Switzerland – Belgium: Visitors perhaps unlucky not to eventually win it despite going behind twice
Ref.: Lajos Hartmann
L 1: László Győri
L 2: László Molnár
Written by: kaltz
Both teams were managed by someone else than who had been in charge during the opposite fixture a year earlier.
On the same night, Portugal were playing in Luxembourg. They would be expected to win and get to nine points, which would take them on the same amount of points as Czechoslovakia. Those two were due to meet in Portugal in November, so there was no such possible scenario as both of them winning their two remaining matches. Thus, a Belgian draw in Switzerland would more or less guarantee them passage through to Italia ’90, and this even before their last match at home to Luxembourg. In practice, Belgium could afford defeat in Basle and still qualify, as nothing short of twin points in their final game seemed likely.
Switzerland had gained a memorable friendly win in Uli Stielike’s first match in sole charge four months earlier when they beat Brazil 1-0 in the same stadium. However, they had suffered a 2-1 home defeat by Portugal in the subsequent qualifier, to definitely be out of contention for a place in next year’s World Cup, a scenario which had already been extremely unlikely prior to that defeat. Would this lead the manager to perform some experiments with his team this time around? Or would their integrity and responsibility towards the other teams in the group play a major factor still?
For the first time during these qualifiers, Switzerland would have to manage without central defender Martin Weber. He would be replaced by Dominique Herr, who had come into the reckoning after Stielike’s appointment. They were also without Beat Sutter for the first time since the start of the campaign, whereas midfielder Lucien Favre would miss only his second of six qualifiers. And yet again there was no Alain Sutter. Stefan Marini was also out injured. Due to an absence of important midfielders, there had been a call-up for Thomas Bickel, who would perform for the first time in the ’90 qualification after a lengthy spell on the sidelines with injury. To replace B Sutter in the right-sided attacking role, Stielike had called upon Lausanne’s Philippe Douglas ¹, who would be making his international bow after having done well for his club side until recently. Left sided players Herbert Baumann and Stéphane Chapuisat would be starters for the third time out of three under Stielike’s tenure as Swiss national team boss, this despite their dodgy first impression in the match against Brazil. Kubilay Türkyılmaz’ inclusion had been in doubt as his lady was due to give birth to their baby the following day. Among the substitutes, there were another couple of possible debutants in wide player Marc Hottiger from Lausanne and Luzern’s exciting young forward Adrian Knup. Also in the squad was a 24 year old defender named Roland Widmer from Neuchâtel Xamax, and there had been speculations in the Swiss press on the day before the game that he would indeed earn a starting berth ². There had also been an emergency late call-up into the squad for another defender in 23 year old Urs Fischer from St. Gallen.
¹ Douglas was the first coloured player appearing for the Swiss national team in 38 years, and indeed only the second in their history.
² italia1990.com owe Daniel Schaub, chief editor of rotweiss.ch, a big ‘thank you’ for this information which he kindly retrieved for us through archive searches in Basler Zeitung and Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
Since the summer, Belgium had seen legendary manager Guy Thys retire, and his assistant Walter Meeuws, a famous name within Belgian football-lore for his role both in the national team in the late 70s/early 80s and Club Brugge and Standard Liège, had been promoted as his successor. He had overseen two impressive 3-0 home wins against Denmark (friendly) and Portugal respectively, and already on the brink of qualification, the Belgians would take to the field in Basle as favourites. They would have to make do without experienced defender Georges Grün, but instead they would have an even more seasoned campaigner back in their ranks in Lei Clijsters. Patrick Vervoort, the wide left midfielder, was also back again after his absence from both of Meeuws’ two previous squads, and it would be left-back Michel De Wolf to give way, relegating Bruno Versavel back into a left-back position after he had been at left midfield against Portugal. The massively talented Enzo Scifo would again start on the substitutes’ bench, thus not starting either of Belgium’s last four qualification matches. This said a whole lot about the vast array of talent available to the manager. Interesting fact: back-up goalie Bodart is Preud’homme’s brother-in-law.
This was the two countries’ 26th meeting overall. The visitors were ahead in the head to head count, with twelve wins against the Swiss’ eight. About a year earlier, it had been Vervoort who had scored the only goal of the game in Brussels.
