Tuesday, Apr 30, 2002
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It was the German annexation of Austria in the mid-1930s which sparked off World War II. And as such, it remains an irony on how the two countries joined hands to keep out Algeria from the second round of the 1982 World Cup.
The final Group 2 match, which was so crucial for all the three teams to make further progress in the tournament, also remains one of the most controversial encounters ever played in football's premier event. At the end of it all, there were allegations that the match was fixed beforehand, with the Algerian delegation raising a hue and cry and making a formal protest saying that the whole affair was a scandalous and immoral act.
However, the FIFA Organising Committee, threw out the protest after a three-and-a-half hour long meeting, on the plea that ``the result of any match could not be altered by any outside agency.'' And that ``the Algerian protest did not conform to FIFA regulations but the committee had decided to consider it nevertheless before rejecting it.''
Though, as such, it is difficult to find anything controversial in official FIFA records, match reports filed by different agencies, however, have a different tale to tell. The German manager, Jupp Derwall, had boasted on the eve of his team's match against Algeria that, ``if we don't beat Algeria, I'll take the next train home.'' But much to the embarrassment of Derwall, the Algerians were to bring off a great upset as they started off their campaign with a 2-1 victory.
And so when finally the Germans came face-to-face with the Austrians, they had to win the match to qualify for the second round. Austria could afford to lose by two goals and go through ahead of the Algerians on goal difference.
Austria had defeated Chile (1-0) and Algeria (2-0) while the Africans had conceded two late second-half goals against the Chileans (beaten by Germany 4- 1) after having leapt into a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead by the end of the first-half.
In the earlier stages of the Germany-Austria match there was nothing amiss as the Germans gained a definite advantage over their rival and forged ahead with a 11th-minute goal by Horst Hrubesch who headed the ball home off a cross from Pierre Littbarski (see picture).
But after that both sides appeared content to manoeuvre the ball in the midfield during the remaining period of the first-half in the front of an increasingly impatient crowd. The boos grew louder in the second-half when both the teams continued on with their strolling formality and the 41,000- capacity crowd, which included hundreds of Algerians, soon began waving white handkerchiefs and bank notes in disgust while chanting, `Algeria, Algeria', and `stop the game.'
The Spanish national television commentators were calling the game a hoax with one of them saying, `` the public who paid money to see this contest between two of the best teams in Europe will truly be disillusioned with this shameful spectacle.''
The Algerians had every reason to be incensed and Mahiendine Khalef was on hand to say ``this is the greatest scandal of the World Cup.'' The lack of evidence to show that the two teams had agreed on the 1-0 result beforehand might have been the reason for FIFA to turn down the Algerian protest.
However, the Algerians certainly had reason to believe that they had been cheated as they left Spain carrying nothing more than a sense of injustice. A. Vinod.
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