Baždarević incident mars home win
After their excellent 3-1 home win against previous group leaders Scotland last month, Yugoslavia now were in the ascendancy, already assured of Italia ’90 participation, and their remaining fixtures surely made them favourites to exit the qualification stage as Group 5 winners. They had beaten today’s opponents 2-1 away from home in medio June, and after their impressive display of strength against the Brits, no one dared suggest anything but another home win for the fancied Yugoslavs, who were also playing some attractive football. The Norwegians, on the other hand, would probably have felt that the qualification was turning out much like it had been expected beforehand. A point in Sarajevo would surely exceed expectations.
The table read as follows after all teams had played six games:
Yugoslavia team news
Having displayed their group superiority in toppling Scotland in Zagreb early last month, Yugoslavia’s attention had now shifted to Sarajevo for the visit of Norway, a team they had overcome some four months earlier away from home.
Manager Ivica Osim had shown consistency in his team selection throughout the qualification campaign. This was their seventh fixture, and six players had started all of their six previous ones. Indeed, these six players were yet again squad selectees: goalkeeper Tomislav Ivković, defenders Predrag Spasić and Faruk Hadžibegić, midfielders Mehmed Baždarević and Dragan Stojković, as well as forward Zlatko Vujović, who led the team through his captaincy. In addition, a further four players had started five qualifiers, and were also once again available for selection: defenders Vujadin Stanojković and Davor Jozić, as well as midfielders Srečko Katanec and Safet Sušić, the 34 year old veteran, still going strong abroad with French top tier side Paris Saint-Germain.
The Yugoslavia team manager would usually have a clear idea of which players to start with, although he had tried out different ones in the centre-forward role. However, Osim had also been inclined to playing with a lone forward, in which case Zlatko Vujović had got the nod. Borislav Cvetković, Dejan Savićević and, lastly, Dragan Jakovljević had all accompanied the captain when the manager had gone with two up front. Only the latter remained in the matchday squad for this fixture.
Yugoslavia had at times impressed during last month’s 3-0 friendly home win against Greece. Still, that had been a game of little pressure. This, no matter if qualification was already secured, was a different case, as Yugoslavia surely harboured a wish to finish top of their group. There had been three debutants against the Greeks, and one in particular had impressed: Branko Brnović, the younger brother of Dragoljub, had filled in capably for Vujadin Stanojković along the right hand side. Only the latter was in the squad for this game, though, and there was also no Robert Prosinečki or ‘Peđa’ Mijatović in the squad, both of whom had done well in midfield in Novi Sad in their second international appearances. Indeed, the same had applied for the experienced Zoran Vujović, twin brother of Zlatko, who had featured in the holding role. He’d only been very sparingly used in the qualification so far, with his appearance during the 2-1 win in Oslo his sole feature.
Compared to the 15 who had featured in the matchday squad for Scotland, there was a total of four changes: They were goalkeeper Dragoje Leković, defenders Budimir Vujačić and Davor Jozić, as well as winger Semir Tuce, coming in to replace Fahrudin Omerović, Dejan Savićević and Darko Pančev. Add to that the fact that Katanec was ruled out due to injury after his call-up.
Norway team news
While Yugoslav team selection was a model of consistency, Norway had just one player who had so far started all of their six qualifiers: recently appointed team captain Rune Bratseth. After Anders Giske’s retirement from international football, manager Ingvar Stadheim had looked to his Werder Bremen libero for leadership. No less than six players had begun five qualifiers: goalkeeper Erik Thorstvedt, defenders Gunnar Halle and Terje Kojedal, midfielders Karl-Petter Løken, Kjetil Osvold and Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen, as well as striker Gøran Sørloth. Whilst Osvold and Sørloth had been absent from their most recent qualification squad, the one for the 1-1 home draw with France last month, the other five had continued to be available for selection. Today, there was a return for Rosenborg’s Sørloth, who had replaced Simen Agdestein among the 16.
There had been a total of three squad changes since the France game: in addition to Agdestein, also centre-back Rune Tangen and midfielder Ørjan Berg were out, with Bayern Munich’s young defender Erland Johnsen and Lillestrøm’s hard-working midfielder Tom Gulbrandsen both returning.
Since scrapping any formation including three centre-backs ahead of the home qualifier against Cyprus in May, Norway had relied on 4-4-2. This once again appeared to be the more likely alternative given Stadheim’s squad selection, and who would challenge the starting eleven from the France game regarding a place in the line-up? Perhaps was Sørloth looking for a return to selection, with the possibility of Andersen, who had scored just once in his last eight league games for Eintracht Frankfurt, dropping to the bench? There was no such draught to talk about for Jan Åge Fjørtoft, whose continental career had started well: He’d notched nine times in his first 14 league matches in Austria.
Stadheim had probably not always been satisfied with his midfield during this qualification. Last time out, though, the experience of duo Sverre Brandhaug and Per Egil Ahlsen had coped well with French opposition, and it would seem likely that they would be given another chance in Sarajevo, with their only real challenger Tom Gulbrandsen having started just one of their qualifiers hitherto. In the wide positions, both Løken and Jakobsen, both of Rosenborg, who had finished second behind Lillestrøm domestically (the Norwegian season had rounded off the weekend before this trip), had started in each of Norway’s three last qualifiers. There appeared to be little threat to their respective inclusions.
Following Giske’s untimely retirement, Stadheim had looked to teenage Kongsvinger full-back Stig Inge Bjørnebye for his replacement. Having featured against both Greece and France last month, the 19 year old would again look to start at left-back, even if Molde’s Hugo Hansen remained an option. IFK Gothenburg’s Per Edmund Mordt did not seem to be favoured by the national team management.
42 year old Turk Yusuf Namoğlu had been appointed as match referee. Despite having made his international bow during a 1-1 friendly draw between Bulgaria and Switzerland as far back as March 1983, this was only Namoğlu’s seventh appearance at this level, averaging a match a year. He had two previous World Cup qualifiers on his CV, both times officiating Sweden, who had both times came out trumps in away matches, beating Malta 2-1 in 1985, and then Albania by the same score in the current World Cup qualification. He had started his refereeing career as early as a 24 year old, turning a FIFA official already as a 33 year old in 1980.
