The German national team kicks off their calendar year with a friendly against France this Wednesday. To get you in the mood we’ll wind back the years and take a look at a match widely considered to be one of the greatest in World Cup history and certainly one that still sticks in the memories of many France and Germany fans, their epic encounter in the 1982 semi-finals in Spain.
After what had been a relatively trouble-free second phase, controversy was to return again in the semi-final against France, which saw one of the World Cup’s greatest-ever comebacks sullied by Toni Schumacher’s infamous shoulder charge on Patrick Battiston – magnified by the same bloody-minded, shoulder-shrugging attitude that had been shown by the coach.
While everybody should have been talking about the great extra-time comeback, Klaus Fischer’s stunning overhead kick to bring the scores level at 3-3 and the nail-biting drama of the first-ever World Cup penalty shootout, TV replays were showing Schumacher’s blundering charge again and again. Every time I watch my recording of the game I want to imagine him closing down the Frenchman in a more orthodox manner, and the ball dribble away for a goal kick. But alas, no… It’s just the same old clatter, crash and splat – followed by Schumacher slowly walking away as Battiston’s incensed team mates arrive to check on their fallen colleague.
Schumacher would talk at length about the incident in his controversial autobiography Anpfiff – in English, “Blowing the Whistle” – where he admitted to being a coward in not doing anything; while the impression during the game might have been one of arrogant indifference, Schumacher more than made up for his transgression in the weeks after the event, which saw him deliver a public apology to the Frenchman. While the players themselves were willing to bury the hatchet and even become friends, the media never let go; that night in Seville would for many define Schumacher’s role as the ultimate pantomime villain and hate figure both in and outside Germany.
In hindsight the real monster of Seville was not Schumacher, but the coach and management who between themselves did nothing to alleviate the situation. Instead they sat idly by in what could only be seen in hindsight as an attempt to absolve themselves of all responsibility. While the scandal of Gijón had been dismissed with little more than a shrug of the shoulders, Schumacher was left to fend for himself following the Battiston incident.
I had started following the Nationalmannschaft as a fan in 1980 shortly before the European Championships; this love might very well have been lost had I truly been able to comprehend the nature of the win-at-all-costs approach that underpinned the latter part of Jupp Derwall’s time in charge. While even as a slightly naïve ten year-old in 1982 I was able to understand what had gone on against Austria, I could never point the finger at the genial-looking gentleman known as Häuptling Silberlocke; moreover, I could never see the likes of Pierre Littbarski or my footballing hero Kalle Rummenigge engaging in such chicanery. As for Toni Schumacher, not many people outside of the city of Köln even liked him – though it didn’t help that his reputation was largely shaped by section of the German media that in his eyes were out to get him.
While one could argue that this cold professional cynicism was instrumental in getting what had turned into a fairly ordinary German side all the way to the final, it also served to detach the Mannschaft of 1982 from the German public, whose collective thirst for success quite clearly did not extend to seeing the team play back passes for eighty minutes or stand around while your opponent is lying lifeless on the the ground. Had Derwall’s side succeeded in winning the trophy in 1982, it is likely that the nation’s record would have been indelibly stained; as it turned out, they ended up losing to an equally cynical Italian side whose top scorer had only returned to the game having been banned for his involvement in a betting scandal.
Semi-Final v France, Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, Sevilla, 08.07.1982
5-4 PSO (1-1, 1-1, 3-3 aet)
Littbarski 17., Rummenigge 102., Fischer 108. / Platini pen 26., Trésor 92., Giresse 98.
Penalties: Giresse 0-1; Kaltz 1-1; Amoros 1-2; Breitner 2-2; Rocheteau 2-3; Stielike SAVED; Six SAVED; Littbarski 3-3; Platini 3-4; Rummenigge 4-4; Bossis SAVED; Hrubesch 5-4.
Germany FR: Schumacher – Kaltz (c), Stielike, Kh. Förster, B. Förster – Dremmler, Breitner – Magath (73. Hrubesch) – Briegel (97. Kh. Rummenigge) – Littbarski – K. Fischer
France: Ettori – Janvion, Trésor, Bossis, Amoros – Genghini (50. Battiston, 60. Lopez), Tigana, Platini, Giresse – Rocheteau, Six
Referee: Charles Corver (Netherlands)
Assistants: Bruno Galler (Switzerland), Robert B. Valentine (Scotland)
Yellow Cards: B. Förster / Giresse, Genghini
Red Cards: – / –
Originally published at Schwarz und Weiss
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