There are many candidates for the biggest disgrace in the history of the World Cup. Maradona scoring with the hand of God. Zidane head-butting Materazzi in his final career match. But to Algerians, there will only ever be one true injustice; the disgrace of Gijon.
Algeria had qualified for the World Cup in 1982 for the first time in their history. They were drawn in Group 2, with West Germany, Austria and Chile. A tough group at first glance, but an unbelievable opportunity nonetheless to compete with the world’s best.
The Desert Foxes started with an incredible result; arguably the biggest shock in World Cup history. West Germany mocked the North Africans ahead of the game, with their captain even going so far as saying that they could beat Algeria with cigars in their mouths.
However, Algeria beat West Germany 2-1, thanks to two great goals from Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi. This result sent shockwaves to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, Les Verts suffered a defeat in their second group match, with a 2-0 loss to Austria that sent them to the top of the group with one match remaining.
Algeria faced Chile in their final group encounter, and remarkably went 3-0 up in 35 minutes. Two late goals from the South Americans gave Rachid Mekhloufi’s side a scare, but the final whistle went at 3-2 and Algeria had won two matches to the amazement of the footballing world. These two late goals from Chile changed the complexion of the final game however.
Due to the goal difference, West Germany knew that a win by up to two goals would send both them and their geographical neighbours Austria through to the second round. They took the lead in the 11th minute and went 1-0 up, but what was to follow was horrific to watch.
Both teams made no attempt to even make a tackle, let alone shoot at goal. The ball was, in turns, passed round the defences and neither side tried to make any effort. It got so bad, that one commentator refused to commentate on the game anymore.
Spanish fans inside the ground in Gijon were also appalled. They cheered and chanted for Algeria, but it made no difference as the teams continued to deliberately miss on purpose and fire shots wide. With West Germany, Austria and Algeria are level on four points, it was the Arab nation that were eliminated on goal difference.
To this day, that match left its legacy on world football. It is the reason why the final group matches of international tournaments now have to be played at the same time, to avoid any similar scenarios. But to Algerians, they will never ever forget the Disgrace in Gijon.