23 June 2014

The Shameless 1982 World Cup Match Between Germany and Austria

Younger football fans will probably be wondering why matches from the same group in the first two rounds have different kick-off times but the final two matches from each group kick off simultaneously. The reason for this is to prevent the result of one match influencing what goes on in the other.

The scheduling change was implemented in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico after an infamous game that was played in the Spain World Cup held four years earlier. The game was in Group 2 which was made up of West Germany, Austria, Algeria and Chile.

The first round of matches saw West Germany lose to rank African outsiders Algeria in what was considered a colossal upset. Rabah Mudjer put the north Africans ahead in the 54th minute. Although Karl Heinz Rummenigge equalised for the Germans in the 67th minute, Algeria went ahead for good inside a minute through Lakhdar Belloumi.

In the other opening round match, Walter Schachner scored in the 21st minute to give Austria a narrow 1-nil victory over Chile.


Not that anyone who saw that match would have accepted that explanation because the game was, in plain language, one of football’s greatest sources of shame.
Order was restored in the next round when West Germany strolled past Chile, 4-1, on Rummenigge’s hattrick and another goal from Uwe Reinders. Gustavo Moscoso scored a late consolation goal for the Chileans.

Meanwhile, in the other game Austria came out on top against Algeria with goals from Schachner and Walter Krankl. The Algerians had no reply.

On to the last round of matches with Algeria playing Chile on the 24th of June, a day ahead of the clash between Central European neighbours West Germany and Austria.

Algeria eked out a narrow 3-2 win over the South Americans on a brace from Salah Assad and another goal by Tedj Bensaoula. Miguel Angel Neira scored from the spot for Chile, who got another goal from Juan Carlos Letelier.

Up to the 1990 World Cup in Italy, two points were awarded for a win and one for a draw. Going into the match between West Germany and Austria on the 25th of June, therefore, Austria led the group with 4 points and a +3 goal difference; followed by Algeria also with 4 points and a goal difference of 0.

West Germany had 2 points with a goal difference of +2. Austria could afford to lose by as much as two goals and still qualify. Because of its better goal difference, West Germany would also qualify as long as it defeated Austria by any score. Of course, for Algeria to qualify, they needed the Austrians to hopefully manage at least a draw against the West Germans.

The first half of the match between the European neighbours played at the El Molinón Stadium in Gijón was still a normal football match. Horst Hrubesch scored in the 10th minute to give the West Germans an early lead. It was not the most open of matches; but then that was to be expected with so much at stake.

When the teams came out from their respective dugouts for the second half, little did anyone know that they would play out the most anomalous and farcical half of football ever seen. It was pretty shameless, as a matter of fact.

The West Germans passed the ball among themselves at the backline, made no attempts to go forward; while the Austrians stood back and let them make a farce of the game, knowing that if the score stood at 1-nil, both teams would qualify for the next round.

And both teams did that for all of 45 minutes.

It was a shameless display of connivance that FIFA could not punish because, technically, neither team was doing anything wrong. Morally, however, it was an entirely different story; and the entire world felt upset on behalf of the Algerians.

In a FIFA Coaching Course that I attended in 1988 in Manila, during an open forum I asked the facilitator Dettmar Kramer – who had coached Bayern München and the West German national team – if there was, indeed, connivance between the two teams.

Kramer’s response was expectedly vague, saying that he was not really privy to what went on at halftime of that match; but that from the grapevine he heard that it was just a matter of both teams coming to the conclusion that there was no real need to exert themselves in the second half because both would qualify if the score remained the same.

Not that anyone who saw that match would have accepted that explanation because the game was, in plain language, one of football’s greatest sources of shame.

Acknowledgment: Top photo from http://www.guardian.co.uk.

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