Germany face another ghost of '82
It seems that whenever you look ahead to a Germany game at this World Cup, you have to look back to 1982, a tournament that produced quite a lot of nicknames in German football lore.
We have already touched on the game between West Germany and Algeria in 1982 and the ensuing "Shame of Gijon." Now we must discuss the "Night of Seville" -- also known as the "Thriller in Seville," because Germans pronounce the city's name in a way that makes it rhyme.
The expression refers to the dramatic semifinal between West Germany and France at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, a match recently voted the second-greatest World Cup game of all time by FourFourTwo magazine.
It's a most peculiar fact that Germany and France often play each other but hardly ever with anything at stake. The 1982 match was the 15th game between the two sides but only the second during a tournament.
The teams had been scheduled to meet during the qualifiers for the 1934 World Cup. However, after both had beaten Luxembourg to go through, it was agreed that the meaningless game between France and Germany would be called off, not least because of the tense political situation.
So it wasn't until 1958 that the neighbours met at a World Cup, in the match for third place. West Germany fielded what amounted to a reserve team, as Erich Juskowiak was suspended while Fritz Walter, Uwe Seeler and first-choice goalkeeper Fritz Herkenrath felt the physical effects of a rough-and-tumble semifinal with host Sweden.
Still, the makeshift team started well. Alfred Kelbassa scored after six minutes, but the goal was chalked off for a foul on French goalkeeper Claude Abbes. Just Fontaine brought France ahead after an elegant combination only for Hans Ciesclarczyk to equalise following a one-two with Hans Sturm.
The deciding moment came after a half hour, when Fontaine raced toward the German goal and Herbert Erhardt tried a desperate last-gasp tackle. Erhardt made contact with the ball first, but this was hard to see for the referee. France were wrongly awarded a penalty, and after Raymond Kopa had converted, West Germany fell apart. France won 6-3, and Fontaine scored four and lifted the Golden Boot by a landslide.
During the next quarter of a century, there were more friendlies between the sides (seven, to be precise), but they didn't meet again at a World Cup or the European Championship, not even at the qualifying stages.
Until the Night of Seville.
Considering the Germans' conspicuous progression through the 1982 tournament, it shouldn't come as a surprise that France went into the game as the popular favourite. This was the marvellous team with Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and the whirlwinds Didier Six and Dominique Rocheteau that would soon be crowned champions of Europe.
But six days before the game, the German team had suddenly come alive to beat host Spain 2-1. As Kicker magazine put it: "The crowd was astonished, Spain was astonished, the world of football was astonished. Was this really the German team we had seen so far? Suddenly there was the will to win."
It was a nice twist of fate that the win against Spain wouldn't have been enough to get West Germany into the semis if the already-eliminated Spanish had lost their final group game against England by two goals. Suddenly the Germans found themselves in a situation similar to the one Algeria had been in 10 days earlier. All they could do was watch and hope that Spain would be so sporting as to give their all. They did, drawing with England to send West Germany to Seville.
The night that would last longer than anyone could have imagined began with chances at either end, although the Germans initially looked more dangerous. Pierre Littbarski hit the crossbar from a free kick after a quarter hour. Two minutes later, he had more luck, putting away a rebound after France goalkeeper Jean-Luc Ettori had blocked a Klaus Fischer attempt. Midway through the first half, Bernd Foerster brought down Rocheteau in the box and Platini equalised from the spot.
It was a lively, thrilling game before the break, and it didn't let up after the restart. France had the upper hand, even though coach Michel Hidalgo replaced offensive midfielder Bernard Genghini with Saint-Etienne defender Patrick Battiston. The switch must have confused the Germans, because when Platini played a great through ball into the path of Battiston only seven minutes later, the sub was unmarked and clear through to goal.
Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher left his line and raced toward the edge of the penalty area to get to the pass before Battiston would. He had no chance, yet he never broke stride. The Frenchman spotted an empty goal behind Schumacher and tried to knock the ball in with his left foot. He never saw that the ball went wide. The instant it left his foot, Schumacher crashed into him with full force, knocking him out immediately.