Referee was birthday boy Lajos Hartmann, a 42 year old Hungarian who was making his fifth international since his debut just over three years earlier.
|1. Martin Brunner||26||Grasshoppers|
|2. Blaise Piffaretti||23||Sion|
|3. Herbert Baumann||25||Luzern|
|4. Dominique Herr||23||Lausanne|
|5. Alain Geiger||28||Saint-Étienne|
|6. Marcel Koller||28||Grasshoppers|
|7. Philippe Douglas||sub h-t||20||Lausanne|
|8. Heinz Hermann (c)||31||Nauchâtel Xamax|
|9. Kubilay Türkyılmaz||22||Servette|
|10. Thomas Bickel||26||Grasshoppers|
|11. Stéphane Chapuisat||sub 79′||20||Lausanne|
|12 Peter Schepull||25||Wettingen|
|13 Marc Hottiger||on 79′||21||Lausanne|
|14 Adrian Knup||on h-t||21||Luzern|
|15 Stefan Huber||23||Lausanne|
|16 Roland Widmer³||24||Neuchâtel Xamax|
³ Widmer’s participation can not be 100 % confirmed, but having been called up to the squad due to an injury to Stefan Marini, it does appear more likely that he was among the Swiss substitutes than Urs Fischer, who had been an emergency call-up the day before the match.
Manager: Uli Stielike
|1. Michel Preud’homme||30||KV Mechelen|
|2. Éric Gerets||35||PSV Eindhoven|
|3. Lei Clijsters||32||KV Mechelen|
|4. Franky Van Der Elst||28||Club Brugge|
|5. Bruno Versavel||22||KV Mechelen|
|6. Marc Emmers||sub h-t||23||KV Mechelen|
|7. Stéphane Demol||71′||23||Porto|
|8. Patrick Vervoort||24||Anderlecht|
|9. Marc Degryse||24||Anderlecht|
|10. Marc Van Der Linden||82′||25||Anderlecht|
|11. Jan Ceulemans (c)||32||Club Brugge|
|12 Gilbert Bodart||27||Standard Liège|
|13 Nico Brockaert||28||Antwerp|
|14 Enzo Scifo||on h-t||23||Auxerre|
|15 Michel De Wolf||31||Kortrijk|
|16 Koen Sanders||26||Mechelen|
Belgium took to the pitch carrying a midfield diamond, where the inventive Degryse was at the helm, with the reliable Van der Elst sitting just in front of his defence to direct operations. Usually, Belgium thrive through their midfield wide men, and these roles had been given to the speedy Emmers on the right and the skilful and elegant Vervoort on the left. Up front were captain Ceulemans, who would sometimes come deep in build-ups, and the direct Van Der Linden. At the back, the visitors played with Demol as libero. He hardly ventured forward at all during the opening 45, but Clijsters, his central defensive partner, was far from afraid of strolling across the halfway line. As for the full-backs, Gerets on the right and Versavel on the left were possibly less prone to joining in attack than usual, but they were still occasionally inside the opposition’s half.
After going 4-3-3 against Portugal, the Swiss were back to Stielike’s 3-4-3 formation here, with Geiger performing libero duties, a role he knows very well, and with Herr and Baumann operating as man-markers just in front of him. Herr would attend to Ceulemans, with Baumann following Van Der Linden around. In a rather narrow midfield, it was Piffaretti who started in a right-sided role, with Bickel to the left. Koller was just behind Hermann in the centre. It did not, however, take long until Bickel was given more duties nearer the centre of the pitch, and this did push Koller at times backwards, at times towards the left of the pitch. Swiss midfield dynamics were decent, as there were also positional switches between Piffaretti and Hermann, and the latter would in fact be seen covering a lot of the midfield area during the first half. Up front, it was Türkyılmaz in the centre forward’s role, and Stielike had stuck debutant Douglas from Lausanne in the absent Beat Sutter’s role to the right, with Chapuisat in what was by now for him becoming a well-known left-sided position. Chapuisat was not without defensive duties as well, as he had to do some backtracking along his flank, something which Douglas avoided along the opposite wing. Among the two centre-backs, Herr would usually come forward for attacking set-pieces, while Baumann would on a few occasions try to come forward along the left hand side, though without much success.
Both managers had made half-time changes. Stielike had replaced the ineffective Douglas with debutant Adrian Knup, something which turned out to be a good decision. Knup’s initial position would indeed be to the right of Türkyılmaz, like Douglas had been, but whereas the latter had spent most of the first 45 minutes hiding on the right hand side, Knup prefered to seize a lot more initiative, and particularly during the early exchanges in the second half he would even come across to Chapuisat’s left hand side, causing a bit of stir for experienced right-back Gerets. It proved to be an immediate success, as it was from this side he had cut in when he scored for 1-0. Other than that, the Swiss were relatively unchanged behind the front three, a front three with which the footballing world would soon become well acquainted.
