The Ghosts of Gijón

A few hours after the 1-0 win over the United States in their final group game, Germany’s opponents in the second phase would be determined. Having fallen behind to an early goal in their final game against Russia, Algeria would level the scores and secure the point they needed to progress to the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time in their history.

The matchup between the Nationalmannschaft and the team known as Les Fennecs (“The Desert Foxes”) will no doubt bring back a number of sour memories for older fans and followers of the Nationalmannschaft. The first would be the encounter in Gijón on 16th June 1982 which would see Jupp Derwall’s side fall to a shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of the North Africans, but even this would be overshadowed just nine days later at the same ground, where the watching world would witness the infamous final group match with Austria and the controversial 1-0 victory that would result in Algeria’s elimination.

Having scored through Horst Hrubesch in the tenth minute both teams would move the ball around the pitch for the remaining eighty minutes. It would be the perfect result: an equaliser for Austria would have eliminated the Germans, while two further German goals would have pushed Austria below Algeria on goal difference. This cynical ceasefire – which appeared to have happened organically on the pitch rather than being the result of any sort of prearranged conspiracy – would thereafter be known as the Nichtangriffspakt von Gijón or the “non-aggression pact of Gijón”. For some more critical sections of the German media, it would be known as the Schande von Gijón, or the “shame of Gijón”.

In the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre on Monday, there will be an opportunity for both Germany and Algeria to exact some measure of revenge for the events of thirty-two years ago – before all but two of the current German squad were born. For many Algerians it will be a chance to for their team avenge the perceived wrongs of Spain 1982, while for German fans it will finally provide an opportunity to scrub out the memory of the other Schande von Gijón – and with it the names Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi.

Head to Head Record and History

AlgeriaHere’s a fact for all of you statisticians out there: of all the teams Germany have played more than once in their long and distinguished history, there is only one they have never beaten.

The answer? Algeria. In addition to the defeat at the World Cup in 1982, an inexperienced German side – featuring a very young Stan Libuda and Wolfgang Overath – would meet Les Fennecs in a very wet Algiers in 1964, falling to a 2-0 defeat.

This first-ever meeting between the two countries would be a rather bizarre encounter, played on New Years’ Day in damp weather on a grassless clay pitch. The match would also be the first ever international for the Algerian national team, just two years after the former French colony had gained its independence. The home side would be two goals up in the first thirty minutes, and just to compound matters Werner “Eia” Krämer would miss a penalty for the visitors in the second half.

Gijón’s Estadio El Molinón would provide a more normal setting for the second controversial encounter in 1982, but the buildup to the match would see German Nationaltrainer Jupp Derwall flippantly dismiss his team’s opponents before a ball had even been kicked. Rather than take a closer look at the talented Algerians, Derwall would suggest that he would happily take the first train back to Germany or jump into the Mediterranean Sea should his side fail to win. The Nationalmannschaft had qualified for the tournament with eight wins from their eight games and a goal difference of +30, but there would be something about the Algerians on that bright Wednesday afternoon in northern Spain.

After a goalless first half the North Africans would emerge from the dressing room in a different version of their green and white shirt, and it wouldn’t take long for them to have their effect. Nine minutes into the second half Madjer would give the underdogs a shock lead by looping in the rebound from the edge of the six-yard box after German ‘keeper Toni Schumacher had denied Belloumi, and although Karl-Heinz Rummenigge would equalise thirteen minutes later the counter-punch from Algeria would be immediate. Straight from the kick off Les Fennecs would have the ball in the back of the German net for a second time, and this time Belloumi would make no mistake as he tapped in Salah Assad’s sharp left-wing cross from close range.

The response would involve nine passes and would take less than thirty seconds.

Try as they might, Germany couldn’t force the equaliser. The usually reliable Hrubesch would head wide with the goal at his mercy, and Pierre Littbarski would have a close range effort chalked off when Hrubesch was adjudged to have been pushing in the box. The decision was arguably slightly suspect, but we could all tell where things were going. In the final minute, Rummenigge as he got on the end of a floated Klaus Fischer cross.

