Anschluss of Gijon: The 1982 Disgrace That Changed World Cup Scheduling

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Anschluss of Gijon: The 1982 Disgrace That Changed World Cup Scheduling
Associated Press

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

West Germany did not expect to be troubled by Algeria at the 1982 World Cup. As one of their players remarked, as per The Guardian, they planned to dominate at Spain's El Molinon stadium to the extent that their victory would be offered in tribute to their families and pets.

They had reason to be confident.

Anonymous/Associated Press
Paul Breitner and West Germany lost 2-1 to Algeria in 1982.

Crowned European champions for a second time just two years prior, West Germany boasted a world-class squad of players including Paul Breitner, Lothar Matthaus, Hansi Mueller and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. They were one of the favourites to lift a third World Cup that summer in 1982, and tournament debutantes Algeria were not going to get in their way.

That, at least, is how the script went. Until the Fennec Foxes got their hands on it, crumpled it and tossed it out the window.

A physically capable side co-managed by Mahieddine Khalef and Saint-Etienne legend Rachid Mekhloufi, Algeria prided themselves on fitness and technical ability, and in 1978 they had won the All-Africa Games in Algiers.

Wins over Real Madrid and Benfica in the run-up to their World Cup opener should have caught the attention of Germany boss Jupp Derwall, but so confident—perhaps arrogant—was the former Schaffhausen and Dusseldorf manager’s side that they went into the Gijon encounter blind.

Highlights of West Germany-Algeria.

After Rabah Madjer’s opener, the West Germany players were rubbing their eyes in disbelief. Algeria had controlled much of the first half, and shortly after the restart Madjer completed a counter-attack by finishing cleanly past goalkeeper Harald Schumacher.

Rummenigge managed to equalise midway through the period, but by then the direction of the match had become apparent.

Uncredited/Associated Press/Associated Press
Belloumi, left, after his winning goal

Immediately following the Bayern Munich forward’s goal, Algeria embarked on an intricate move that culminated in Lakhdar Belloumi’s winner. They might have won by two or three, and because of their victory West Germany went into their group-stage match against Austria knowing they had to defeat their regional rivals in order to advance.

If they could do it while sending Algeria out of the competition, so much the better. Embarrassment, after all, invites retribution.

What followed was one of the most controversial matches in World Cup history—and one of the most formative.

Crucially, Algeria had played their final group-stage match the day before, and their 3-2 win over Chile meant that Austria, by virtue of previous results, would be heading out of the World Cup with a loss by three or more goals.

Highlights of West Germany's 1-0 win over Austria in Gijon.

But the scheduling also gave both European sides a clear picture of the scorelines required to progress at the African outfit’s expense, and given their recent humiliation, West Germany found themselves in a position too good to be true.

After only 10 minutes, Horst Hrubesch put West Germany in front, and then...nothing.

Neither side, understanding a 1-0 decision was mutually beneficial, mounted anything resembling an attack throughout the remainder of the match. The passes were lateral or backward and, tellingly, the tackles were soft between adversaries that would typically have gone at one another with venom.

Associated Press

"Fuera, Fuera!" ("Out, Out!") chanted the displeased spectators in Gijon, and the few Algerian supporters at El Molinon burned money in protest, according to ESPN FC.

At the final whistle the score remained 1-0 in what has since become known as the “Anschluss of Gijon,” in reference to Germany’s 1938 annexation of Austria. For the second World Cup in succession, a final-day controversy had sullied the tournament’s reputation.

Four years earlier, hosts Argentina had gone into a match against Peru knowing only a lopsided victory would propel them into the final instead of Brazil. The Selecao had beaten Poland 3-1 in the afternoon, and knowing what was required, the Albiceleste came away with an unlikely 6-0 win that evening.

The pair of matches—in Gijon and Rosario—led to a scheduling shift at the 1986 World Cup, where FIFA arranged group-stage finales to kick off simultaneously.

As a result, bracket conclusions have since been the source of considerable excitement—none more so than in 2010, when Landon Donovan’s winner against Algeria put the United States atop Group C while England battled to a 1-0 win over Slovenia.

But it was a lesson learned the hard way. As Peru and Algeria, in particular, will attest.

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