Switzerland – Czechoslovakia
Switzerland were struggling to keep the pace of the group’s top trio, and had given Mr. Jeandupeux the sack after losing to Belgium and Portugal (both away). They were hoping to reinvigorate their campaign for the 1990 World Cup with the appointment of Uli Stielike as national team manager. Czechoslovakia had been in good shape so far in the qualification, but their only wins so far had been recorded against Luxembourg.
Switzerland team news
The Swiss FA had made a high profile appointment for the vacant position as national team manager in Uli Stielike. The West German knew Swiss football well after playing three seasons for Neuchâtel Xamax toward the end of his career (1985-88) and the appointment did make much sense. Although no doubt a born leader and an intelligent reader of the game as a footballer, it needs to be said that he at this point was completely without experience as a manager. For this match, he would be assisted by the former Swiss national team manager Paul Wolfisberg (1982-85), who joined him in the dugout.
Jeandupeux’s 4-3-3 was scrapped and substituted for a quite lopsided 3-5-2. The change meant that we had seen Beat Sutter suffering as a right sided forward for the last time, as he finally was played up front. But he would not partner Türkyilmaz, who somewhat curiously was placed on the bench, but André Halter, a player of much the same mould as himself. Halter had had a long-term injury, and might have figured earlier in these qualifiers otherwise. There would still be a Sutter on the right hand side of the midfield, however, but this time René Sutter – the cousin of Alain (and no relation to Beat S.). This area of the pitch had of course troubled Jeandupeux and it remained to see whether René Sutter could make the position his own.
There were yet again a change of full backs, where there seemed to be no constancy whatsoever in this period, as Stefan Marini and, sensationally, Heinz Hermann this time were given the nod in that department (as wing-backs). Another surprise was in store as Alain Geiger played in central midfield, Marcel Koller taking the libero’s position (his regular position for Grasshopper). But where was Favre? We’ve found no information about any injury.
A training camp was held in Spiez ahead of this important fixture. The team was joined by Martin Jeitziner (from local Young Boys) and young goalkeeper Jörg Stiel (Wettingen), neither of whom were supposed to be in the match day squad.
Czechoslovakia team news
Dr. Jozef Vengloš made quite a few changes to the team that had won against Luxembourg a month earlier. Most importantly, Ján Kocian and Chovanec changed positions, as Kocian took the libero position and Chovanec moved forward to the middle of the park. Július Bielik also found himself back in the team as right wingback, with Němeček returning to the bench. This was a standard 5-3-2.
Stadion Wankdorf in Bern had been picked out as venue for this fixture. It has a home crowd known for its enthusiasm and seemed a fitting choice to re-ignite Switzerland’s campaign for Italia’90 and the first match in Stielike’s tenure. There were two players from the city’s big club, Young Boys, in the starting XI: Martin Weber and René Sutter, as well as one on the bench, Dario Zuffi.
Referee? Mr. Helmut Kohl, Austria.
|1 Martin Brunner||26||Grasshoppers|
|2 Stefan Marini||23||Luzern|
|3 Peter Schepull||25||Wettingen|
|4 Martin Weber||31||Young Boys|
|5 Alain Geiger||28||Saint-Étienne|
|6 Marcel Koller||28||Grasshoppers|
|7 René Sutter||sub 58′||23||Young Boys|
|8 Heinz Hermann (c)||61′||31||Neuchâtel Xamax|
|9 André Halter||87′||23||Grasshoppers|
|10 Alain Sutter||21||Grasshoppers|
|11 Beat Sutter||50′, sub 72′||26||Neuchâtel Xamax|
|12 Herbert Baumann||24||Luzern|
|13 Thomas Bickel||25||Grasshoppers|
|14 Kubilay Türkyılmaz||on 58′||22||Bellinzona|
|15 Dario Zuffi||on 72′||24||Young Boys|
|16 Stephan Lehmann||25||Sion|
|1 Jan Stejskal||27||Sparta Praha|
|2 Michal Bílek||24||Sparta Praha|
|3 František Straka||48′||31||Borussia Mönchengladbach|
|4 Ivan Hašek (c)||25||Sparta Praha|
|5 Ján Kocian||31||St. Pauli|
|6 Ľubomír Moravčík||23||Plastika Nitra|
|7 Miroslav Kadlec||24||Vítkovice|
|8 Jozef Chovanec||sub 83′||29||PSV Eindhoven|
|9 Stanislav Griga||27||Sparta Praha|
|10 Tomáš Skuhravý||sub 56′||23||Sparta Praha|
|11 Július Bielik||27||Sparta Praha|
|12 Vladimír Kinier||31||Slovan Bratislava|
|13 Václav Daněk||on 56′||28||Baník Ostrava|
|14 Václav Němeček||on 83′||22||Sparta Praha|
|15 Vladimír Weiss||24||Inter Bratislava|
|16 Luděk Mikloško||27||Baník Ostrava|
Switzerland needed a win, but Czechoslovakia clearly also fancied their chances. The early exchanges proved that the visitors had arrived with the intent of bringing home two points.
