The 1982 World Cup in Spain is widely regarded as one of the best ever. It had a stellar lineup of individual players, three outstanding teams, a series of epic matches, and fantastic weather.
However, it is most likely remembered for its semi-final dispute, massive scandal, and, probably, the greatest World Cup shock of all time.
Algeria had arrived in Spain aiming to at least duplicate Tunisia’s achievement four years earlier by winning a World Cup match on their debut. It was very unlikely to come against reigning champions West Germany, or a formidable team in Austria. Maybe they can sneak in a victory against Chile!
But to everyone’s surprise, nothing of such happened and Algeria shocked everyone only to go out in the most planned and plotted cruel manner!
They put on one of the most thrilling performances in history to overcome one of the favorites, West Germany but were then derailed by one of sport’s most egregious examples of match-fixing.
The German team was so confident of defeating Algeria that they enjoyed themselves in pre-match press conferences by mocking their opponents.
“We’ll dedicate our seventh goal to our spouses, and the eighth to our dogs,” joked one player, while manager Jupp Derwall pledged that if his team lost, he’d “jump on the first train back to Munich.”
But Algeria shocked everyone!
The group stage run
Their first match was against the reigning champions Germany and it looked like an impossible task to overcome them.
But, Algeria was the better team in the first half and deserved their opening goal when it came in the 54th minute, Rabah Madjer finishing off a sweeping break.
Rummenigge equalized in the 67th minute, but if the Germans thought order had been restored, they were wrong. From the restart, a nine pass Algeria move ended with Belloumi arriving unmarked to slam the ball in from close range.
The match ended 2-1 and Algeria shook the world!
The euphoria lasted for days and left them drained and, to their cost, a trifle complacent for their next game, against Austria. They lost 2-0.
Algeria recovered its vivacity for the final group game against Chile and quickly swept into a 3-0 lead. But Chile almost came back scoring twice to make the score 3-2.
The match ended at 3-2 meaning Algeria stood a chance to be the first African team in history to qualify for the next round.
With four points but a goal difference of zero, they were now dependent on the outcome of the following day’s encounter between West Germany and Austria. And how they would pay for it.
A footballing crime
Algeria would qualify if Austria won or drew, and West Germany would be eliminated. A German victory of fewer than two goals, on the other hand, would send the European neighbors through while the African debutants would be eliminated.
Horst Hrubesch scored for West Germany after only 10 minutes, and then, there was no football!
Austria and West Germany embarrassingly sleepwalked their way to a scoreline that was acceptable for both teams and cooperated to knock out the valiant, but powerless, Algerians.
Outrage and condemnation poured in from all directions. The German press and fans were outraged. The rest of the world was as well.
The tragedy compelled FIFA to make a significant change: the final group matches in subsequent World Cups would be played at the same time.
Germany made it to the finals of the world cup, but to everyone’s delight, they lost the finals to Italy.
Did the Algerian players take offense? Not at all, Merzekane says. “We weren’t angry, we were cool,” he says. “To see two big powers debasing themselves in order to eliminate us was a tribute to Algeria. They progressed with dishonour, we went out with our heads held high.”