This was the altogether twelvth meeting between Yugoslavia and Norway. It was the second time that they’d come head to head in World Cup qualification, as it had occured also ahead of the 1966 tournament in England. Norway had won comprehensively on home soil in Oslo (3-0), with the Belgrade return leg ending 1-1. However, they’d also met twice in European Championship qualification: Before the 1976 games in Yugoslavia (!) and the 1984 tournament in France, with the Yugoslavs winning three from those four encounters.
The norm was indeed a Yugoslavia win: in their eleven previous head-to-heads, the record read 8-1-2 in their favour. The game this evening in Sarajevo would take place almost to the day six years after they last faced one another in Yugoslavia: a 2-1 home win in October ’83. Two Yugoslavs remained in Sušić and (Zlatko) Vujović, and the latter had indeed captained them even on that occasion, as he was likely to do again. The sole Norwegian who had featured then and who was still present, was centre-back Kojedal.
This was only the second ever World Cup qualifier to take place in this Sarajevo stadium, which in domestic terms was used by FK Sarajevo. They would finish the Yugoslav top flight as the 13th best team out of 18 after the 1989/90 season. It had been revamped for the 1984 Winter Olympics, when it had staged the opening ceremony, and was therefore also refered to as ‘the Olympic stadium’. The only other WC qualifier to take place here had been the 0-0 draw with France ahead of the 1986 tournament in Mexico. That had indeed been the last time that the Koševo had staged an international fixture.
|1 Tomislav Ivković||29||Sporting Lisboa|
|2 Predrag Spasić||24||Partizan Beograd|
|3 Mirsad Baljić||27||Sion|
|4 Dragoljub Brnović||25||Metz|
|5 Faruk Hadžibegić||32||Sochaux|
|6 Davor Jozić||56′||29||Cesena|
|7 Safet Sušić||34||Paris Saint-Germain|
|8 Mehmed Baždarević||12′||29||Sochaux|
|9 Dragan Jakovljević||sub 85′||27||Nantes|
|10 Dragan Stojković||24||Crvena Zvezda|
|11 Zlatko Vujović (c)||31||Paris Saint-Germain|
|12 Dragoje Leković||21||Budućnost|
|13 Vujadin Stanojković||on 85′||26||Partizan Beograd|
|14 Budimir Vujačić||25||Partizan Beograd|
|15 Semir Tuce||25||Velež|
|1 Erik Thorstvedt||26||Tottenham|
|2 Gunnar Halle||28′, 53′||24||Lillestrøm|
|3 Terje Kojedal||32||Hamarkameratene|
|4 Rune Bratseth (c)||28||Werder Bremen|
|5 Stig Inge Bjørnebye||19||Kongsvinger|
|6 Karl-Petter Løken||23||Rosenborg|
|7 Sverre Brandhaug||30||Rosenborg|
|8 Per Egil Ahlsen||31||Brann|
|9 Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen||41′||23||Rosenborg|
|10 Jørn Andersen||sub 72′||26||Eintracht Frankfurt|
|11 Jan Åge Fjørtoft||22||Rapid Wien|
|12 Ola By Rise||28||Rosenborg|
|13 Hugo Hansen||22||Molde|
|14 Erland Johnsen||22||Bayern München|
|15 Tom Gulbrandsen||25||Lillestrøm|
|16 Gøran Sørloth||on 72′||27||Rosenborg|
The Koševo was party-clad. Something like 25 000 spectators, meaning the stadium was far from full, had paid their tribute to the Yugoslavia team for qualifying for the 1990 World Cup. This was their final home game, and they were looking to win four from four, in four different stadia and three different cities.
With the two teams out on the pitch, it was possible to have a look through the respective line-ups, and whilst there were no surprises in the away camp, where their eleven was identical to the one which had started their previous qualifier, at home to France, there had been a late omission in the Yugoslav team: Srečko Katanec was nowhere to be seen. This appeared quite significant, as Katanec had starred in midfield so far in the qualification. As it had turned out, Ivica Osim had decided to include striker Dragan Jakovljević in Katanec’ place, although anyone would have realized that this was no straight forward swap. Jakovljević had excelled against Greece last month, having also featured from start against the Scots. The Nantes striker was on his eighth cap, and was hoping to do enough to put himself seriously in the frame for a place in next year’s World Cup squad.
Katanec must have picked up an injury during the day, as national newspaper reports had claimed that he was indeed going to be a part of their starting line-up. This also meant there would, yet again (like France away and Scotland at home), be just four Yugoslav substitutes on the bench, where it was interesting to see Semir Tuce’s name. The Mostar man had not yet featured in the qualification. With the game shortly under way, seeing how this sudden change would affect Yugoslav tactics was another tantalizing aspect.
The Norway strike partnership of Jørn Andersen (“Torn Andersen” according to graphics, “Jürgen Andersen” according to the Serbo-Croatian speaking commentator) and Jan Åge Fjørtoft would get the ball rolling. Off we go.
The early parts of the game are played out with not a whole lot of pace. It could well be so that the surface played its part, because it certainly looked cut in several areas, and, as you would expect, the central spaces were suffering the most. This saw to that some players would find it a struggle to gain immediate control of the ball, often necessetating a second touch just to retain it at their feet.
Yugoslavia have the freedom of not playing with a whole lot of pressure, even if they’d want to finish as group winners. They would probably claim that it was a disadvantage to them to have been bereft of Katanec, who most likely had arrived back home ahead of this fixture injured. He would have been a starter, like the other occasions when he had been available for selection, and the constellation of the Yugoslav midfield would’ve assumed a somewhat different outlook.
The Norwegians can also play relatively stress-free, as they find themselves in familiar territory: Usually they’ll finish something like second bottom of their qualification group, even if they very rarely are exposed to severe beatings. Yugoslavia away from home is about as difficult as it gets, even if this senior select must have taken a whole lot of positivity from the U21s, who had indeed beaten their Yugoslav counterparts by 1-0 the evening before, courtesy of a late goal from midfield man Bent Skammelsrud.