If Stielike’s changes had been moderate, his counterpart in the opposite dug-out Meeuws had clearly been displeased with his side’s first half, and so had rung the changes at half time. The only change in personnel was bringing on the extraordinary talent of Enzo Scifo for the rather disappointing Emmers. However, Meeuws’ greatest switch was formation-wise to better suit the eleven players he had out on the pitch. He discarded the midfield diamond and instead went for a solution of two defensive midfielders as well as two more attacking ones. It could perhaps have been expected that Degryse would take Emmers’ wide right position after Scifo’s introduction, with the substitute himself heading for the top of the diamond, but instead the Belgium manager decided to accomodate them both right behind the forward duo, with Scifo operating the central right, Degryse central left. The tactical switch also included Vervoort, who had played along the left hand side during the opening half, but who would perform in a defensive midfield role next to Van der Elst for the second half. It was a tactical manouevre which would turn out to bring the best out of a few players who had perhaps been somewhat muted during the first half, and in particular it seemed to benefit the energetic Bruno Versavel, the left-back, whose opportunities to bomb forward before the half-time break had been few, with Vervoort ahead of him. Now, though, the left hand side was left for him to deal with alone, and he relished the wing-back role, coming forward at will. Versavel would indeed have a big hand in both of the visitors’ second half goals. The two strikers were not a static force either. Both Van Der Linden and Ceulemans would take turns in chasing back to help out their midfield when the hosts were in possession. The Belgian dynamics as the second half progressed were a transformation compared to the laxidaisical performance they had given during the first half.
The Swiss after their second and final substitution:
Stielike had brought on another debutant in the shape of right-sided player Marc Hottiger, and this also brought about a change in formation: away from 3-4-3 and over to 3-5-2, with Türkyılmaz and Knup making up the forward duo. It had been left-sided attacker Chapuisat coming off, and this saw the manager constitute a five man strong midfield to make sure they would hold on to their single point. Koller was the more defensive of the five, with Bickel (left) and Piffaretti making up the central three, and with captain Hermann taking to the left hand side, Hottiger on the opposite side. However, they were not very adventurous during the final phase, and so never risked sending a lot of men forward at the same time. Geiger, the fine libero, had concentrated on defensive duties predominantly, reluctant in coming forward with the visitors creating a good few scoring opportunities of their own after the break.
Five weeks had passed since Belgium had swiftly dealt with Portugal at home, to more or less secure participation in Italy ’90. They would obviously still need to collect points, but with Luxembourg yet to come to Belgium, at least two more points seemed to be a guarantee, and so there was perhaps not as much at stake in Basle as initially could’ve been thought. With successive home defeats against Czechoslovakia and Portugal, the Swiss audience also seemed to have had it with the national team, and the disappointing attendance figure would during the second half be given as 5000. In these circumstances it was Türkyılmaz and new recruit Douglas who got the ball rolling.
Under new boss Stielike, the Swiss had lined up in both 3-4-3 and in 4-5-1/4-3-3 in his two matches in charge. Here again they set out in the same formation which had been a success, at least result-wise, against the mighty Brazilians, and with midfielders such as Hermann and Bickel available, it was no return to the central midfield role for elegant libero Geiger. He had performed well in the centre against the Latin Americans, but was clearly at home in a roving defensive role. Here he would be surrounded by two relative fledglings to the international scene, and so would need to draw upon most of his guile to use his communicative skills to assist man-markers Herr and Baumann. They might have been 23 and 25 respectively, but nevertheless they were only recently brought into the national team. And they had been tasked with looking after each their intimidating forward: Herr, originally positioned as the right-sided of the three central defenders, would shadow the experienced Ceulemans, the Belgian skipper, whilst Baumann, a left-back by trade, would attend to Anderlecht striker Van Der Linden, who had been in scintillating form for his country during the summer, with no less than six goals to show for from the two matches against Luxembourg and Portugal.
One particular danger to the home side was the visitors’ ability to break with extreme pace. With lightningly quick players in Emmers and Degryse in their diamond shaped midfield, it would be of great importance to the hosts that they did not commit too many players forward at the same time. Losing the ball high in the pitch could lead to serious consequences. However, as it would turn out, Emmers did not have one of his better performances. He dallied on the ball and he did not enjoy a fruitful half on the right hand side of the Belgian midfield, and he would also be kept under attention by both Koller and Bickel. Degryse seemed a bit more like himself, but there was not a lot of cohesive play from the visitors in the opening sequences. Where they had turned Portugal over with relative ease, they were struggling to make much of an impact on the Swiss defence during the first 15 minutes in Basle. Not that there seemed to be an awful lot of danger in the other direction either. Switzerland had Türkyılmaz who looked to be eager to make an impression, but with debutant Douglas too often hiding away wide on the right, and with Chapuisat still needing time to be nursed fully into the picture at this level, he was too often on his own. Faced with Clijsters and defensive midfielder Van der Elst, it wasn’t always easy for the Bellinzona man to make inroads. He could also have been forgiven for having his thoughts elsewhere, as his missus would give birth any time. Yet he did his best to make Preud’homme work with a low early strike after making it past Degryse and Clijsters. The shot lacked any kind of power.
