if he was far from your typical full-back. Left-footed central defender Bossi, another powerfully built player, and probably looking slightly more athletic than said Scheuer, also often operated to the left of centre in the visitors’ defence. However, on the few occasions that the away team had tried to bring the ball forward, it would appear that Scheuer was featuring as the left back. When defending, he could occasionally be seen in more central areas. So when Paneira or Jaime had come forward down the Portugal right hand side, they would as often be met by Bossi as by Scheuer. These tactics were slightly bemusing from the visitors, but they somehow seemed to work. Luxembourg captain Meunier on the right, the third broad-shouldered figure in the away side’s defence, was also acting less as an outright full-back, often aided in their right-sided defensive territory by wide right midfielder Girres. Luxembourg were being pushed back so much that their two forwards became very isolated. The central midfield pairing of Weis and Jeitz also had to attend to defensive duties. On one occasion, though, the visitors did manage to counter-attack, and they were left to rue Girres’ decision of firing at goal from an angle when there were probably better options to aim at in the middle.
Note that both Petry and Bossi appeared in a number 5 shirt in the first half. This error would be noticed and addressed by the management team at half time, with Petry reappearing before the start of the second half wearing a shirt with number 4 on his back.
Juca had indeed made a half time switch, and one which did seem to try and address the mis-match in balance that had been evident during the first half: he had taken off ageing striker Jordão and replaced him with wide midfielder Jaime Magalhães. The latter took to the right hand side, pushing Paneira into a central position just ahead of Nunes. This would mean a lot of ball contact for the young Benfica player, but it was a responsibility which suited him. He was confident in his central, deeper role, and seemed to thrive in trying to release his more forward team mates. He would also offer himself as an alternative down both flanks, possibly more often down the left than on his original right hand position. Rui Barros, whose position during the first half had seemed a bit vague, wanting to be part of the attack as much as possible, also struggled to make much of an impression after the break. However, he was being attended to by a designated marker, as the visitors had also made some half time tactical switches: without Portugal’s attacking overload, it became more evident that Petry was indeed acting in a sweeping capacity, often coming wide right to try and defend when Paolo Futre broke down his flank. Scheuer had been pulled inside from what was possibly a more full-back like role in the first half, and his assignment was one of looking after Rui Barros’ runs forward from the diminutive playmaker’s attacking midfield role. So Bossi would try and cope with Magalhães’ runs down the Portuguese right. As for Meunier, he was left to deal with Fernando Gomes, so the two captains came head to head on a number of occasions after the half time break. It could even be that Luxembourg were somewhat taken aback by the fact that Juca had withdrawn Jordão at half time, as Bossi was left without clear marking instructions. Could Philipp have intended for his number 5 to be looking after the home team’s veteran striker in the second half? We will never know.
Luxembourg replaced the static Krings with a similar kind of player in Malget just about a quarter of an hour into the second half. Still Langers would remain their only possible threat to the home side, and he had come so close to equalizing after Scholten had made a rare foray down the left flank and crossed for the Oreléans striker, who had nipped in just ahead of goalkeeper Silvino, flicking his effort just over. Thomé would play the final minutes in Scholten’s position on the left hand side of midfield.
The two Luxembourg forwards Robby Langers and Armin Krings kicked the game off, with Juca taking to a very attacking-minded formation. As expected, most of the play would take place in the visitors’ half, with Luxembourg forming a shield in front of their own penalty area, with central midfielders Gérard Jeitz and Carlo Weis both sitting very deep. One realized early doors that it would take some imagination from the hosts to break down two lines of four, and they set about their play with some flair, most notably through long-haired left-sided forward Paulo Futre, who showed his intent even before a minute had passed when he picked the ball up just inside of Luxembourg’s half and drove towards their rearguard. This was a scene we would become familiar with during the game.
