FIFA World Cup 2022: Explained – Why last round of matches have simultaneous kick-offs | Football News
For Tuesday, the matches are – 8:30 PM – Ecuador vs Senegal and Netherlands vs Qatar…..12:30 AM (Early Wednesday morning) – Iran vs USA and Wales vs England.
According to the protocol that FIFA follows, the last two games of each group (3rd match for all 4 teams in the group), or in other words the last round of matches across all 8 groups kick-off in this fashion. But have you ever wondered why this happens?
For the answer to that question we need to travel all the way back to the 1978 edition of the World Cup in Spain and to a match between West Germany and Austria, which picked up the nickname of ‘The disgrace of Gijon’.
The two teams faced each other at the El Molinon stadium in Gijon, Spain on June 25, 1982. It was the last match of Group 2. The other two teams in the group – Algeria and Chile had played their last match the day before.
Algeria were playing some very good football in what was their World Cup debut. They had already stunned the West Germans in their opening game and then after a loss to Austria, pulled off another win against Chile. The Algerians were in second position, behind Austria, with 4 points. So as things stood before the West Germany vs Austria match – an Austrian win or even a draw would ensure Algeria’s progress to the next round. Meanwhile, a West Germany win by 3 goals or more would see Algeria qualify along with the Germans. Also, importantly – the third scenario was – a win by either one or two goals for West Germany would see the Germans and the Austrians go through at the expense of Algeria on goal difference.
Senegal players during a training session. (AFP Photo)
And that’s exactly the script that the two teams played out on the pitch.
In what was one of the most shocking sights on a football pitch in the history of the World Cup, the Germans and the Austrians colluded to play the game in a way that Germany walked away with a 1-0 win. The Germans scored the first goal in the 12th minute via then centre-forward and current coach of Hamburger SV, Horst Hrubesch, nicknamed ‘The Header Beast‘ for his skills in heading the ball.
But after this goal, both teams began to aimlessly pass the ball around in their own halves. No attacking plays as such were witnessed. Often the ball was kicked back to the goal-keeper. Barring a couple of players who showed some intent, the match steadily deteriorated into quite the farce. The game ended at 1-0 to the Germans which meant that West Germany, Austria and Algeria all finished on 4 points and the Germans and the Austrians went through to the next round on goal difference. West Germany had a GD of +3, Austria of +2 and Algeria had a GD of 0.
The commentators were disgusted by what they witnessed, so were the fans in the stadium. Local newspaper El Comercio ran the match report in its crime section. According to some reports, Austria’s national broadcasters told viewers in Austria to switch off their TV sets.
It appeared to be an on the spot decision by the teams to play in this fashion and not really pre-match fixing, but the match went down in the history books as one of the most infamous games of football ever played and is still remembered as ‘The disgrace of Gijon’.
The Algerian Federation of course protested against this, but since no rules were broken, FIFA or any other body couldn’t punish anybody.
What FIFA did do though after this was revise its World Cup match schedule such that the final matches of all groups from the next edition in 1986 would have simultaneous kick-offs. This was done to maintain the sanctity of the games and the tournament as a whole, so that no team/teams can plan results in advance, based on previous results. It helps to maintain a level playing field for all teams, ensuring that no team gets the short end of the stick.
In the 1982 edition, West Germany made its way to the final, where they lost to eventual champions, Italy. Austria meanwhile were knocked out in the second round (played at that time before the knockouts which began with the semi-finals), after a 0-1 loss to France and a 2-2 draw with Northern Ireland.