Czechoslovkia rely much on their two big men up front, Griga and Skuhravý, and would hit the ball in their direction as soon as they recovered the ball. Skuhravý’s young, but already stout body would normally be the main target, and the tendency was generally for Skuhravy to be the meeting striker, with Griga pushing forward. The Swiss had converted to a three-man defense, in which Weber man-marked Griga and Schepull closely followed Skuhravý. Skuhravý was proving efficient as a target striker and honestly you cannot envy Schepull the task he had been given. Skuhravy was controlling most long balls hit in his direction, held the ball up really well and allowed the team to push forward.
But the finishing was provided by their midfielders. The Czechoslovakians created the first goal scoring opportunity 5 minutes into the game, as Ivan Hašek made one of his trademark runs from the deep, the ball being played in behind the Swiss defence with a well timed pass by Chovanec. Hašek was one on with Martin Brunner, but it was the Swiss goalie who came out victorious. The visitors were already piling on the pressure, and 10 minutes into the game yet a chance was produced as Skuhravý was creating havoc in the penalty area, allowing Chovanec to blast a shot on goal – but yet again saved well by Brunner.
Bright start by Czechoslovakia, but the Swiss were gradually proving their worth, much thanks to having the upper hand in the centre of the park. While this area of the pitch had been somewhat weak in the previous qualifiers, it was now looking healthy and dynamic. The composition of this midfield is worth noting, and may partly explain its (moderate) success. Alain Geiger had exceptionally been given the role as the lead fiddler (!) in midfield after Heinz Hermann’s somewhat mediore performances so far, and it was no doubt a good choice by Wolfisberg/Stielike, as Geiger put his authority on the Swiss midfield. A rather fluid shape in midfield ensured that Geiger had plenty of assistance, and especially the libero Marcel Koller needs to be mentioned here. Hermann, the alleged world star, had been relegated to a loosely defined wing back position, seemingly reduced to an assistant to Alain Sutter in front or him, and/or to Alain Geiger, who now was running the show in the centre of the park – doing quite well, excelling with his vision and pinpoint passing.
Czechoslovakia then took the lead in the 22nd minute. A header from Skuhravý had taken a deflection on Schepull, leading to a corner. From the corner flag Chovanec swung the ball in, hitting Skuhravý on his shoulder and the ball went past a helpless Brunner. The cross must have hit Skuhravý’s shoulder on exactly the correct spot, otherwise you couldn’t rely on that part of the body to deflect the ball with such force as it maintained when flying past the goalkeeper. Skuhravý was crowded by several Swiss defenders, but none of them could stop that shoulder from scoring.
The Swiss’ main threat in this match came from Stefan Marini, the right wing back. He was constantly pushing forward and often found himself in positions where he was free to deliver crosses. Seemingly there was some confusion between Bílek and Moravčík about who was to pick him up. Marini introduced himself the first time after Bílek clumsily miskicked the ball, given all the time in the world to find a target inside the box: André Halter was standing unmarked in front of the goal, but couldn’t press the header under the bar (The cross had unfortunately touched a defender on its way, perhaps saving Czechoslovakia from their blushes). Later in the same half, Koller found Marini in acres of space on the right hand side: Bílek had this time been unattentive and left large spaces behind his back. It was a determined, purposeful run by Marini, giving him a perfect position to drill in a cross from. Sadly, he couldn’t connect with the two strikers, who were having frustrating afternoons.
Wolfisberger/Stielike had opted for two powerful strikers up front in Halter and B. Sutter. Especially the latter must have relished the opportunity finally to play in his preferred position, after languishing on the right wing during the qualification so far. The Swiss would often try to involve the two strikers with their backs to the Czechoslovakian goal, with a view to hold up the ball and make the rest of the team follow on. As the first half progressed, one had to acknowledge that both were doing a rather weak impression. They were good at seeking the ball, but constantly failing in keeping it as they either showed their technical limitations or crumbled under the pressure of a Czechoslovaian man-marker in their back. In fact, Halter and B. Sutter seemed equally inept in this area of play. It would of course have been great if both target strikers were enjoying success: but as neither of them had, and as Switzerland based much of their play on this, it often made the team look predictable and weak when going forward.