In goal, Luxembourg fielded Jeunesse d’Esch’ van Rijswijck, a blonde figure who demonstrated composure from the word go. He brought the necessary degree of calmness to his defenders, which only compunded into making this a more tricky tie for the hosts than what most had been predicting beforehand. Of the two Luxembourg central defenders, both wearing a number 5 shirt, the more rugged Bossi took the left-sided role, with Petry, a seemingly more calm figure, took to the right, with the experienced Meunier in support of him from the right back position if needed. Meunier himself would be needing assistance in dealing with the inspired Paulo Futre, whose spark time and again proved a thorn in Luxembourg’s side. With left back Scheuer from time to time exposed to an overload of three Portuguese players attacking down his flank, Jeitz and Bossi would do most of the cover work on that side.
Portugal appeared impatient from kick-off, yet they composed themselves and realized the task ahead of them once they could not get a proper shot away in the opening exchanges. Vítor Paneira saw a lot of the ball and took a lot of responsibility, coming deep to collect the ball and often instigating attacks. Sobrinho was Portugal’s right-sided central defender, and he picked out either Jaime the right back or said Paneira coming inside. Now and again also the tall, bald figure of Nunes would seek out the more creative of his midfield partners, realizing that he himself was in the side to try and maintain a certain level of balance. Juca had gone with a 4-2-4, where Nunes was the only balancing act in midfield, with the other central midfielder, Juventus’ recent signing Rui Barros, throwing caution to the wind at every opportunity, more often than not seeking to exploit the central right area of Portugal’s attacking zone. This lack of tolerance for the more defensive side of the game could so easily have been punished by a more raffined opponent, but then again Portugal would most likely not have set up to play with so many attacking options against a stronger team.
Big central defender Luís Sobrinho, here seen making his international bow, headed a Paneira corner from the left via van Rijswijck’s bar and over on 12 minutes. A few minutes earlier, Rui Barros had come close to an opener when he was found by Jaime, who had come on a good run inside, inside the box, but shot wastefully straight at the Luxembourg goalkeeper, who was able to parry it to safety. Other than that, Portugal’s huffing and puffing brought little goalmouth action. Jaime was doing a lot of good overlapping work in his Seleção debut, and the Portuguese right hand side was no inferior to what we saw on the opposite flank, where Paulo Futre almost conducted a one man show, albeit offered support from left back Álvaro if he felt need be.
Jordão’s presence seemed somewhat surplus to Portuguese requirements. At 36, his legs seemed gone; he was static, and was not even offered much of a chance to win headers against the Luxembourg defenders. Portugal prefered to keep the ball along the ground. He had a weak header easily dealt with by van Rijswijck, and shot a direct free-kick from just outside the box straight into the wall. Unless Portugal were miles ahead in the protocols by half time, one could see Juca making a change here. But who to bring on in the veteran striker’s place? Would another striker do it, or could perhaps Portugal gain more control by adding another midfielder into the fray? Before there was time to do a lot of pondering, the home skipper gave them the lead. Again Futre had been instrumental in creating the opening, and when the Atlético Madrid forward found his captain, Fernando Gomes positioned himself quickly and fired a right-footed shot into the top corner. It was an exquisite finish. One felt sympathetic with Luxembourg that all their hard defensive work had come to no avail, but even at 1-0 down they did just continue to go about their business as usual. They probably did not see this kind of margin as a poor result at all. However, there was still a lot of football to be played.
The first half saw two bookings from the visitors: Weis on 10 minutes for hooking Gomes, with Krings also going into the referee’s notebook for a foul on Vítor Paneira. How Jeitz escaped a yellow for bringing down Rui Barros only the Irish referee knows. In an attacking capacity, Luxembourg offered little, but they did have a decent opportunity a couple of minutes from the break, when Langers fed the ball wide right to Girres, who ran at Álvaro and seemed destined to cross for either Langers or Krings, only to finish with a wayward shot instead as he got inside the Portugal box. Langers’ body language showed for the whole world to see what he thought of the right sided midfielder’s decision. At the break, Portugal were deservedly a goal to the good.
