World Cup: Why Are Today’s Games at the Same Time?

  • Share
  • Read Later


It’s because of a shameful game played 28 years ago.

The final day of the group stage in the 1982 World Cup in Spain saw the opportunity to advance out of Group 2 up for grabs. Algeria, playing in its first World Cup, had defeated Chile the day before to claim a 2-1-0 record. The Chileans were eliminated, but the West Germans (1-1-0) and Austrians (2-0-0) were still alive — and, crucially, playing each other. The facts were these: A draw or an Austrian win would send Austria and Algeria on, a German win by three or more goals would send West Germany and Algeria on, and a German win by one or two goals would send both teams playing on through.

Unfortunately for the Algerians, that is exactly what happened. After a goal by West Germany’s Horst Hrubesch early in the first half, both teams seemed content to accept 1-0 as a mutually-beneficial final score. They lazily passed the ball around themselves for the remainder of the game, neither team making another serious attempt on goal. The players were booed and called “cowards” by spectators, and announcers implored those watching at home to switch off their sets.

Both Austria and West Germany denied that they had colluded, and despite protests from Algeria, FIFA let the result stand. However, the sport’s governing body did decide on a remedy for the future: In all subsequent World Cups, the final games of the group stage have been played simultaneously to prevent match fixing. This was a small consolation for Algerian soccer fans, who saw their best team in national history eliminated by the worst game of soccer ever played.