After the completion of Thursday night’s group game fixtures at the World Cup each respective team knows the opponents in the first knock-out stage. One match in particular that will have one nation baying for blood is Algeria. One of the biggest World Cup scandals took place in Gijon, Spain, in 1982 that would change the face of group games fixtures for each subsequent World Cup.
What set the ball in motion for the quick referenced precedent was one particular match at the previous World Cup in Argentina in 1978.
During that edition where two group stages took place, a first round, second round, and second round group winners would meet in the final. It sounds ludicrous by today’s format but this flawed system would rear its ugly head in the second group stage of the 1978 World Cup.
Argentina, being the 1978 hosts, had the distinct advantage of playing their games in the evening which meant they knew exactly where they stood going into every game. The final group game against Peru, they needed to win by 4 clear goals to have any chance of piping Brazil to top spot. Argentina would run out 6-0 winners in Rosario, and straight away the rumour mill went into overdrive on what made Peru effectively give in to allow their South American neighbours to advance to the final.
Considering that Argentina was at the time run by a military dictatorship, their influence on the tournament could never be exactly proved but a few choice words must have crossed borders between Peru and Argentina in the run up to that final game.
All in all this was the first example of the flawed group system used by FIFA at a World Cup and something had to give to not allow a repeat of what happened in Rosario in 1978. The next World Cup in Spain in 1982 would not only have a very similar incident but change the group staging format for the better. One nation had to suffer in silence and all they could do was watch two other nations effectively in ‘cahoots’ play out a dour 1-0 win. The country was Algeria and the match was the infamous West Germany against Austria debacle in Gijon, Spain
For any budding football historian on paper it looks like your average result but the injustice this caused sent shockwaves around the globe. Algeria felt aggrieved as they had earlier on in the opening game of the tournament pulled off an early shock and had beaten West Germany 2-1.
Going into the final group games, Algeria had played their last game the day before the West Germany game, meaning West Germany had one full day to discuss tactics, decide on a team, and most importantly mull over the group and see what exact result they needed.
A win for West Germany and they were through, but a low score win for West Germany and they would go through along with Austria. What happened in Gijon on the 25th June 1982 was West Germany exploded out of the blocks had chance after chance, Horst Hrubesch scored after 10 minutes, and both teams sat back and ran out the clock.
The world watched in horror and they knew what exactly was about to unfold. The 1-0 result meant both they and Austria (+2 advantage over Algeria in goal difference) were through to the next round and Algeria were sent packing in what can only be described as a heart-breaking finish to a World Cup for the Algerians.
Who knows what would have happened if there was no obvious collusion between both nations but the manner in which it transpired had FIFA well and truly red-faced.
Due to the outrage caused by this game an instant change was brought about to the flawed group system for the next World Cup in Mexico. The final group games kicking off at the same time, so the other cannot be influenced in any way. The seed of doubt was planted in Argentina in ’78 but such a monumental injustice on the world’s football stage in 1982 changed the World Cup for the better and valuable lessons were learned albeit four years too late for Algeria.
This World Cup tournament will put both Germany and Algeria together for the first time in tournament play since that opening 2-1 defeat for West Germany in 1982. The Algerian squad and nation as a whole will need no extra motivation whatsoever for this encounter, as they will look to bury the hatchet, move on and release the emotional scars left after the debacle in Gijon in 1982.
Liam Cairns, Pundit Arena.