Van Der Linden had had a tame shot well over Brunner’s crossbar inside the opening four minutes, and the curly-haired striker didn’t seem best pleased to be under constant attention from Baumann. He also managed to attract Swiss captain Hermann’s fury when he decided to follow through a flick-on from Ceulemans inside the area, catching goalkeeper Brunner with his studs. There did not appear to be any intent of malice, but it is in the instinct of any footballer to protect their ‘keeper when one of the opposing attackers gets too close. The Grasshoppers stopper was soon back on his feet and carried on like nothing had happened.
What was it with Stielike’s instruction to let Koller deal with set-pieces? Whenever there was a corner kick or a free-kick inside the Belgian half, it was the defensive midfielder’s task to try and guide the ball onto the head of a team mate. He was hardly successful, but then again the Belgians were not a poor side in the air, and would even at times pull Ceulemans back to defend set-pieces against. Koller’s foot might have been ok, but you’d have thought there were other players more equipped to be set-piece takers in this Swiss side, perhaps Bickel or Chapuisat to name but two. They were, contrary to Koller, left-footers, so perhaps it was the manager’s wish to have a right-footed player as his designated set-piece taker.
It is an exaggeration to say that the Belgians sprung to life with 25-26 minutes on the clock, but they did get to a couple of opportunities around this time. Firstly, Degryse and Emmers had combined in the centre to set up Van Der Linden, who passed to the on-rushing Gerets inside the area, but he caught the ball wrong and skied his shot from a decent position, and only a minute later, it was Clijsters who set up Gerets for a cross from the right wing. He angled his pass 45 degrees back for Emmers, who should have done better than to scuff his shot from the edge of the penalty area, and it was blocked away by Geiger. Just prior to these couple of attempts from the visitors, Türkyılmaz had got to the left hand byline down the other side, past Demol, and crossed for the near post, to where Koller had made a run. However, the midfielder could not make proper connection, and next Douglas was not alert enough to realize that the ball was about to reach him. It was hardly a memorable debut so far from the Lausanne forward.
Switzerland were more than a match for Belgium in midfield. In Hermann, Koller and Piffaretti, they had players who could run all afternoon, and in the returning Bickel they had someone who could distribute a ball. Bickel, quite similar to the absent Lucien Favre in his style of play, had been out for a longer spell with injury, but had recently returned to the Grasshoppers line-up, and he gave a solid account of himself here. With Emmers not up to his usual high standards and with Vervoort stuck away on the left hand side, the Swiss seemed to have a numerical advantage in the centre of the pitch. This reduced the visitors’ ability to lay siege on the home side for any sustained spells of pressure. This installed confidence in the home players, and man-marker Baumann used this to his advantage when he decided to venture forward along the left hand side on a couple of occasions. However, the less written about his crossing, the better. Against Van Der Linden, though, Baumann did a fine job during the first half.
There is practically no time added on at the end of the first half, and the sparse crowd sound their boos as the teams walk off the pitch for their half-time tea. It had been an uneventful 45 minutes, yet it was a result that would all but pull Belgium across the finishing line. Would the visitors up the pace after the break? Would the Swiss be able to take the match to the Belgians to a greater extent than they had been?
The first half had been a surprisingly lacklustre event; neither side had managed to express any level of creativity. At half time there will have been discussions among the low number of spectators as to whether this picture would continue for the second half, or whether both teams would instead try and go for it. The Belgians were, as we are well aware of by now, content with the point that they currently possessed, whereas the home side, continuing their rebuilding process for future events, would like to see signs of promise ahead of the next qualification campaign. Perhaps there were indications that both managers wanted something different as the two teams reappeared for the second half, as there had been substitutions made in both camps: Switzerland had taken off the disappointing Douglas and replaced him with yet another debutant in Adrian Knup, whilst the Belgians had decided to withdraw the uncharacteristically bleak Emmers for Enzo Scifo. The two visiting strikers Ceulemans and Van Der Linden could get the second half under way through their kick-off.
One would try and figure out what the respective changes in personnel had meant to either team. Knup, a 21 year young forward with Luzern, would be expected to take over where Douglas had left, but whilst the Lausanne forward had too often gone hiding out on the right hand side and showed little in ways of freedom, it was hoped that Knup would be able to exert himself on proceedings to a greater extent, and thus aiding the Swiss’ plight towards two impressive points against a side that had yet to lose, both during these qualifiers and also under the stewardship of Walter Meeuws. The latter, into his third game in the Belgian era post legendary manager Guy Thys, had overseen fine wins in home matches against Denmark and Portugal, but their lack of enthusiasm during the opening 45 minutes in Basle had somewhat dampened their optimism. This he wanted to get right when replacing Emmers with Scifo, who was well into his second campaign in the French top flight, where he had during the summer made the switch from Bordeaux to Auxerre, a side well known for their eagerness to promote youth into the first team picture under their long-serving manager Guy Roux.