It has become one of the most notorious moments in World Cup history, not least because Schumacher appeared entirely unmoved. While the French players were deeply worried about their seemingly lifeless teammate and Dutch referee Charles Corver signalled for a stretcher, a disinterested Schumacher stood near the post, waiting to take the goal kick.
The foul has become part of our collective football memory because we have seen it so often. In real time, things looked no less serious but a lot less sinister. The German television commentator spoke of a "bad incident, this clash" and added that "Schumacher had to risk everything. These things can happen in a game when both sides go flat out." One of the match reports in the next day's issue of Kicker referred to the clash merely as "an unfortunate collision."
I think neither the reporter nor the writer was trying to downplay a serious misconduct. Football was a much rougher game in the 1980s, and there had been numerous bad moments at this World Cup -- Italy's Claudio Gentile fouling Diego Maradona 23 times, for example.
It was only after you saw the replays a few times that you truly realised how ruthlessly Schumacher had knocked down Battiston. In the issue of Kicker that called the foul "an unfortunate collision," another account of the match said, "Schumacher brutally jumped at Battiston." This second writer had probably seen some footage before typing his report.
For most journalists covering the game, there would be little time to do this, though, as there was a lot of football still to come. In the final minute of regulation, Manuel Amoros hit the bar with a thundering strike from distance and the game went to extra time.
In the 92nd minute, France won a free kick near the edge of the box. The German defence inexplicably left Marius Tresor unmarked near the penalty spot, and he scored with a fine volley. Six minutes later, Giresse made it 3-1.
The game should have been over, save for two details. One was that at this point the Germans had turned coming back from two goals down into an art form -- think of the 1954 and 1970 World Cups or the 1976 European championship.
The other detail was that national coach Jupp Derwall had an ace up his sleeve. He had benched one of his best offensive players, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, for this game because the Bayern forward was not fully fit. Now, with 97 minutes gone, he sent him onto the pitch. The French, meanwhile, had already used up the two outfield substitutions they were allowed under the old rules.
Six minutes after coming on, Rummenigge instigated an attack in midfield. He passed the ball to Uli Stielike and ran into the box. Stielike set up Littbarski on the left wing, and his cross was acrobatically pushed across the line by Rummenigge, who scored with his back to the target.
An even finer goal tied the game on 108 minutes. Again Littbarski crossed from the left. Horst Hrubesch rose at the far post and headed the ball back to Klaus Fischer, who equalised with a stunning bicycle kick.
And so the Night of Seville saw the first-ever World Cup game that had to be decided by a penalty shootout. It's worth noting that the Germans hadn't yet acquired a reputation for being masters at this particular art. In fact, they had lost the one shootout they'd been involved in so far (the 1976 European championship final), and when Stielike missed Germany's third penalty, it seemed as if this one would end in defeat too.
But 84 minutes after his dreadful and unpunished foul on Battiston, Schumacher turned the game. He saved from Six and then wiggled his finger at the still distraught Stielike, who hadn't been watching the penalty, as if to say "don't worry." Then, 20 minutes before midnight, Schumacher also denied Maxime Bossis. Hrubesch scored with the final shot of an already long night to book a place in the final for West Germany.
The night wasn't over, though. As the mentally drained German players were sitting in their dressing room, too tired to properly celebrate, Derwall told them to hurry up. They had to get to the airport to take a 1:20 a.m. flight to Madrid. The players dragged themselves off the benches and into the showers then changed into street clothes and drove to the airport -- where they were told their flight would be 30 minutes late.
At 2:45 a.m., the Germans were still waiting in the lounge. That's when they learned that the airplane that was supposed to take them from Seville to Madrid was still, for unknown reasons, in Madrid. Stielike, who was playing for Real Madrid at the time, took matters into his own hands and began to debate with the airport personnel in Spanish. Two hours after their scheduled departure, the West Germans finally left Seville in a substitute plane. It was a night none of them would ever forget.
Uli covers German football for ESPN FC and has written over 400 columns since 2002.