“Meša” Baždarević is indeed present in the Yugoslav midfield. He is sitting right in the heart of it, surrounded by messrs Dragan Stojković and 34 year old Safet Sušić. Baždarević, approaching his 30th birthday and residing with Sochaux in the strong French topflight, is since long a key member of Ivica Osim’s squad, and his energy sees him drive forward in a quick Yugoslav attack seven minutes in. Although Baždarević is originally the deeper one among their midfield three, he sees few limitations to his role, and he appears to relish this quickly established attack as he surges forward along the right hand side channel. He proceeds to play a ball into the centre, where striker Dragan Jakovljević, another one of the France based contingent, has run himself free from his marker, but the low cross towards the centre of the area is just beyond the gangly forward and runs out of play. Had it been a taste of what was to come?
Sending off and disbelief
Without the game having properly fallen into any kind of rhythm or pattern yet, the incident which will shake the foundations of the Yugoslav camp occurs. We are nearly eleven minutes into proceedings when Norway’s Jakobsen fouls Baždarević a few yards inside the visitors’ half of the pitch. The ref awards the free-kick, and less than 30 seconds later, the Yugoslav midfield anchor is in yet another challenge inside the Norwegian territory, this time when he collides with central defender Terje Kojedal. It looks quite brutal; both players are up in the air. Baždarević, who might have been running on adrenaline since that foul just seconds earlier, can’t believe it when referee Yusuf opts to award the visitors a free-kick after the clash.
He runs across to the Turkish official and confronts him face to face. Inexplicably, the Sochaux man can be seen delievering a sample of DNA straight at Mr Yusuf from a yard away. The new verdict? Straight red card. Baždarević looks baffled. Perhaps more so because of his own astonishing act than with facing expulsion. He takes a few seconds to adjust before he trudges off the pitch, and when arriving on the touchline, he’s immediately looked after by two representatives from, presumably, the Yugoslav FA. His team mates run across to the referee, who explains very vividly that Baždarević had indeed spat at him. There’s no further commotion; it doesn’t take much to understand that the referee had done the only sensible thing.
The crowd, which had been making plenty of noise up until the moment of the sending off, immediately went quiet; it was as if they too needed time to regroup. It is possible that quite a few had no idea why Baždarević had been sent to the showers, and it wasn’t necessarily so that you would get a reply if you asked your neighbour, who might also not have realized the cause behind it.
Down to ten men, Yugoslavia would need to look at what they could do in order to stabilize their midfield, which all of a sudden had lost a vital cog. Another vital cog, I should say, as Katanec had been deemed unavailable already prior to the game. In fact, it would turn out that the latter had already returned back to Italy, so most likely Osim would’ve known already on the eve of the game that he would have to select his eleven without the physically imposing Sampdoria man.
A run through the visitors’ team
How about Norway? How did they react to the sudden realization of being a man to the good? From an outsider’s perspective, they did not seem like they were affected, at least not individually. Collectively, they won a corner after a poor Hadžibegić clearance inside his own area just about a minute after the sending off incident, and eventually the ball would find its way out to midfield man Per Egil Ahlsen on 25 yards. Well known for his powerful shot, the seasoned Brann man struck it hard first time, only to see Ivković, who had opted to come out from his goalline in order to narrow the angle, grasp the ball comfortably.
The visitors had arrived in Sarajevo with pretty much the same game plan as they’d had against the French last month, and though they had found it difficult to get going back then, they had finished the game the stronger, and ultimately capitalized on a dreadful goalkeeping mistake by Joël Bats for captain Rune Bratseth to head home substitute Ørjan Berg’s left wing corner for the equalizer. They were a tidy, well organized outfit, who defended in banks of four, and where the growing experience and reputation of goalkeeper Erik Thorstvedt benefitted them immensely at the rear: He had width, he was verbal, and he carried authority through the fact that he was playing regularly at the top level in England.
The four man in defence were, right to left: Gunnar Halle of Lillestrøm, Bratseth of West German Bundesliga club Werder Bremen, Terje Kojedal, who had returned home to Hamarkameratene in Norway after a four year spell in the French second tier with two different clubs, and fledgling Stig Inge Bjørnebye, a 19 year young up and coming left-back from Kongsvinger, near the border to Sweden. While Bratseth would originally appear to be the spare man, he would also with some regularity end up directly in combat with Yugoslavia striker Jakovljević, but the 28 year old based in northern West Germany would definitely be the two among the centre-backs who would venture forward more frequently. Kojedal was certainly familiar with crossing the halfway line himself, but on this occasion his contributions were fewer and further between than those of his partner. Of the two full-backs, it was the younger one to the left who would participate inside the opposition’s half more often, although it would be an exaggeration to claim that either was particularly attacking, at least during the first half.
Two players of experience sat in the middle of the pitch for the Norwegians in Per Egil Ahlsen and Sverre Brandhaug. The former had vision and some fine, raking passes in his repertoar, whilst Brandhaug certainly was the one whom they looked to for shorter combinations inside the opposition’s half. He was slightly fleet-footed, was far from quick in acceleration, but he had a knack of escaping with the ball intact even in tight situations. He was also the one who would deliever set-pieces into the box, whether it be a corner or a free-kick. As for the two players wide in midfield, they had Karl-Petter Løken to the right, who had done a lot of sound things earlier in the qualification, but he had disappointed somewhat against the French, and had not been much involved in the opening quarter of an hour here in Sarajevo. Still, he would contribute with non-stop running, and he was a vital player defensively with his runs back into their own territory. He would often come head to head with Brnović in both halves. Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen along the left, on the other hand, had probably looked a bit insecure early in the qualification, but he had seemed to gather in pace as the games had come along. He too was someone whom you could rely on for defensive contribution, even if it had cost Norway a penalty against France last time around. He was also a direct threat going forward with his ability to transport the ball at pace. This, in fact, would see Stojković highly fortunate to escape a booking on 15 minutes, when he’d cynically hacked down from behind the spurting Jakobsen to prevent a quick Norwegian transition.