The early second half exchanges seem to be of more positive character than had been seen throughout the first period: Both the home side and the visitors appear to have a wish to take the game to the opponents, and the Belgians seemed to have made a few tactical changes from their original plan. Mechelen’s 22 year old left-sided defender Versavel has risen to prominence through some scintillating appearances for his club side, and his trademark runs along the left hand side had been a big feature of his game. In the opening 45 minutes, Versavel had been pinned back in his own half mostly, but now it looked as though Meeuws had made a reshuffle to accomodate Versavel’s desire to attack relentlessly: Vervoort had been shifted into a more central role, where he was seen as a defensive midfielder alongside Van der Elst, thus freeing vast areas for Versavel to exploit. And it won’t take even a minute before he’s played a one-two with Degryse and made it as far as to the edge of the Swiss penalty area, where his next one-two, this time with Van Der Linden, is one of less precision, and the home side manage to clear the ball away. However, the tone seems to be set. Just over a minute later, it is Vervoort who’s made a forward run from his new, deep midfield position to fire a low left-footer a few yards to the right of Brunner’s goal, but already the visitors had shown some promise. Possibly, though, their game plan had not involved Swiss substitute Knup, who proceeds to give the hosts the lead less than six minutes into the second half: Upon receiving a throw-in from Baumann out in the left hand channel some 26-27 yards from the touchline, with his back to the goal and challenged by experienced defender Clijsters, he takes a fine touch to get past the Belgian, before taking on Demol and also advancing beyond the libero, thus approaching the penalty area with the goal right in front of him. Knup had already been seen out towards the left hand side before these manoeuvres, appearing in the territory of his forward colleague Chapuisat, perhaps with a wish to cause some stir for ageing full-back Gerets. However, on this occasion he’s cut inside from the channel and he’s fired a stinging right-foot shot over the startled Preud’homme and into the back of the net for a sensational debut goal. The ‘keeper had not been able to raise his arms to beat the ball away in time: The blonde forward’s shot had been a rocket. Switzerland have 1-0. All of a sudden the prospects were no longer equally bright for the visitors.
The Swiss qualification campaign had so far been a less impressive one. Two points from five matches was a disappointing return. They had been short of enthusiasm, speed and precision when going forward, but this did appear to have taken a turn for the better now, with the new-look forward line of Türkyılmaz, Chapuisat and Knup at a combined age of only 63. Only a minute after Knup’s goal, Türkyılmaz almost makes a carbon copy from the opposite side when he evades Clijsters and proceeds to make it past Versavel inside the area, but his shot is not as good as Knup’s, and Preud’homme can parry it away, and Clijsters then prevents Piffaretti’s attempted follow-up cross into the box.
The Swiss knew they would be tested, and that the visitors would most likely put them under the cosh at various points in the second half. Just how good was this new look defensive line, where Geiger was in his customary spare role behind the tall Herr and the agile Baumann? And how much defensive bite did the home midfield four have? Yes, at least three of them were all strong runners, but did they have the ability to prevent their opponents from putting them under sustained spells of pressure? It did not appear so. Belgium had looked promising even before the Swiss had gone ahead, and they would not dwell too long on Knup’s fine goal. In giving Scifo and Degryse each their role behind the two forwards, there appeared to be creativity in abundance, and only four minutes after falling behind, it is Van Der Linden who plays the lively Degryse into the right hand side of the penalty area. The Anderlecht forward takes up a position inside the penalty area himself, and when Degryse’s return pass comes, he’s free to attempt a header towards goal. He connects well, but his header strikes Brunner’s crossbar and can eventually be cleared away to safety by Herr. The game has certainly come to life, and the visitors seem to have the nouse to make their way through the Swiss rearguard.