As Portugal had never played to whatever strengths Jordão might have had left during the first half, the 36 year old was substituted at half time. Juca brought on Porto’s Jaime Magalhães, prompting another tactical switch: Magalhães prefers the wide right role, where Vítor Paneira had been playing during the first half, a half in which it was however realized that Paneira, despite his fledgling status at international level, did not mind getting involved in central areas of the pitch. So in the newly established central midfield three, Nunes would sit in the deeper role, with Rui Barros (right) and Vítor Paneira on each side of him. Fernando Gomes was left in a lone striker role, but not without support from the midfield five behind him. Nunes might have been the holding midfielder, but even he was not a stranger to joining in attack. As Luxembourg were rarely anything reminiscent of an attacking threat, there was little risk with him doing so.
Despite the change in formation, there was a very slow start to the second half. Portugal seemed unable to increase the pace in the game, and Luxembourg were quite content with stifling whatever Portugal had to offer. Magalhães was very true to his wide role, hardly leaving this territorium at all, but perhaps not combining as effectively with right back Jaime as Vítor Paneira had been doing in the first half. In the diminutive Rui Barros Portugal had a player of very fine calibre, but the recent Juventus acquisition never got going on his return back to Porto. He was surprisingly bleak throughout the second half, and seemed less at home in a midfield five than he had done with four across the midfield in the previous half. Nunes and Vítor Paneira were the most industrious of the home players in that area of the pitch, however, when Paulo Futre was given the opportunity to take his man on and get to the byline, he rarely passed the chance by. Futre has sublime close control, and left Luxembourg captain Meunier a displeased figure on a number of occasions. Meunier is probably better suited to a central defensive role than acting as right back. Just ahead of him there was not a lot of cover work from Girres, who seemed more interested in teaming up with central midfielders Jeitz and Weis. Langers could sometimes be seen operating towards the right hand side of the pitch, always busy with the ball at his feet, however, not always very productive. His attacking partner from kick-off Krings was replaced by the huge figure of Theo Malget just after the hour mark. Were Luxembourg going more direct? They rarely played long balls; they were never aiming for any of the attackers to win aerial duels. But then again, their midfield was generally sitting so deep that there would’ve been none to challenge for second balls. Luxembourg were never short on effort, but there was just not the necessary level of quality to properly threaten Portugal, not even on the break. Juca had got his goal before half time, so he could afford to continue with a holding midfielder, making sure to eliminate this potential threat from the visitors. Nunes was in fact not that deep. Sobrinho and the stylish Morato would easily deal with Luxembourg’s front pair on their own, and in the second half even left back Álvaro would be more of a support act for Paulo Futre down the left hand flank.
Even with Portugal being in almost total control throughout, there was a giant opportunity for the visitors to draw level eight minutes into the second half, when Scholten got past Sobrinho and crossed for Langers, who got to the ball ahead of Silvino, but he could only direct it over the goal. Apart from that there was a Fernando Gomes header from the home side after a Magalhães cross, and then Paulo Futre got to the byline following another probing raid down the left. His cross fell for Magalhães, whose left foot shot went well wide. Luxembourg defender René Scheuer then made a superb tackle to deny Jaime space within the visitors’ box, and the home crowd wanted a penalty, but there was never a substantial claim from any of the home players, and rightly so. The Irish referee kept good control of proceedings, but to be fair it was a fairly easy game in which to officiate. Gomes had another header just off target from a left footed Jaime cross, and right at the death Paulo Futre struck a free-kick from 22 yards just over van Rijswijck’s goal after he himself had been brought down by the combined efforts of Petry and Meunier. A rather drab game petered out with a single goal margin win for the hosts.
It may also be noted that both of Luxembourg’s substitutes were straight swaps for the two players they replaced: Malget came on for the abysmal Krings to contribute up front, whereas Thomé took up Scholten’s position wide left.