For the two strikers’ positions, Norway have players based in German speaking countries: Jørn Andersen is with Eintracht Frankfurt in FRG, while down south east is Jan Åge Fjørtoft at Rapid Vienna. The latter was still only 22, but he was emerging as an interesting striker, despite his ridiculous tendency to take a quick tumble to the ground, looking to see if he could con the referee into awarding him a free-kick, or even get an opponent booked. There really was no need for this play-acting, as it was tarnishing what was otherwise a growing reputation for Fjørtoft as a goalscorer. Andersen, on the other hand, was more your honest kind of player, never succumbing to such basic instincts as his partner up top. At 26, he was now in his second club in West Germany, and he had started the season well in terms of goalscoring, even if goals seemed to be somewhat harder to come by now than at the start of the Bundesliga season. Fjørtoft, though, was the more industrious player of the two, offering plenty of first line of defence work up top, and generally looking to make himself a nuisance towards left-sided channels.
All in all, it was a plucky Norwegian team, which certainly did have some interesting attributes, but which also seemed relatively limited, at least as far as goalscoring was concerned. Apart from their six goals over two matches against Cyprus, they’d only struck three times from the other four.
The Yugoslav team
While it does take Yugoslavia some time to get to grip with events, it does appear by the time the game reaches the 20 minute mark that Osim has made a couple of adjustments. Unsurprisingly. He would’ve understood that continuing with two strikers and a depleted midfield would’ve been tough on his players, so what he had done was to pull Zlatko Vujović back into a midfield position, in fact as a right-sided, inside midfielder, the role previously held by Stojković. The latter had dropped back into Baždarević’ central role, looking to spread balls to the right, left and centre, whilst Sušić would continue in the role which he’d already held since kick-off. This saw to that they didn’t lose their shape, and as the team captain would emphasize in a post-match interview: “The withdrawn role is nothing new to me. I’ve been playing there before.” Also, Vujović was making his 60th appearance for the national team, something which put him firmly in the hall of fame: Only four players now had more caps than him. This all left Jakovljević alone up front, but he would be aptly supported whenever Yugoslavia broke forward. First and foremost by the two inside midfielders, but there was also attacking assistance from the two wide players: Mirsad Baljić to the right and Dragoljub Brnović from the left.
In goal, Tomislav Ivković definitely felt like a regular by now, and rightly so. He was coming of age, and was doing a sound job for his Portuguese club Sporting in Lisbon. He’d reached 21 caps by now. However, you felt you could not always trust him 100 % when coming for aerial balls, and this part of his game could be a weak point for opponents to try and expose. So far, though, he’d not had to deal with any crosses of quality.
The three men immediately ahead of him were libero Davor Jozić, man-marker Predrag Spasić, looking after Fjørtoft, and Faruk Hadžibegić, at 32 the second oldest player in the team. The latter hailed from Sarajevo and enjoyed an excellent reputation throughout the continent. He was a level-headed defender, who knew how to disguise his slight lack of speed through excellent positioning. He was also a threat coming forward, and despite Hadžibegić not featuring in the central position among the three defenders on this occasion, he would still be allowed forward. He would make advance from his left-sided central defensive position this time around, though he would be more than flexible to mix things up. Later in the half, he would arrive at a crossing opportunity from a right wing position!
Despite being in his third season with Cesena in Italy, Davor Jozić relished being momentarily back in the Koševo. As a former FK Sarajevo player, just like Hadžibegić, Sušić and Jakovljević, he knew the pitch well, and he knitted the defence together from his central position. Jozić was indeed the Yugoslav libero on this occasion, an honourable task which he had also previously held, though it was a responsibility which he’d shared with Hadžibegić since the start of the qualification. However, with the talented midfielders that were in the side, the libero job was rarely a highly adventurous one: The main task was arriving in or around the centre circle with the ball intact, and from there to distribute it to Stojković, who was acting as the deep-lying playmaker after Baždarević’ expulsion. Jozić had a terrific left foot, and he could pass accurately both short and long. He was also a decent header of the ball, and so would usually come forward for attacking set-pieces. This rarely was the rule for Spasić, even if the rugged 24 year old was possibly the more physical among the three centre-backs. The Partizan Belgrade player would focus his attention towards Fjørtoft, whom he would rarely let out of sight. On a couple of occasions, when feeling daring, Spasić would attempt going forward in a wide right capacity, switching with Baljić outside of him, who would slot back into defence in his place.
While there was a set order among the home side’s midfielders, they were well capable of interchanging positions for the benefit of the team, first and foremost, but also because they seemed to be playing with a level of freedom given to them by their management. And this despite the fact that they were numerically inferior to their opponents. It didn’t show much in open play that they were a man down, as Yugoslavia were looking just as comfortable in possession as they probably had been whilst they were still with eleven men. This was largely down to their midfielders being secure in possession. At the rear now sat 24 year old Stojković, a player who was attracting the big clubs to the Marakana in Belgrade, where he was a major feature for his Red Star team. Still, though, you could now and then see a rush of blood to his head, like when he’d felt unjustly treated by the referee, who had failed to give him a free-kick in a challenge with Ahlsen, upon which he sprinted back and took Jakobsen’s legs away just back across the halfway line. Why the referee had not awarded him a yellow was probably down to the earlier sending off. There did seem to be a level of compensation in that.
Safet Sušić’ career was nearing its end, but he was definitely still an integral part of Osim’s plans, at least for the foreseeable future, which by now included next year’s World Cup. Sušić had two excellent feet, and he used them in order to distribute both short and long, although he was often the one among the midfielders playing the more advanced, and so he himself would be the target for passes from, for example, Stojković. This seemed to apply even after the red card incident, and with Vujović dropping back into midfield. Sušić was still the more advanced of the three. He would prefer to use left-sided territory, being involved in the channels, and he would work well also with Brnović, yet another France based player (there were six of them in this starting XI), who by now was well established in the side. A big two-way player, Brnović was the ideal fit for a wide role in a 3-5-2 (3-5-1 by now) formation, and his very useful left foot would often ping crosses into the centre from various positions.
