Estadio La Corregidora, Querétaro, 04.06.1986

1-1 (0-1)
Allofs 84. / Alzamendi 4.

Germany’s opening fixture of Mexico ’86 was a truly frustrating game to watch for a number of reasons, not least for the fact that the television coverage would keep blacking out throughout the ninety minutes. There would be a few minutes of action, some scratchy noises, a screen freeze – and then the appearance of a “temporary fault” message – something that could easily have been applied to a German side that started the tournament in a truly woeful fashion. Rather mercifully, I did not have to endure this at the time as I was serving a World Cup match ban of my own.

I can tell that you are probably a little bit confused. “World Cup ban?” Eh?

Let me provide a little bit of a background here. During Mexico 1986, I was at a boarding school in Somerset, and like everybody else would be subject to the same lights-out rules. Quite simply, us fourth years had to be in bed by 10pm at the very latest, and skulking around the common room after this witching hour was a big no-no. In fact, by being anywhere outside of your own dormitory you ran the risk of being consigned to washing up or log-chopping duty for a week. All of you other World Cup enthusiasts are probably now pointing out that the Germany-Uruguay match kicked at at midday Mexican time, which meant that it would have started at around 5pm in the UK – so how could it have been affected in any way my having to be in bed by 10pm?

I’ll bet that you are now even more confused – so let me explain by taking things back a few days.

On the first of June, France played Canada in their opening group game in the city of León. It was the first late kick-off of the tournament, and was all set to be the first game all of us football freaks were not going to see. But not me. Oh no. I had already planned to do a World Cup relay with my dorm-mate, where we would take turns to watch the match in ten minute segments. Our dormitory was two doors away from the common room, so sneaking in and out didn’t involve us having to navigate the network of dark corridors and spiral staircases. Yes, the place was like Hogwarts, though with rugby being played on Wednesday afternoons instead of Quidditch™.

The first half would pass by without incident, both on the pitch and in the common room, where the volume was lowered right down and the brightness adjusted to the point where you could just about differentiate between les Bleus and their Canadian opponents. The second half kicked off, and my dorm-mate hopped off to the common room for his ten-minute stint. Still goalless, with the French looking awful – particularly the young Jean-Pierre Papin who on any other day would have bagged half a dozen goals. Or not, if he really was as rubbish as we thought he was.

It was now my turn. I slowly made my way to the common room, being careful not to let the door slam. I switched the television back on (we had switched it off in between relays) and prepared to settle down for my ten minutes. No sooner had I seen the awful Papin fluff yet another opportunity in front of goal, I heard footsteps in the corridor. Human footsteps, but also canine ones. Oh schiesse. I desperately leaped towards the television and hit the off button, and quickly attempted to scoot backwards behind the large and rather battered sofa. But too late. I looked up to see the Head accompanied by his trusty German Shepherd – and a torch shining straight into my eyes.

“Ricky. I thought you were a good boy. Now go!”

The following day I would find myself banned from watching World Cup matches. Not just the late kick offs, but all World Cup matches. And guess who volunteered to enforce the ban? Yep, my bloody dorm-mate and wannabe-prefect. Needless to say I didn’t drop him in it, but I really did want to throw the little shit into the pond.

For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t get to see Papin’s seventy-ninth minute winner.

The long of short of it is that would also never get to see the Uruguay game live, and had to endure people charging into my room shouting “3-0 to Uruguay!” and other inane rubbish during the course of the evening. With no teletext on the primitive television and of course no Internet, I had to wait until the following day to be sure of the score by looking it up in the newspapers. Ah, newspapers to get the sports results. Those were the days. I had to wait until I got home after the summer holidays to actually watch the match, which my brother had recorded for me – a copy I still have to this day having transferred it from VHS onto DVD.

I guess you are all now a little bit tired of tales of my childhood schoolday shenanigans, so back to the match itself…

The opening moments of the match (one that I had to wait over two months to see…) could best be described as ordinary, with a series of inconsequential passes in the middle of the field by both sides; looking to do something different, Lothar Matthäus picked up the ball just inside the German half and explicably attempted to volley a backpass – for what reason I still after all these years have no idea. The ball ended up nowhere near ‘keeper Toni Schumacher, and would instead fall to Uruguay striker Antonio Alzamendi who despite getting away from Klaus Augenthaler’s desperate lunge and rounding Schumacher tried his very best to mess things up by clattering the ball against the underside of the bar. Luckily for the him, the ball bounced back down behind the line, sparking wild celebrations among the small but loud group of South American fans.

Less than five minutes had passed, and Germany had conceded one of the most ridiculous goals of the tournament; from a nothing situation, they had immediately put themselves under unnecessary pressure. One can only wonder what Matthäus had been thinking when he made the decision to play that suicidal backpass – or what expletives Franz Beckenbauer might have been serving up from the dugout when he saw Alzamendi wheeling away towards the touchline with his shirt over his head. The German team was a one that had long prided itself on its midfield craft and defensive ability, but this blancmange of a goal provided evidence of anything but.

Having taken what was an unexpected lead, the Uruguayans then embarked on what was their familiar tactic of stifle and disable, turning the match into a turgid affair. Things were not helped by the fact that the German side looked increasingly tired and lethargic in the Mexican midday heat, particularly in midfield where there was little in the way of incisiveness and movement. Oh how we wished for a Bernd Schuster or a Hansi Müller to provide that creating spark that was desperately lacking.

The start of the second half would see the introduction of midfield dynamo Pierre Littbarski, who came on for the more orthodox Andreas Brehme – and the nimble 1. FC Köln winger soon made his presence felt. However there was still no sign of a German equaliser.

Captain Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was then introduced into the fray for the disappointing Matthäus with some twenty minutes remaining, and despite not being fully fit would make an immediate difference. Suddenly, the green-clad Mannschaft looked alive – and actually looked as though they could breach what up to that point had proved to be an obdurate Uruguayan defensive line.

With Rummenigge now providing the link between what had been a midfield previously bereft of ideas and a front line previously starved of decent service, things finally started to happen: with just over five minutes of normal time left on the clock, 1.FC Köln stalwart Klaus Allofs was finally able to find enough space to get onto the end of a hopeful punt from the centre circle and sweep the ball into the net for what was a deserved equaliser – a moment that brought much relief to coach Franz Beckenbauer and the German fans who had spent much of the day baking in the mid-afternoon Querétaro heat.

Klaus Allofs celebrates his late equaliser against Uruguay in Querétaro

In the end the Germans were well worth the 1-1 draw – but it could so easily have turned into a disastrous start to the tournament.

Germany FR: Schumacher (c) – Augenthaler – Berthold, Förster, Briegel – Matthäus (75. Rummenigge), Eder, Magath, Brehme (46. Littbarski) – Allofs, Völler

Uruguay: Alvez – Diogo, Acevedo, Gutiérrez, Batista – Barrios (56. Saralegui), Bossio, Francescoli, Santín – Alzamendi (80. Ramos), da Silva

Referee: Vojtěch Christov (Czechoslovakia)
Assistants: Hernan Silva Arce (Chile), Carlos Alberto Silva Valente (Portugal)

Yellow Cards: – / Diogo, Saralegui
Red Cards: – / –

Attendance: 30,500

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