Home Football TBT: Algeria – Robbed by the Anschluss (1982 World Cup)

TBT: Algeria – Robbed by the Anschluss (1982 World Cup)

This week’s Throwback Thursday looks back at a 1982 World Cup game that would have a lasting effect on the tournament, changing its scheduling in the process.

The tournament in question was the Spanish one of 1982. It was won by Italy but is probably remembered more for the controversy surrounding a match between West Germany and Austria. The incident would later become known as the Anschluss of Gijón, as a reference to Germany’s annexation of Austria.

Day three of the tournament saw West Germany take on Algeria at the Estadio El Molinón in Gijón on the 16th of June. The build up to the game was filled with German ignorance towards the ability of their opponents.

“We will dedicate our seventh goal to our wives, and the eighth to our dogs.” – German Player

However, the Algerians didn’t rise to the comments coming from the German camp, instead preferring to go about their business and do their talking on the pitch. Algerian striker Lakhdar Belloumi summed up his country’s feelings:

“Because of this history, the bond between the Algerian national team and our people is uniquely strong and we took the comments by the Germans before the game as a slur on our population.” – Lakhdar Belloumi 

West Germany’s confidence came from the European champions plundering 33 goals in eight qualifying games but their lack of scouting cost them. If they had taken their opponents seriously, they would have noted that the Algerians defeated Benfica and Real Madrid, along with Ireland, in pre-tournament friendlies.

This Algerian team had played together for a long time and their history of fighting together for the country’s independence had created a strong bond. This bond, along with a fit and technically strong team, made Algeria very hard to beat.

With the first half finishing scoreless and Algeria having controlled the game up to this point, the Germans were hit a hammer blow within 10 minutes of the restart. A trademark counter-attack, something West Germany should have known about, was finished off with a poke by Rabah Madjer.

Legendary striker Karl-Heinz Rummenigge managed to equalise 13 minutes later but they had barely finished celebrating before it was snatched away from them. Directly from the restart, Algeria patiently passed their way up to the West German goal. An exquisite cross from the left side of the pitch to the back post found Belloumi, who tapped into an empty net to give his country a moment they would never forget.

Although Algeria lost their next game 2-0 to Austria, a 3-2 win over Chile in the third match still gave them a chance to qualify for the second round. They would go through as long as the score of the West Germany Vs Austria game, which was played the following day, failed to end in a one or two goal win to the Germans.


The scheduling of the games allowed the European sides to know exactly what scoreline would send both of them through and if you though that surely the teams would act in a professional manner, you’d be wrong.

West Germany took an early lead when Horst Hrubesch scored with only 10 minutes on the clock. If this article was a review of the match itself, then it would be one paragraph long with a very abrupt ending.

The passing from both teams contained such little positivity that you would be forgiven for thinking there were 20 Tom Cleverleys on the pitch. For the next 80 minutes the ball went backwards and from side to side, with no inclination of an enthusiasm to attack.

It caused uproar throughout the stadium, with Algerian fans burning money, German fans chanting their anger and commentators refusing to commentate. Nevertheless, the game would finish 1-0 and Algeria would be heading home early from their maiden World Cup campaign.

As far as apologies are concerned, there were none forthcoming. The West German players threw water bottles at their own fans who were protesting outside their hotel, and head of the Australian delegation Hans Tschak said:

“Naturally today’s game was played tactically. But if 10,000 ‘sons of the desert’ here in the stadium want to trigger a scandal because of this it just goes to show that they have too few schools. Some sheikh comes out of an oasis, is allowed to get a sniff of World Cup air after 300 years and thinks he’s entitled to open his gob.”

Nowadays, such comments and behaviour from people within the game would have been severely reprimanded by FIFA, but no punishment was deemed necessary at the time.

While FIFA may not have fully acted in 1982, its ruling that every group’s two final fixtures must kick off simultaneously, changed for the better the format of the World Cup.

Algeria may have suffered from the incidents of 1982 but they have left their mark on the history of the World Cup.

Karl Graham, Pundit Arena.

Featured Image By Saber68 (Histoire du Football Algérien de 1920 a 1990) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons..

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