Goal mouth action
As for opportunities so far in the first half, little had been happening in front of either goal, with Ahlsen’s earlier shot straight at Ivković an exception. On 18 minutes, Stojković had bent a 25 yard free-kick around the defensive wall, but despite picking the inside of the goal frame, the ace midfielder had found Thorstvedt unbreachable; the big ‘keeper had palmed it away for a right wing corner. Then, as the first half was reaching its midway stage, came the greatest opportunity yet, which happened when Bjørnebye had lost possession on the halfway line. Sušić had fed Hadžibegić down the flank, and being in behind the defence, he managed to square it low for Jakovljević, who connected first time from eight yards out. Had the striker been able to guide it to either side of Thorstvedt, it’d have meant 1-0. As it were, the goalkeeper could breathe a sigh of relief as he gathered it at the first attempt. It was a disappointing miss from the Nantes man.
The sense among the visitors that the referee was making compensations for having had to send Baždarević off earlier must have been growing. There had been that Stojković tackle on Jakobsen, and when Jakovljević does the exact same thing on Bratseth in the centre circle on 24 minutes, one’s left with the feeling that Mr Yusuf will not be dishing out further cards to Yugoslav players today. Then, four minutes later, Norway are given a relatively straight forward yellow card for full-back Halle, who had been fooled by Vujović, and then held him back, something which had been the second offence against the same player within the space of a few seconds. Even if the card felt warranted, the feeling of being unjustly treated by the officials could’ve been growing among the visitors. Halle would make the following comment post-match: “The referee spoilt this match. Having sent their man off, he was only waiting for opportunities to make up for it. I wish the Blues (Yugoslav nickname for their national team) good luck; they’re better than us.”
Worse was yet to come
Approaching 29 minutes, Spasić has temporarily left his marking task on Fjørtoft central right, and instead come across towards the left, where he’s brought Løken down halfway inside the Yugoslav half. Brandhaug whips the ensuing free-kick towards the far end of the area, where Bratseth connects to head towards the edge of the six yard area, as Baljić is no match in the air. Ivković would’ve felt that the ball was his, but in coming to collect it, he fails to realize that Andersen is actually quite capable in the air. The Norway striker gets his head to the ball, upon which Ivković’ reaction is to go to the ground, claiming he’s been impeded. The ball breaks loose, and Fjørtoft tucks it into the back of the net by the upright. It was a perfectly valid goal, even though Yusuf Namoğlu saw it differently. The referee disallowed it, giving a free-kick to the ‘keeper. The Yugoslav TV commentator: “Sve je bilo čisto”, which would loosely translate into: “Nothing wrong with that”. He even suggests that the referee is compensating for the sending off. One could not help but wonder why he’d feel the need to compensate for having been spat at.
It was bizarre to see the levels which the referee would go to in order to wipe out his debt towards the hosts. To their credit, the Norwegian team just went about their business as usual; there was little visible complaining, at least directly in the referee’s face. They must have felt so upset to have that goal ruled out, but in play 11 v 10, and with the best part of an hour yet to go, they must have fancied their chances, at least of getting a draw. Yugoslavia were by no means superior; the opening 30 minutes had been evenly balanced.
Yugoslavia must have felt it difficult to deal with life having lost two so vital players, one even before a ball had been kicked, and perhaps were both teams feeling a tad disjointed at this stage. The game seemed a little flat, although the delicate angling of passes from central areas out wide by either Sušić or Stojković would get the crowd back to life. Along the right hand side was the versatile Baljić, the 27 year old who was playing for Swiss topflight side Sion, and after a somewhat hesitant start, he would gradually begin to feel at home in the wide right role. Incidentally, he had worked as part of the three man central defensive unit against Scotland, so he clearly had the ability to perform in various roles. He would look to get past both Jakobsen and Bjørnebye and deliever crosses into the centre, where the target primarily would be Jakovljević. The latter did have a dangerous header going just to the left of the upright on 32 minutes, but it was after a Stojković free-kick into the box rather than a cross from Baljić. He’d positioned himself wisely, arriving to the ball just behind the back of Bratseth, who couldn’t reach it. Had it been on target, it would’ve needed a big save from Thorstvedt to keep it out.
On 41 minutes, there’s an incident a few yards inside the Norwegian half which involves the smallest and the biggest outfield players on the pitch: Both Jakobsen and Spasić chase a loose ball, and while it is evident that the latter will arrive to it first, Jakobsen can’t let be sticking his leg out, and so he trips the big centre-back, who goes to ground clutching his ankle. This obviously gives the referee another opportunity to dish out a yellow card. Jakobsen, though, feels hard done by, as he demonstrates to the referee that he himself had been on the receiving end of a couple of challenges which he felt had warranted bookings. This was, alas, becoming a farce. And just about a minute later, there’s another incident involving the diminutive Norway wide man, when his momentum sees him take Baljić down by the touchline. There’s no malice behind it, but it leaves the Yugoslav in need of treatment. In pursuing the loose ball, Fjørtoft then tries to con the referee by taking a tumble as he comes together with Jozić. It was a ridiculous act which no one bought into.
A goal in Sarajevo
Right upon half time, the referee decides to award the hosts a left wing corner for free. A cross into the box had come off Kojedal’s leg and spun out for a throw in near the corner flag, which Sušić then went to take. The referee, though, claims that the ball had run out of play on the byline side of the flag, whilst Sušić makes a throw-in gesture. The Yugoslav midfielder had been a few yards away as the ball went out of play, and had been ideally positioned to see that it went out for a throw rather than a corner.
Stojković would hit the corner into the area, and for once, Thorstvedt failed to get to it, flapping as the ball drifted well over his outstretched arms. It fell to Baljić, who cleverly turned doing a ‘Cruijff’. This was all too much for Jakobsen, who fell for the wide man’s trickery and put his leg out for Baljić to trip over. The same Norway left-sided midfield man had also been guilty for fouling Papin for France’ penalty in their most recent qualifier. The penalty verdict was a correct one, even if it had been a pretty weird decision by the referee to award the corner in the first place. Baljić would again be in need of some treatment, and once he was assisted back onto his feet, it was time for the penalty.
Hadžibegić had scored with a powerfully struck effort during the 4-0 home win against Cyprus earlier in the qualification, but this time he opted to place it low just inside the left hand post instead. Even if Thorstvedt went the right way, there was nothing he could do to prevent it from entering the back of the net. It was a beautifully tucked away spot kick, and Yugoslavia had their lead just as the opening 45 minutes were up. It had been an odd opening half, and the referee, unfortunately, had been the focal point since the absolutely correct sending off of Baždarević for spitting.