There were also some promising moves down the left hand side, where the Swiss after all had quality players like Hermann and A. Sutter. But while they managed to set up a few crosses from that side, they were from less advanced positions than those of Marini, and these crosses were without exception handled with ease by the giants in the Czechoslovakian defence. When given time to organize, the visitors would outfight and outmuscle B. Sutter and Halter every single time. Perhaps a player like A. Sutter could have tried more on his own, challenging Bielik, but the hosts were evidently strong in the belief that the two strikers at some point would be able to make their presence felt inside the box. 45 minutes should have been enough to teach Stielike/Wolfisberg that so was not the case.
Czechoslovakia were leading and had altered their tactics for the 2nd half, as they now were sitting more back and waiting to hit the Swiss on the counter. However, we have seen previously in these qualifiers that the Czechoslovakians aren’t a particularly good counter-attacking side. In fact, they are rather poor in that department, in strong contradistinction to the Belgians and the Portuguese in the same group. Players like Griga, Skuhravý and Chovanec simply look unwieldy and slow in this phase of the game.
Attacking-wise, Czechoslovakia’s second half was a quite unremarkable affair. Not a lot happening, not a lot of chances taken. Surely, there is a Moravčík and a Hasek in this team, but they would too easily run into cul-de-sacs, surrounded by opponents. The former was having a disappointingly quiet game, mostly trying to mind his defensive tasks in the 2nd half. Hašek was arguably brighter and is a tireless runner always looking to arrive in the penalty area. He remained the most lively player after the break, although unable to really create anything.
The 2nd half was a contest between two teams seemingly unable to score. Czechoslovakia are a terrible counter-attacking side, and Switzerland didn’t look like penetrating the solid defensive block of the visitors. It looked destined to end 0-1.
Switzerland continued to have some presence in the centre of the park. Geiger’s intelligence and calmness, assisted by the running of Hermann, Koller and René Sutter around him, meant that Switzerland could dominate this area of the pitch when in possession of the ball. They had outnumbered the Czechoslovakians in that area and continuously proved that they could gain ground by simply passing the ball around themselves. However, as long as they were looking completely sterile up front, it felt like they could play all day without scoring. The life and force of every attack would inevitably ebb out when Halter and B. Sutter were involved. Rumours were starting to spread that Türkyilmaz was preparing to come on, and it wasn’t a minute too late. However, reports from the dugout were also circulating that Wolfisberg was unsure of who to take off, and this delayed the substitution, regrettably.
We would also see a few bookings in this half. First Kohl brandished a yellow card to Straka for a cynical foul on Stefan Marini, who continued to be an attacking threat for the Swiss. Once again he found large spaces behind Bílek, comining nicely with René Sutter this time. Straka’s late sliding challenge stopped what could have provided the Swiss with a glorious opportunity, just outside the penalty box. There were also yellow cards issued to Beat Sutter and Heinz Hermann – in both cases for foul mouthed protests. Mr. Kohl will not tolerate any of that.
While Czechoslovakia didn’t create much, there were brilliant opportunities freely given by a Swiss defensive line that took great chances in standing high up the pitch. However, Czeschoslovakia were not too keen on exploiting that… And the two times they looked to have got in behind the Swiss defence, the Austrian linesman wrongly signalled offside – such glaring mistakes as these two were, are regrettably a rather common phenomenon in 1988–1990. The best chance Czechoslovakia did create after the break came from a free-kick blasted at goal by Kadlec. Only Swiss goalie Brunner in full stretch could prevent Czechoslovakia from extending their lead on that occasion.
Eventually Türkyilmaz came on – surprisingly for René Sutter. Not a popular choice with the home crowd, and R. Sutter was also having a decent game. There were certainly worse performers out there still. Any improvement from Switzerland after the change? Not really. Perhaps it wasn’t such a clever idea to take off R. Sutter when introducing Türkyilmaz. The change meant that Switzerland now were playing in a 3-4-3 formation with three strikers, with all three congested in the middle. The Swiss were simply looking too heavy upfront and lost some of their good momentum in midfield. Thus, they looked possibly even less of a threat after the substitution, did Switzerland. They would now regularly be stopped only a few yards inside the Czechoslovakian half. Wouldn’t it have been wiser to take off either B. Sutter or Halter?
