Why World Cup Clash vs. Germany Is Chance for Algeria to Avenge Gijon in 1982

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Why World Cup Clash vs. Germany Is Chance for Algeria to Avenge Gijon in 1982
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

If revenge is a dish best served cold, then the World Cup has made a specialty of chilled retribution.

In 2002, the tournament afforded England the chance to seek immediate vengeance upon Argentina for the Albiceleste’s controversial victory over the Three Lions four years previously.

More recently, the United States will surely have enjoyed their decisive Group G victory over Ghana, having been eliminated by the Black Stars in 2006 (indirectly) and 2010 (directly).

What the West Africans would have given for the chance to gain a measure of revenge against Uruguay for the Celeste’s late, controversial triumph in the 2010 quarter-final.

Among the world’s top international sides, chances of retribution come along fairly regularly due to regular meetings at major tournaments. France and Italy, for example, met each other in 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2008.

For transcontinental rivalries, however, opportunities are fewer and farther between.

Algerians must have doubted that they would ever get the chance to exact revenge for their painful elimination of 1982.

Clive Rose/Getty Images

In the Desert Foxes’ first-ever World Cup, they were drawn in a taxing group with West Germany, Austria and Chile.

Things started spectacularly, however, with a match against the European Champions. Algeria took an unlikely lead through Rabah Madjer, arguably the nation’s best player ever, but came unstuck less than 15 minutes later after Karl-Heinz Rummenigge drew West Germany level.

At that point, there seemed to be only one winner, but the Germans weren’t counting on the genius of Lakhdar Belloumi. The talented playmaker fired home at the far post following a delightful cross from Salah Assad.

Victory over West Germany was the finest hour for one of the most talented sides to ever emerge from the African continent. However, it was a team destined to remain forever unfulfilled on the international stage.

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After losing to Austria in their second game, they beat Chile 3-2 before settling down to watch West Germany and the Austrians contest the group’s final match in Gijon.

The game was to be remembered as one of the most infamous in World Cup history and one of the darkest days since the competition’s inception.

Knowing that a 1-0 victory for the Germans would see both teams through, the two sides essentially stopped playing once Horst Hrubesch scored inside the first 10 minutes. For the rest of the match, the teams essentially kept hold of the ball, passing it around aimlessly, standing off and waiting until the final whistle, when both would be confirmed in the next round.

Despite finishing the group stage with four points following two wins and one defeat, Algeria were out.

National team officials protested after the farcical contest, insisting that the match had been fixed and that there was evident collusion between the European neighbours, but nothing could be proven and the North Africans were heading home.

It didn’t help Algeria much, but the legacy of the “Disgrace of Gijon” was that from that summer onward, the final World Cup group-stage fixtures would be played simultaneously.

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
Rabah Madjer, a hero of 1982.

There were shadows of Gijon earlier in the tournament at the culmination of Group G, when Germany (the usual suspects) and the United States would both have progressed with a tie. In this case, the Mannschaft sought the victory, but it wouldn’t be long before talk of Gijon reared its ugly head once again.

This is because revenge might just be on the horizon.

In drawing 1-1 with Russia in Group H’s final match in Curitiba, Algeria confirmed their place in the round of 16.

It is the first time the North Africans have made it to the knockout stages, and following Nigeria’s progression from Group F, the 2014 World Cup represents the first time that two of Africa’s representatives have escaped from the group stage.

By a wonderful quirk of fate, escape from Group H has thrown Algeria into the lap of the Germans. They are different these days, of course: The "West" and the Wall have disappeared, but the animosity lingers and certainly wasn’t forgotten by the throngs of cheering Algerian fans in London, Paris and Algiers, as well as across the Arab world.

Manager Vahid Halilhodzic, who deserves great credit for transforming the side, acknowledged the history of the match after Algeria’s qualification was secured.

Speaking to the media, the manager said (via BBC Sport): "Thirty-two years ago is a long time. I am very proud of what we have achieved tonight and we deserve to be here.

"I think Algeria played a heroic match and our qualification for the second round is perfectly deserved."

He went on to admit, however, that he could understand the enmity: "We have not forgotten. Everybody has been talking about Algeria and Germany from 1982."

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Vahid Halilhodzic has guided Algeria to their first round of 16 at the World Cup.

And it’s possible that revenge could be on the cards when these unlikely enemies meet in Porto Alegre on Monday evening.

Germany were impressive against Portugal, with the caveat that the Selecao were down to 10 men for a large portion of the match, but they were exposed against Ghana. The Black Stars scored twice and managed to exploit Joachim Low’s side both for their lack of a natural left-back and the limitations of Per Mertesacker at centre-back.

Could Algeria manage a similar feat in the last 16?

The Fennecs are resolute in defence, boast mobility and diversity in the centre of midfield and can be direct and ruthless in attack.

In each of their three group-stage matches, the Algerians demonstrated a different quality. Against Belgium, they were incredibly resilient. Against South Korea they were savage and devastating in offensive areas. And against Russia in the final group game, they demonstrated an admirable capacity to manage a match and see off Fabio Capello’s side.

Algeria will be overwhelming favourites to fall at the next hurdle, but they have shown enough in their three games to date to suggest that they can at least trouble the Germans.

The motivation of a reunion with Germany and a chance to avenge Gijon could well spur Algeria on. The prospect of becoming only the fourth African side to ever reach the quarter-final will surely be an overwhelming incentive for a collection of players keen to emulate Madjer, Belloumi and Co.

Finally, should France beat Nigeria in Monday’s earlier last-16 match, Algeria would be playing for a chance to face their old enemies in the quarter-final.

They don’t come any bigger than that, and the World Cup might just be set to revert to its favourite appetiser once more.

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