The first half had been an unimpressive one on behalf of either team, and certainly on account of the referee. There were no changes for either side as the teams reappeared. We know that the hosts only had four substitutes available to them, since Katanec had been ruled out already the previous day. It is worth noticing that there had been no Dejan Savićević in the U21 team which had lost to Norway the night before. It was common knowledge that Osim and Savićević didn’t always get along so well, as the 23 year old forward had so much confidence in himself that he felt he should be a natural inclusion in the manager’s select. So far, though, he’d only played the full 90 once, which had been when he’d scored a hat-trick against Cyprus, and also made two appearances off the bench. He was not injured, but also had not been picked. Yugoslavia’s solitary attacking substitute weapon was winger Semir Tuce.
Norway had by no means been overawed, and even if they had conceded that goal in first half injury time, they must still have felt that there was an opportunity for them to get back into it. They would need to be disciplined, though, as circumstances hardly favoured them. They’d had two players booked, a perfectly good goal chalked off, and then seen the hosts strike from the penalty spot in injury time.
Yugoslavia would commence the second half through Jakovljević and Vujović.
Sedate start to half
The early second half action sees plenty of Yugoslav possession. They let the ball do the work between themselves, leaving their opponents to do plenty of chasing. The pitch does look a tad heavy, although it can not be said for sure; perhaps is it the many cuts which gives off this impression.
The home side’s midfield three, with Stojković, Vujović and Sušić, goes through plenty of movements. In particular the former and the latter impress. Vujović also puts in the miles, and it does appear like he’s switched sides with Sušić for the second half. Whilst Vujović had slotted in as the inside right midfielder after the sending off, it now seemed as if he had moved across to the position which Sušić had held in the first half, with the ageing PSG maestro moving in the other direction. All three were so steady on the ball, and it took a lot of effort from the visitors to try and wrestle possession away from Yugoslavia.
The Norwegians are more direct than the hosts. In midfield, Brandhaug is the more eager of him and Ahlsen in picking out a man in a more aloft position. There are times when Løken is available to the right, but even when played in, he doesn’t gain control of the ball, and Yugoslavia can clear. Andersen seems to be fighting a losing battle against the Yugoslav defence, and a weak header from a Brandhaug corner on target during the first half apart, he had not mustered much. A few minutes into the second period, he would also take a knock after a Hadžibegić challenge on him from behind. Fjørtoft was still the busier of the two, and also still appeared to be doing much more defensive cover work than his partner up top. Alas, they would struggle to stretch the Yugoslav defence, and Spasić continued to monitor Fjørtoft’s movements very well.
If Norway had still fancied their chances of a result as they were eleven vs ten, then those beliefs are about to take a major hit. There had been no incidents of sorts since the break when Sušić feeds Vujović a ball down the left hand side on 53 minutes. The captain keeps the ball in play, just, and manoeuvres away from the on-rushing Halle. He then skips quickly in the other direction, and the Norway full-back, already trailing his opponent, instinctively reaches out for Vujović, thus giving the home midfielder a perfect excuse to go to the ground. He tumbles dramatically, and if one thought Mr Yusuf had left his desire to make up for the wrongdoings (sic!) in sending Baždarević off during the interval, then they were wrong: It is a second yellow card for the defender, who will have to return to the dressing room eight minutes into the second half. Mind, you wouldn’t see a second yellow on display back then, so all the referee did was to lift his red into the air. The game would continue with an even set of player numbers. Norway’s man advantage for 41 minutes had not counted for much.
Visitors’ new shape
With Halle off, Norway manager Stadheim decided to turn to wide right midfielder Løken for a combined right-sided job, where he would look after both the full-back and the midfield roles. In fairness, he had not created much or caused the hosts much problems from his midfield position, so for him to take a step back probably wouldn’t be noticed so well. At least not if he still managed to push forward from the full-back position, something which he definitely seemed capable of doing, judging from his earlier performances in the qualification. Yes, he had been playing as a wide midfielder, not a full-back, but he had some powerful surges along the right hand flank, and if he could only be given the vote of confidence to go and do it from this new position, then he could perhaps be an even greater threat as an attacking full-back. This was now a tilted 4-3-2 formation from the away side.
There’s a yellow card for one of the Yugoslav defenders on 56 minutes, when Jakobsen has played a quick pass towards the left hand channel for Fjørtoft to try and run on to. Spasić, who was normally engaged in looking after Fjørtoft, was committed inside the Norwegian half, and so libero Jozić had come out into this territory in order to attend to the striker. However, he could not quite keep up as Fjørtoft suddenly sped up, and this baffled Jozić to the extent that he threw his right arm out and held the advancing forward back. It was needless, really, as Hadžibegić had pulled inside to act as cover for his libero. The referee could do little but produce another yellow card.
A flat feeling
In some ways, the game is odd for the fact that you see no noteworthy difference whether there’s 22, 21 or 20 players on the pitch. The game suffers somewhat from not really getting going. Despite some opportunities here and there, it all just seems a bit flat. Granted, you can’t underestimate the fact that Yugoslavia had the lead which would see them retain their top spot (the game in Paris, where France will be facing Scotland, only starts later in the evening), and they didn’t need to do much more. Even if the game would finish with a one to nothing scoreline, the crowd would make sure there’s a massive party afterwards. They’re ready.
Løken has not yet had any forward forays from his new position as full-back. Bjørnebye, on the opposite side of the Norwegian defence, is giving a solid impression: He’s strong in the tackle, he jumps well, and he’s got a convincing left foot which can play it long and reach the intended target. He’d accepted a pass from Brandhaug inside his own half early in the half, made advance, and opportunistically hit a shot from 25 yards out. Not to great effect, mind, but it was a big sign of confidence in such a young international. He was only 19, but he did look to have a decent future ahead of him.