Portugal would get their two points, but no doubt will they have walked off the pitch disappointed to only have scored once. Luxembourg will have been delighted with this scoreline, and they had even had a couple of opportunities to make the home side pay, although one did have the feeling that if Langers had converted his early second half opportunity, Portugal would have upped the ante and scored again. They seemed to get their balance more right after the break, with Paneira coming into a central midfield role, but the plucky part timers defended stoutly, and could leave the city of Porto with their heads held high.
untroubled. Makes a couple of aerial interceptions, but could have been breached from Langers’ early second half effort on the near post
the full-back is lively for most of the match, making countless runs down the right hand side, both on and off the ball. Seems to have a fine understanding with Paneira during the first half, and possibly slightly less so with Barros after the break
apart from letting Scholten cross for Luxembourg’s best opportunity of the game early in the second half, he is relatively untroubled. Hits the bar with a first half header
stylish and pacey, keeps Langers well in check. It will be interesting to see him against stronger opposition
provides a fine alternative down the left hand side, and is never troubled by the visitors defensively
the stabilizer in central midfield, a job which is more important in the opening 45 minutes than after the break, as he is more or less left to his own devices with every team mate so intent on storming forward. Keeps the team together and provides a platform from which his team mates can build on
7.Vítor Paneira 7.3
very lively in the opening half. Is moved in field for the second half, and is no less in contact with the ball in the final 45 minutes. Makes good use of his possession, and completes a fine individual performance
8.Rui Barros 6.5
disappointing. Often closely attended to by big Scheuer, and never finds any rhythm, which could also be due to the first half overload tactics. The Porto audience had been expecting more on his return to the city
9.Paulo Futre 7.5
drew plenty of fouls from the visitors, created havoc with his close control and pace, assist for Gomes’ goal. Delievery could have been better, and he could have kept width better after the break
10.Fernando Gomes 7.1
takes his goal very well and is mobile throughout. In the second half he is also seen coming back into midfield to participate in build-up play. Combines well with Futre
judging by his 45 minutes, his inclusion seemed an odd one: Portugal never intended to play according to his strengths, and he offered nothing. If anything, he probably more disrupted the attacking fluency than being useful. Also did not seem bothered in giving chase when the visitors were in possession
unable to make much inroads into the Luxembourg defence from his second half wide position, and scuffs his only shooting opportunity. Not troubling the visitors much)
1.van Rijswijck 7.0
a calm custodian. Never put to a lot of big tests, but keeps his composure and is not at fault for the goal
the experienced skipper struggles to keep Gomes under control, and is a sluggish performer who’s enjoyed better individual evenings before
marshalls the defence from his somewhat deeper position, and second half often has to guard what his right-sided colleagues do. Rather mobile and with a bit of pace, and possesses a fine footballing head, but has limited technical ability
no-nonsense centre half who is effective in battle. Far from quick enough when challenged for pace, but fortunately for the visitors he hides his shortcomings well
effective in closing down Barros, one superb second half tackle inside his own area to prevent Magalhães in getting to the byline.
needs to cover a lot of ground as he is often required in a defensive capacity. Sticks to the right hand side, but offers next to nothing going forward. Wastes a fine opportunity by shooting from an angle when there’s opportunities in the centre towards the end of the first half
goes through a lot of work, this time completes the 90 minutes without rolling his socks down. Makes a good few interceptions, and can be pleased with his performance
much like his colleague in central midfield: they’re both played very deep. Battles well, but is generally overrun by the home side’s players
Like his colleague Girres on the opposite flank, Scholten has a lot of recovery work to do, and he dutifully goes through what is required of him. Does well when making it past Sobrinho to cross for Langers for the visitors’ best opportunity of the match early second half
has two touches of the ball after coming on)
tries to challenge the home defence with his pace, and gets on the end of a Scholten cross early second half to almost cause an equalizer, but has no support
a rather inept performance, demonstrating this is a level too high for him: no pace, no technical ability, no threat. Deservedly taken off
has nothing in his locker to help raise Luxembourg’s attacking game after his introduction. Big and slow)