Swiss captain Hermann had had a relatively quiet qualification campaign so far, and he did have weaknesses in his play, perhaps first and foremost in his defensive work. And with the expressive Bickel also in the midfield centre, it would soon be evident that the Belgians would be exploiting a lack of bite in the home midfield. Yes, there was Koller, but he could not cover the width of the pitch alone, and the Belgians came with power and speed when they steamrollered forward. Both Scifo and Degryse are players who can run at pace with the ball at their feet, taking a man or two on, and advance beyond. They showed these qualities as soon as both had settled into their roles, and with only ten minutes gone of the second half, one was beginning to eye an equalizer. Scifo had attempted a shot with the inside of his right foot from 22 yards, but it had been comfortably saved at a good height for any goalkeeper by Brunner, and this just after Koller had made a clearance from inside his penalty area following more forward work by the now defensive Vervoort. However, at the third time of asking there was nothing preventing the inevitable: The Belgian equalizer was a peach of a goal. The advancing Clijsters had played a couple of one-twos with Scifo to make it to the edge of the Swiss penalty area, and as Scifo used his technique to advance deep into the box to the left of goal, he cheekily back-heeled for Versavel, who in turn found Degryse with a short pass. The Anderlecht forward struck a firm, low left-foot shot beyond Brunner and inside the far post for 1-1. It was a goal that had carried a lot of elements of which the Belgians were famous for: speed, precision and technical ability. Perhaps going behind had done them good.
By now the match was turning into a great spectacle, and the visitors threaten Brunner’s goal again only seconds after the equalizer when some fine movement from Van Der Linden sees him release Degryse again to have a shot, this time with his right foot, from just outside the penalty area. The forward’s low effort is well dealt with by the ‘keeper, who gets down quickly to his left to hold firmly onto the ball, not feeding the Belgians any rebounds. Immediately after, it is Bickel who makes a strong run with the ball, getting past only a half-hearted effort to stop him on the halfway line by Clijsters, before releasing the ball for Türkyılmaz just at the right time. Van der Elst had decided not to track Türkyılmaz’ run but instead chosen to try and put pressure on the onstorming Bickel, something which had been a fatal decision, as it had left the striker with no cover, and Bickel could thread a simple pass through for the Bellinzona man to hit a crisp left-foot shot under Preud’homme and into goal. Stunningly, Switzerland were back in front only a minute after Degryse’s equalizer, and only moments after coming close to going behind. In the first half you could have been forgiven for dozing off, but now you’d take your eyes off the games at your peril.
What next? It was not as the Belgians would lay down and surrender. With a quarter of an hour of the second half played, less than a minute and a half after the Swiss’ second goal, Scifo lifts a delicious pass into the left hand side of the box where defender Clijsters had made a run, and Piffaretti had not managed to keep up with him. Clijsters connects cleanly and tries to guide the ball across Brunner and into the far side of the goal, but his header goes agonisingly wide. It could so easily have been a fourth goal in ten minutes. If Switzerland found no medicine to prevent the Belgium midfield’s front two of Scifo and Degryse, they would be in continuous problems throughout the second half. And their only just acquired 2-1 lead already seemed fragile.
One Belgian had been kept quiet so far: Jan Ceulemans. The visitors’ captain had been tamed by Herr, who was giving a fine showing against the 32 year old, making his 84th appearance for the Red Devils. Ceulemans had been clearly less involved of the two strikers, with Van Der Linden often stretching his marker Baumann and taking part in little one-twos with Scifo and Degryse. These quick interpasses were another trademark involving the Belgians. They sure knew how to use these little passes off a team mate to their advantage. Ceulemans had not been involved in much of what the Belgians had created, but he had done ok against Herr when defending set-pieces inside their own penalty area. Would Meeuws consider taking him off? Hardly. Ceulemans was captain and a talisman in the side, just like could be said of Gerets at right-back, even if he had lost some pace. Ceulemans’ drive when in position was still there, even if it had not been visible so far in this particular fixture.
The opening 15 minutes of the second half had been played at breathtaking pace, and this could not continue. As suddenly as the game had burst into life, the tempo subsided after Clijsters’ headed attempt. This certainly favoured the Swiss, whose midfield were again allowed to participate, and Bickel seemed to use the lower frequence to his advantage. He had been out of the game injured for a long period of time, and had only recently come back with his club side Grasshoppers. Not dissimilar in playing style to the absent Lucien Favre, he stroked the ball around with confidence. He was of a stronger frame than Favre, but was clearly uncomfortable when the Belgians upped the pace. Would he last the 90? Perhaps he stood a chance if this sedate pace continued. But the visitors were hardly likely to be satisfied as long as they were a goal behind. However, it was like Scifo and Degryse were having a breather; like they were regrouping for the next onslaught. It was up to the Swiss to be prepared for what would follow.
Belgium were at something akin to 4-2-2-2 in the second half, where Van der Elst and Vervoort were just as responsible for the defensive part as Degryse and Scifo were in the attacking end. Versavel’s desire to attack the left flank had been mentioned, and although there was nothing wrong with his will, so far he had only been used sparingly due to the prominence of the attacking midfield two. He had indeed assisted Degryse for the equalizer, but Versavel still felt he had unfinished business. Piffaretti would need to be attentative to the Belgian left-back lurking with intent.