Opportunities coming along both ways
Bjørnebye, and Jakobsen when he was back in defence assisting, would often be faced with Baljić, who relished trotting down the line to the right. He would look to cross the ball into the centre, but for one moment he was also reading next day’s newspaper headlines as he’d made it into the centre to connect aerially with Brnović’ cross from the left edge of the penalty box. It was very noticeable how Baljić must have been surprised at the ball actually finding its way to him, and that he was not used to being in such situations. It was a perfect cross for someone arriving in his position, slightly to the right of the penalty spot, but in search of fame he looked to close his eyes, and the ball sliced a dozen yards or so to the right of the goal frame. Rather than making the headlines, Baljić was looking for a hole into which to disappear. The game was about an hour old.
On 62 minutes, there’s tendencies again among the visitors, who don’t manage to draw a save from Ivković, but at least in seeing Brandhaug searching for space just outside the penalty area, they have someone who is capable of finding a striker with a neat, little pass, preferably through just a single touch, and thus keeping the pace up in the attack, something which ensures a greater risk of exposing the hosts. This is what happens when Ahlsen spots him behind Sušić and Stojković, who occasionally can be found in something of a no-man’s land in their defensive duties. Brandhaug plays the ball on first time, a low pass to the left in the area, and Fjørtoft’s movements have made sure that he’s a step ahead of Spasić. He takes a touch to steady himself, but is faced with an unkind angle, and fires his shot into the side-netting. Yugoslavia live a slightly dangerous existence. The same striker will follow up on a marginally underhit backpass from Spasić, and poke his right leg into the torso of Ivković, who is out on 14 yards to collect. The ‘keeper will need attention, and replays reveal how Fjørtoft unnecessarily stuck his boot out with Ivković in control. Definitely booking-material, but there’s no action from the referee.
‘Slick moving’ is probably an expression which you can not use in excess and get away with regarding Yugoslavia in this fixture. It is a disappointingly mundane, at times underwhelming performance from one of Europe’s most attack-minded teams, and even now, with both sides a man down, they rarely fire on all cylinders. There is a brief reminder, though, of what they can conjure up when they’re on song, as Jozić cuts off an intended pass to Løken from Jakobsen in central areas, and with his fine vision, the libero sees Sušić to his left making a run towards the area. The pass is precise, and the vastly experienced midfield ace takes the ball inside the box and sharply gets a left-footed shot away which Thorstvedt must parry low down to his left. Could this produce some needed energy for them to get going again?
Zlatko Vujović dropping back into midfield had hardly been a great success. At times, he would seek to visit left sided areas which he’s well familiar with, and you got the impression that the game was at times passing him by without much contribution from the captain. Granted, he was not a player who would just stand quietly and watch; he would run for the sake of the team. As it were, these runs rarely seemed to produce good moments, not for him personally, and not for the team. At least in this particular phase of the game, where also the captain’s midfield compatriots Sušić and Stojković were in need of some positional adjustments. This all heaped greater defensive burden on the three centre-backs. Not that they were up against absolute world beaters, but the way things were going, a Norwegian equalizer was not totally out of question.
On 66 minutes, another odd decision by the referee to award a free-kick for something which hardly warranted prosecution, came in favour of the visitors. Spasić had been penalized for a minimal tug on Jakobsen just outside the area to Norway’s attacking left. Brandhaug spotted his central midfield compatriot Ahlsen available, and fed him with a 45 degree angled pass, upon which Ahlsen could strike low first time towards the bottom of the left hand post. Ivković was well positioned, and came down to collect the relatively powerful effort.
Less than three minutes later, the Portugal based ‘keeper again came to the hosts’ rescue, when he managed to get a palm to a stinging Jakobsen shot from 14 yards. Fjørtoft had done well in the right hand channel to fend off the challenges from Spasić and Brnović, and when he played the ball back to Løken, the defender cum midfielder crossed, albeit awkwardly, into the box. Jakobsen had taken up a place centrally outside the area, spotted that the pass would come into territory available to him, and seized on the ball, taking a touch before shooting. It was bound for the top corner until Ivković intervened. Fabulous save. Big chance.
The first substitution occurs on 72 minutes, when Stadheim has seen enough from Jørn Andersen. Whilst the hosts have a depleted bench with only four players available, the second choice goalkeeper included, Norway had brought the allowed quota of five substitutes. The only one among them with an attacking CV was Rosenborg’s Gøran Sørloth, and it was a like for like switch when he replaced the ineffective Andersen. Sørloth had displayed some qualities in holding the ball up in earlier qualifiers, and was now reunited with Fjørtoft, with whom he’d formed partnership in three previous Italia ’90 qualifiers. He had one goal to show for so far in the qualification: His excellent long distance free-kick which meant Norway’s second goal in their 3-1 home win against Cyprus in May.
There is no immediate effect from Sørloth’s arrival. Yugoslavia appear to have weathered the storm, or should we say breeze, and are now once again in the ascendancy. Their players are more secure with the ball at their feet, and the hosts enjoy a much larger share of possession in comparison with the visiting team. There’s no forward contribution from either of the three central defenders, and the pattern which they work according to in this phase is for either Stojković or Sušić to wait for delievery in the centre circle. Whilst the latter will often look to spread the ball into wide positions, Stojković prefers to keep the ball at his feet, often whilst speeding off deeper into Norwegian territory. Not that the men clad in white with red and blue trim find this an enormous task to defend against. With only Jakovljević working through the centre up top, Bratseth and Kojedal usually have him sussed out.
The pace of the game has become rather pedestrian. Yugoslavia no longer strain themselves to go looking for a second goal, whilst it nearly appears that the Norwegians have accepted their fate. There had been a possible moment when Brandhaug had tried to play Jakobsen through, but as he was about to take the ball around Ivković, who had come racing out of his area to try and prevent the Norway wide man, the referee whistled for offside. There’s a pop from Ahlsen on 82 minutes, a shot which has power, but little direction, and then Jakobsen connects first time right on the 18 yard line from a square, lifted pass by Løken, but despite a clean strike, the ball goes high and wide. These are hardly even worthy being dubbed half-chances. However, they do show that Norway are perhaps still harbouring a faint hope of executing the near impossible: To collect a point from an away qualifier in Yugoslavia. With less than six minutes to go, Osim replaces Jakovljević with defensive wide player Vujadin Stanojković, who had been a regular in their first five qualifiers.