It had been a disappointing campaign for Italia’90 so far from Swiss world star Heinz Hermann, and this match was no exception to that. There was still plenty of running in him, but his usually sweet left foot let him down more than once. To speak the truth, there was some really sloppy passing from Hermann in this second half. Even atrocious stuff. There was much better stuff coming from Geiger, who controlled the midfield area and made some quite lovely passes. Some lovely football on show from the St. Étienne libero.
With the introduction of Zuffi, the hosts returned to a more sensible formation: still 3-4-3, but with Zuffi as a right sided forward and Türkyilmaz now on the left hand side. There was also a growing tendency for the Swiss central defenders to push forward in order to help regain the midfield dominance they had enjoyed previously. This helped, although Weber and Schepull aren’t exactly very creative players and both prefer to play as simple as possible. There was perhaps also a tendency towards the end of the game for Geiger to become less visible: Did he look a bit tired, perhaps unable to do the running required for a midfielder during 90 minutes? Hermann was at the same time becoming more central, but didn’t really help the Swiss cause. Finally, Switzerland created their one decent goal scoring opportunity: Türkyilmaz, lurking outside the penalty area, picked up a loose ball after a corner and was given time to drive his shot towards goal from 18 yards. Although covered, Stejskal had few problems in saving the shot that was hit towards his near post.
The match was slowly ebbing out. Even if the Swiss at least did put in an effort in breaking down the Czechoslovakian defence, it nevertheless proved futile, as the visitors had built a massive block in front of Jan Stejskal. Particularly Ján Kocian needs to be highlighted for his elegant and effective job at the heart of this defence, and also Kadlec and right wing back Bielik were enjoying good games. They were generally in control throughout the match in Bern.
Wankdorf Stadion had started to empty 10-15 minutes before the end signal. The early exiters were correct in their prediction: there wouldn’t be another goal in this match, and it was easy to tell. Czechoslovakia had no motivation to attack and had no counter-attacking power, while Switzerland were unable to break down the very solid visitors.
Good win for a physically superior Czechoslovakian side. Typically, Skuhravý used his body well to find the decisive goal. But once again they show themselves to be largely unable to hit their opponents on the counter, which must be frustrating to see. Switzerland had a foot in the game, driven forward by a mobile midfield conducted by Alain Geiger – but their attacking duo was stifled by resolute defending from the away side.
1 Brunner 7,0
A few good saves to keep Switzerland in the game.
2 Marini 7,3
The Swiss’ most dangerous weapon down the right hand side. Also keeps Moravčík quiet.
3 Schepull 6,6
Often given a hard time by Skuhravý.
4 Weber 7,0
Having a good game, usually in control of his opponent, Griga.
5 Geiger 7,3
Used as a midfielder, he is able to show more of his vision and passing skills. Great presence. Grows a bit tired towards the end?
6 Koller 6,8
7 R. Sutter 6,7
Good effort, but perhaps somewhat limited on this level.
(14 Türkyilmaz 6,7)
8 Hermann 6,5
9 Halter 6,4
Difficult game against superior opponents. There is effort, but little end product.
10 A. Sutter 6,8
One of the better Swiss players when going forward. Challenges and generally lively, if not very successful.
11 B. Sutter 6,2
Disappointing when finally given the chance as striker. Outmuscled by the Czechoslovakian defence.
1 Stejskal 6,7
Not a lot to do.
2 Bílek 6,6
Some positional problems defensively. Better when contributing forward, but not able to cut inside and shoot.
3 Straka 6,7
4 Hašek 7,1
Never stops running, and as always dangerous when making incisive runs into the penalty area.
5 Kocian 7,5
Brilliant game. Reads the game well as the last man in defence and difficult to stop when running with the ball.
6 Moravčík 6,5
Hardly shows anything of his skills. Not the best defensively either.
7 Kadlec 7,1
Resolute in his man-marking.
8 Chovanec 6,9
Excels with pinpoint passes. But somewhat slow and complacent at times.
9 Griga 6,7
10 Skuhravý 7,1
Shows his physical prowess. Injured and substituted.
(13 Danek 6,5
Couldn’t exploit the counter-attacking opportunities)
11 Bielik 7,0
Good tussle with A. Sutter on his side.