The following pair of matches would see the Algerians lose 2-0 to Austria while Germany found their form in dispatching Chile 4-1 courtesy of a Rummenigge hat-trick, but Algeria could hold themselves partly to blame for setting up the situation that would become the Nichtangriffspakt von Gijón. In their final game against the Chileans in Oviedo Les Fennecs would storm into a 3-0 lead inside the first-thirty five minutes, but their decision not to shut up shop in the second half would allow the winless Chileans to score two consolation goals.

The 3-2 win over Chile would take Algeria into second place behind Austria in the group table, but with a goal difference deficit of -3. Had they managed to hold onto their three-goal lead, the events of the following day would have taken a completely different path. With Germany having to win to progress, any positive result for the Mannschaft would have eliminated the Austrians, meaning that instead of the cynical walkabout in the park that would reduce veteran ARD commentator Eberhard Stanjek to tears the world would have seen a genuine hard-fought conclusion.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment for many German fans was the fact that their team had spurned the opportunity to rub Austria’s nose in it. Four years in Argentina earlier then World Champions had been subjected to a humiliating 3-2 defeat by their neighbours – a game that would become known as the Schmach von Córdoba. While there would be nothing to gain for the already eliminated Austrians, they would act as if they had just won the World Cup itself – and would have no hesitation in milking the result for as much as it was worth. (Which was really not much).

So while their team were passing the ball around in friendly fashion four years on in Gijón, many German supporters who had witnessed the events of 1978 would have been seething. For them, giving the impertinent Ösis a thrashing and packing them off on the first flight back to Schwechat would have been the ultimate win/win.

We can only hope that we see a fair contest in Porto Alegre – Brazil’s most “German” major city – so that we can once and for all banish the ghosts of Gijón.

Current Form

Algeria would overcome a 2-1 defeat in their opening game against Belgium to beat South Korea 4-2 – the first time any African side scored four goals at the World Cup finals. Needing a point against Russia in their final match, they would come from behind to secure second spot behind Belgium.

Coming into the tournament the side managed by Bosnian Vahid Halilhodžić would win all three of their warmup matches, with a 2-0 home win over former World Cup finalists Slovenia being followed by a 3-1 win over Armenia in the Swiss city of Sion and a 2-1 win in Geneva against Romania.

Ranked number twenty-two in the world before the start of the tournament, Algeria have surprised many by making it into the last sixteen, but judging by their current form it is perhaps not such a massive shock. The tournament so far as shown that the gap between the leading nations and the so-called second tier countries has continued to close, and there is no way that current Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw will be taking the North Africans as lightly as Jupp Derwall did in 1982.

Last eight matches (latest first): DWLWWWWL


As with any team with no massive star names, it takes an event like the World Cup to discover them. Algeria’s march into the last sixteen has been led by Sporting Clube de Portugal striker Islam Slimani, while winger Sofiane Feghouli – a former French Under-21 international – has also impressed.

Even with far more exposure compared to 1982, the majority of the Algerian players remain an unknown quantity with most of them plying their trade for less than fashionable clubs.

Interesting Facts

– Sixteen of Les Fennecs’ twenty-three man-squad were born in France, with many of them actually playing for Les Bleus at youth level. This is in stark contrast to their 1982 squad, of which only three were born outside Algeria.
– Algeria’s coach Halilhodžić was also at the World Cup in Spain in 1982, playing for Yugoslavia.

The Ghosts of Gijón

5 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Gijón

  • Pingback:Schwarz und Weiß | Blog | Germany v Algeria: Match Analysis and Player Ratings

  • June 29, 2014 at 10:45

    There seems to be a lot of talk in the media about GruessKreutz coming in for Howedes. I think it’s worth a try.

    • June 30, 2014 at 09:52

      Maybe. He is arguably as good a LB as Höwedes, but not being part of the side may be an issue. Endurance wise however he would be a better fit.

      He is prone to boneheadedness though, which is the only real risk.

  • June 29, 2014 at 10:36

    It seems that Podolski is injured and will not play against Algeria. Ciuld have been worse.

    • June 30, 2014 at 09:53

      I hope his flat performance against the US doesn’t push Podolski completely out of the reckoning. While he should never have started – we should have seen Schürrle instead – he would best be employed as an impact sub.

      With an injection of pace and strength, it would be the perfect strategic move against tired defences, especially in the warm conditions.


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