Approaching the 25 minute mark in the second half, Versavel had indeed come forward and picked out Vervoort ahead of him with what seemed a perfectly judged pass. Vervoort had burst into the left hand side of the penalty area, and there had been no flag…until late. Just as Vervoort prepared to play Degryse in at point blank range, the referee’s assistant raised his flag. It seemed a marginal decision, but it was probably correct. Vervoort might have played in a holding midfield role, but he was still prone to make forward runs just like any of the Belgian players, perhaps with the exception of Van der Elst.
The first booking of the game comes as Türkyılmaz tries to come inside from the left hand side: When trying to leave Demol for dead, the visiting libero tries to grab hold of the striker’s shirt and thus stop Türkyılmaz in his track. The yellow is a good decision, even if the Swiss number 9 perhaps makes the most of it. Demol had left the referee with no other option than to produce a card.
Moments later the visitors equalize. Switzerland will have relaxed mentally after seeing off the earlier Belgian threats, but they had fallen into a snare: They had been switching off when Van der Elst had found Clijsters inside the centre circle, and with no Swiss player approaching to close him down, the central defender spread a fine pass for Versavel out on the left hand side. Again, Versavel was in acres of space, and he came level with the penalty area before he crossed the ball into the centre, only for Geiger to inadvertently put it through the legs of his own ‘keeper. The Swiss libero had scored an own goal, and the visitors were back at all square. Versavel had his second assist of the game. Meeuws’ tactical twitch at half time seemed to have worked according to plan.
Their second equalizer didn’t provide the visitors with any immediate recovery of high energy levels, but the next opportunity was nevertheless never far away. Inexplicably, Vervoort gave away possession inside his own half, and Türkyılmaz hardly needed a second invitation to sprint past Van der Elst and attack the left hand channel. As he put the ball into the box, Knup just failed to connect, and the visitors had had a fortunate escape. Vervoort will have breathed a sigh of relief. Buoyed by their luck, the Belgians made a forward approach of their own, and this time it was eventually Ceulemans getting away from his marker as he left Herr for dead and proceeded into the box from the left. He attempted a pass for the far post, which however was too long, but the Belgians retrieved possession, and Gerets played what seemed like a perfect pass for Scifo inside the right of the penalty area, but as his pass into the centre for Ceulemans, sporting a new haircut for the occasion, to side-foot home came, the linesman signalled for offside against the Belgian substitute. Again, it had been a marginal decision, and replays showed it had even been an incorrect one, as Herr had played Big Jan onside, and it was the Swiss’ turn to feel relieved. Really, you just could not take your eyes off this game; blink and you would miss the next goalscoring opportunity. And was Herr beginning to show signs of fatigue after having dominated Ceulemans for practically the whole match up until now?
With eleven minutes left for play, Stielike makes his first substitution when he replaces the tiring Chapuisat with a more defensive player in debutant Marc Hottiger. One Lausanne player off, another on. This also brings about a change in formation, as the Swiss go from 3-4-3 to 3-5-2, with Hottiger coming on in the right handed midfield position, seeing Piffaretti move to his immediate left, and with Koller in a holding role. Bickel completes the central midfield three, and Hermann, who’s not had his most effective appearance in a Swiss shirt tonight, steps out to fill the left hand side of midfield berth. This appears to be Stielike’s plan to sure up and hold on to the point that they’ve got, which would be a good one from their point of view. Both Swiss substitutes had participated in the two countries’ U21 clash the previous evening, where Switzerland had gained an impressive 3-1 win.
With the visitors in possession inside their own half, the referee blows his whistle as Van Der Linden has clearly said something upsetting. He is rewarded with a yellow card for his ill selection of words. Would the game pick up in pace towards the end, or were both teams now happy to just see the remaining playing time out? The latter eventuality seemed the more likely. Yet there was time for the visitors to produce another couple of fine goalscoring opportunities, firstly when Degryse injected a bit of pace along the left hand side, and as his cross eventually found its way to Scifo, the Auxerre ace seemed odds-on to score with only Brunner to beat. However, he lifted the ball via the ‘keeper and over the bar as Brunner came out closing down Scifo. It was a fine piece of goalkeeping by the Grasshoppers man. The subsequent corner ended with Van Der Linden having an angled shot just wide of the left hand post in what was another decent chance for the Belgians. They were certainly good value for their point, and really should have been in front, but for some untypically second-rate defending on their part, as well as missing gilt-edged opportunities at the other end.
