Stadio San Siro, Milano, 19.06.1990

1-1 (0-0)
Littbarski 89. / Rincon 90.

With an eye on the second phase and a match against any one of the Netherlands, England, the Republic of Ireland or Egypt, Franz Beckenbauer’s side would adopt a more relaxed approach in their final group phase match against Colombia, with a draw guaranteeing a second phase berth irrespective of how other results turned out. The same formation would be retained for the third match in a row, with the exception of the suspended Andreas Brehme who was replaced by the versatile Bayern München midfielder Hansi Pflügler.

In what was a somewhat scrappy first half, most of the entertainment would be unwittingly provided by the Colombian ‘keeper René Higuita. We would see the best and worst of the eccentric self-proclaimed sweeper-keeper: after almost being caught in possession way outside his area by Rudi Völler – where he was lucky to be awarded a free-kick for what would have been a perfectly reasonable tackle had he been an outfield player – Higuita would then acrobatically turn a curling left-foot shot from Jürgen Klinsmann around the post.

The star of the show however – and not in the best possible sense – would be the big-haired Colombian midfielder Carlos Valderrama, whose divaesque antics quickly started to get under the nose of both the German team and Northern Irish referee Alan Snoddy. After going down after what could be described as a nothing challenge, Valderrama remained on the ground while Snoddy allowed play to go on. When Freddy Rincón had blasted the free-kick over the bar and Völler had been hacked down at the other end by Leonel Álvarez, the referee finally allowed the hirsute Colombian to receive attention – whereupon the full stretcher team arrived to carry him off.

No sooner had Valderrama been stretchered off the field he would be back on his feet – his slow walk back to the touchline being accompanied by a loud and well-orchestrated chorus of jeers, whistles and ironic applause.

Rudi Völler challenges Colombia’s Gildardo Gómez for the ball in the final grup match in Milan

There would be few goal-scoring opportunities in what was a rather fractured and scrappy second half, and there would be more histrionics from Valder-drama – resulting in his being booed every time he touched the ball. Lothar Matthäus did well to work pick up a sharp pass from Stefan Reuter and manufacture an opportunity with some seventy-five minutes gone, but his chip over Higuita – who had made yet another suicidal charge into no-mans land – only managed to find the top of the crossbar. Somehow, Higuita would manage to scramble back to thwart Rudi Völler’s attempt to head in the rebound.

Rather fittingly, all of the important action would be packed into the final minutes. As a man valued more for his poachers’ finishing and six-yard box savvy, Rudi Völler was the last man one might have expected to tear open the Colombian defence – but this he did, playing a neat one-two with skipper Lothar Matthäus in the middle of the park before embarking on a marvellous jinking run that saw him ease past two defenders and play a tidy ball into the path of sub Pierre Littbarski with the outside of his right boot. Using his pace and strength, Littbarski would free himself of his marker before drilling a left-footed shot past the prone Higuita.

Littbarski’s at-the-death strike appeared to have taken Germany to the maximum nine points – leaving the Colombians teetering on the brink and with one foot on the ‘plane home – but the last-gasp drama had not yet ended. That man Valderrama would be at the centre of the action as the Colombians pressed for an immediate response, engineering a fluid series of passes ending in a final ball to Freddy Rincón – who then stroked the ball under the advancing Bodo Illgner to level the scores with almost the last kick of the game.

Franz Beckenbauer’s men had missed out on maximum points but had comfortably finished at the top of the group on seven points, two ahead of the Colombians who by the skin of their teeth had avoided the flight back to Bogotá.

Germany FR: Illgner – Augenthaler – Berthold, Buchwald – Reuter, Häßler (88. Thon), Matthäus, Bein (46. Littbarski), Pflügler – Völler, Klinsmann

Colombia: Higuita – Herrera, Perea, Escobar, Gildardo Gómez – Fajardo, Álvarez, Gabriel Gómez, Valderrama – Estrada, Rincón

Referee: Alan Snoddy (Northern Ireland)
Assistants: Jassim Mandi Abdul Rahgman (Bahrain), Tullio Lanese (Italy)

Yellow Cards: Berthold / Herrera, Gómez, Álvarez
Red Cards: – / –

Attendance: 72,510

First Phase Group D Table

GermanyGermany (Q)3210103+75
YugoslaviaYugoslavia (Q)320165+14
ColombiaColombia (Q)311132+13
United Arab EmiratesUnited Arab Emirates3003211-90

Other results: United Arab Emirates 0-2 Colombia; Yugoslavia 1-0 Colombia; Yugoslavia 4-1 United Arab Emirates.

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