With next to nothing happening inside either final third of the pitch after the Yugoslav substitution, what remained of interest was to see what changes Stanojković’ entrance meant to their tactics. They had taken their only striker off, and so it would actually be Sušić who went up front for the final few minutes, whilst Baljić moved into the centre of midfield alongside Stojković, and Stanojković slotted into the wide right position. This meant 5-3-1, as they played it very safe in the remaining time until referee Yusuf blew his whistle one final time with 59 seconds of time added on from the 45 minutes.
In a first half which was highlighted by the incredible spitting episode which saw Baždarević sent off early, the referee sought to compensate for the hosts, as Norway could not do much to provoke the Turkish head official before he would find a reason to decide against them. By far the more controversial happening came on the half hour, when Fjørtoft’s perfectly valid goal was not allowed to stand, as the referee felt Ivković deserved a free-kick, even if he’d clearly been second best in the challenge involving Andersen. Late in first half injury time, Jakobsen upended Baljić in the area for Hadžibegić to neatly tuck home the resulting penalty.
After the break, Norway also had a man sent off when Halle was adjudged to have tugged Vujović back. It was a second yellow offence according to the referee, even if the Yugoslav captain made sure to go to ground easily. Jakobsen drew a tremendous save out of Ivković on 69 minutes, but that apart, there was little in terms of danger in front of the home ‘keeper, and Yugoslavia relatively comfortably saw the game out with their slender lead intact.
With France-Scotland due to kick off later, Yugoslavia could be group winners tonight already if Scotland are beaten.
1 Ivković 6.9
too fortunate in the situation where Norway ‘scored’, as he could not get anywhere near Andersen, but would make up for it through a world class save from Jakobsen in the second half. Comfortable on his goalline; much less so when coming out
2 Spasić 7.1
did little other than try and deny Fjørtoft space, and in challenges he was almost unbeatable. Would not be too concerned about his man’s movements in the second half
3 Baljić 7.2
a fine outlet along the right, where he worked well as a two-way player, and he was of greater importance attack wise than his compatriot across to the left. Showed some nice skills to work himself into positions for crossing
4 Brnović 6.9
turning into a useful player wide left. His contributions defensively are more impressive than what he does inside the opposition’s half. Coexisted at times with Vujović along his side
5 Hadžibegić 7.1
despite giving away a few needless corners, Hadžibegić accepted responsibility in denying the Norway strikers space. Also tucked away the penalty expertly
6 Jozić 6.9
typically left challenges to others, and would rarely step out of second gear. Only sparsely contributed out of defence, but would not venture far ahead. Realized immediately he deserved a yellow for holding back Fjørtoft
7 Sušić 7.6
his angled passes out into wide positions were a joy to behold, and he masterminded the midfield along with Stojković. Put in a big shift, and had a major hand in most of what Yugoslavia did going forward. Played out the final few minutes as a striker
8 Baždarević –
looked to keep Yugoslavia tick in midfield. Worked behind Stojković and Sušić. Still had time to display a desire to move forward, and sought right-sided channels a couple of times. Then the inexplicable happened: Lost his head and spat at the referee after a huge collision with Kojedal for which he was not awarded a free-kick
9 Jakovljević 7.0
fought a difficult battle against some sturdy centre-backs, but did manage to get into goalscoring positions, and both his side-footed effort and header wide in the first half could have yielded goals. Tired by the time he was substituted
(13 Stanojković –
on the pitch for six and a half minutes, and during this time had no less than three misunderstandings with a less impressed Stojković)
10 Stojković 7.8
terrific performance, and if Sušić played a starring role, this man even surpassed the ageing genius. Demanded the ball a lot, and always had a clear idea of how he wanted to use it. Transported at pace, and combined so well with Sušić as the pair took the game by the scruff of the neck after Baždarević expulsion. Should’ve seen yellow
11 Vujović 6.9
became anonymous in a midfield where everything revolved around his two partners. At times sought towards his favourite left-sided forward area. Drew two fouls from Halle which led to the defender’s expulsion
1 Thorstvedt 6.8
flapped uncharacteristically at the corner which then brought the penalty, but otherwise looked secure
2 Halle 6.7
strong in challenge, but struggled when he gave an opponent space. For this he was ultimately sent off, although both tugs on Vujović were mild-mannered
3 Kojedal 6.9
has come forward ball at feet to decent effect earlier in the qualification, but was predominantly focused on defending on this occasion. Along with his colleague at the heart of the defence, he would generally keep Jakovljević in check
4 Bratseth 7.1
so strong in the air, and showed this inside both penalty areas. Also came trotting forward on a few occasions, and was one of the visitors’ more effective players altogether. A terrific flicked heel pass for Løken in the second half set up a crossing opportunity
5 Bjørnebye 7.0
grew in confidence as the game wore on, and formed a relatively coherent left hand side along with Jakobsen and Fjørtoft. Strong in the tackle, sometimes a little over the top, and excitement could get the better of him
6 Løken 6.6
could not be faulted for commitment, but quality was not always there, and he seemed to be one of the players to struggle the most with the uneven surface. Had to accept a lot of responsibility after Halle’s red card, as a wide alternative along the entire right hand side
7 Brandhaug 6.9
equipped with an eye for a pass, and is always well orientated about where his team mates are. Capable of playing the ball on by using one touch only, and would come to his right when playing relatively high up the pitch
8 Ahlsen 6.7
calm in possession, but generally looked behind him for support rather than ahead. Three firm shots, two which drew saves from Ivković
9 Jakobsen 7.2
great energy, especially in the second half, when his plentiful bursts on the ball from inside their own half of the pitch drew attention and opened up space for others. Desperately unlucky not to score when Ivković somehow saved his effort from inside the area
10 Andersen 6.2
looked half-hearted in his pressing, and could not do anything with what little possession he had. Recorded a weak header on target, but played a major role in the goal that was disallowed
(16 Sørloth –
looked slow, and did not represent much of a step up from the disappointing Andersen. However, Norway no longer seemed to have that belief from earlier that they could score after he came on)
11 Fjørtoft 7.0
a wily performance, as he would shift from right to left, and he would also be busy in giving chase to opposition players. A handful, even if he would find Spasić impenetrable in direct confrontation. Also again displayed his con man tendencies