Tame first half in which little happened, and then the game sprung to life in an action-packed first 15 minutes after the break. The hosts were ahead twice following Knup’s debut goal and then Türkyılmaz’ crisp strike after Bickel’s perfectly timed through ball, but Belgium pinned them back both times through goals from Degryse and Geiger, who put through his own net. Both were assisted by Versavel, who had done well in his attacking full-back role in the second half. The visitors missed a few big opportunities to take both points, most notably through Scifo and Van Der Linden towards the end, and they also had a goal from Ceulemans incorrectly whistled off for offside against Scifo, who had laid on the pass. A point was still good enough for the visitors to practically secure their World Cup participation.
1 Brunner 7.0
makes a credible save from Scifo late on, and is unfortunate when Geiger’s own goal goes in through his legs. Close also to saving Degryse’s goal, but again gives an assured impression
2 Piffaretti 6.6
better off than on the ball, and goes through a lot of work, but is often chasing shadows when the visitors turn the pace on
3 Baumann 6.6
struggles to follow his man around; is clearly not used to man-marking. Is more comfortable when he can come across the halfway line with the ball at his feet, which he does on a couple of first half occasions
4 Herr 7.1
a fine job on Ceulemans, whom he keeps silent almost throughout, and he’s a presence in the air in both boxes. Not quick enough when the Belgians upped the pace, but he was not the only one
5 Geiger 7.0
looks composed as always, but hardly uses his spare role in an attacking capacity. Probably a wise decision anyway
6 Koller 6.8
solid enough in a defensive midfield role, but should perhaps have let someone else deal with set-pieces?
7 Douglas 5.6
appears nervous, can’t get past his man, can’t find a team mate with a pass, hides away out on the right hand flank. Deservedly taken off at half-time
(14 Knup 7.2
fine debut goal within six minutes of coming on, and goes through a lot of running, often shaking things up by wandering from side to side. Appears to combine well with Türkyılmaz)
8 Hermann 6.5
another disappointing performance from the Swiss skipper, who gives the ball away too often and does not distribute successfully. Workmanlike, but nothing you won’t get from most midfielders
9 Türkyılmaz 7.2
fine strike for his goal, so often on the move, and possesses good technical ability. Does drift out of the game for spells, but when he’s tuned in he’s a threat. Decent pace about him
10 Bickel 6.9
for one who’s been struggling with injury problems, this is clearly a step in the right direction. A Swiss midfield inspiration, fine distribution, and an excellent assist for 2-1. Could up his defensive workrate
11 Chapuisat 6.7
hesitant start, but makes strides as the game progresses, though he struggles to get the better of the experienced Gerets. Taken off for tactical reasons
(13 Hottiger –
helps closing down the Belgian midfield after coming on in his wide role)
1 Preud’homme 6.6
a couple of uncertain moments in claiming high balls, and perhaps his effort on the opening goal could be questioned. Not much chance on the second goal
2 Gerets 6.8
one of few Belgians who is mainly camped inside his own half, and does a decent job in keeping Chapuisat quiet
3 Clijsters 6.8
his forward contributions are more impressive than what he does in a defensive capacity, something which is not always the right recipe for a centre-half. The instigator behind Degryse’s equalizer along with Scifo, but does not convince when challenged for bursts of speed by the Swiss strikers
4 Van der Elst 6.8
solid like always and far from spectacular. Leaves dominance for Scifo to deal with during the spell in which the visitors look so bright. Makes a disastrous judgment error when deciding to approach Bickel rather than stay with Türkyılmaz for the Swiss’ second goal
5 Versavel 7.3
such an asset when given the opportunity to go forward, and assists for both goals. Defensively not equally impressive, but does tame Douglas with relative ease in the first half
6 Emmers 6.5
one is used to seeing Emmers as a constant torn in the opposition’s side, but on this occasion he was stationary and unsuccessful with any dribbling he attempted. Also should have done better with a shooting opportunity from the edge of the box after having the ball cut back to him from an angle, but he mishit
(14 Scifo 7.4
excellent second half substitute appearance, helped bring pace and life into the Belgian midfield, and had a big hand in the opening goal. Should have scored the winner late on when foiled by Brunner)
7 Demol 6.6
not attentative enough on Knup for the opening Swiss goal, and also struggles to keep up with Türkyılmaz in a couple of similar situations. A less convincing display than usual, though his booking was perhaps slightly dubious
8 Vervoort 6.8
did give away possession once during the second half and could have been punished, but other than that did well in a central capacity. Less involved as a wide midfielder during the first half
9 Degryse 7.4
so often the source of Belgian inspiration, and thrived alongside Scifo after the break. Good strike for his goal, and only his defensive contributions could be questioned
10 Van Der Linden 7.1
outshone his forward partner. Always on the move and so difficult for his marker to pick up. Should have scored, and was unlucky to see his early second half header hit the bar
11 Ceulemans 6.4
second best against Herr, and does not always seem so interested. A surprisingly dire performance from someone of his stature