Algeria’s chance to avenge ‘Disgrace of Gijón’ after 32 years

Underdogs will again look to play tight defensive game against Germans

Thirty-two years is a long time to wait for revenge but for Algeria the chance will finally come when they take on Germany at the Estádio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre this evening.

For the North Africans it will be the first time they have ever played in the World Cup’s second round, and fittingly it is against the nation that robbed them of the chance to do so in Spain in 1982.

Back then, in a game nicknamed the Anschluss – but better known as the Disgrace of Gijón – West Germany and Austria played out a tepid but convenient 1-0 German win that saw both sides progress to the second round at Algeria's expense, despite their own sensational win over West Germany in its opening game.

Amidst widespread disgust among fans, the Algerians claimed collusion between the German-speaking neighbours. Fifa predictably refused to take action but as a result of the furore decided that all final group games would in future be played simultaneously, a retrospective acknowledgement that the Germans’ behaviour had not been entirely sportsmanlike.


Those distant events will be on Algerian minds today. " it. Everyone talks about Algeria and Germany from 1982," said their coach Vahid Halilhodzic.

Not wanting to give Algeria any extra motivation ahead of their first World Cup knockout match, his counterpart Joachim Löw was busy trying to play down the historical significance of the clash.

Feigning naivety

“Why should players who weren’t even born then want revenge?” he asked, feigning a touching naivety about the role of historical grudges in sport.

Algeria will need all the motivation they can get, going into the clash as underdogs against one of the tournament’s favourites. They will once again look to play their tight defensive game based on a huge physical commitment to denying their opponents space. To maintain energy levels they have sought a special dispensation from an imam not to observe the start of the Ramadan fasting period.

The side's four goals against South Korea and the late equaliser against Russia show they can also attack, and they will hope strikers Islam Slimani and Sofiane Feghouli will be able to pose problems for a German defence composed entirely of centre backs. Per Mertesacker looked hesitant at times in their 2-2 draw against Ghana.

Fearsome midfield

That said, Germany will be looking to their own fearsome midfield to dominate the game. To do that they will hope

Bastian Schweinsteiger

has fully recovered from the knee injury that forced Löw to ease him into the tournament. He was impressive during his 75 minutes against the USA, and the relative cold in the far south of Porto Alegre should benefit a player lacking full match sharpness.

But in the first grumblings of discontent from a German squad with more top talent than places available, Real Madrid's Sami Khedira – who lost his starting berth to Schweinsteiger – criticised the midfield's performance against the USA as "too slow" in an unsubtle demand for his own re-inclusion against Algeria.

But Löw's insistence on a role for Toni Kroos and maintaining captain Philipp Lahm in midfield despite the problems in defence exposed by Ghana means he feels forced to choose between Schweinsteiger and Khedira, something most managers would consider an enviable if unnecessary task.

Löw will also have to rejig his attack as Lukas Podolski has not recovered in time from the thigh injury that forced his withdrawal at the interval of the US game. That could mean a start for Miroslav Klose and with it a chance for him to become the World Cup's all-time top scorer, having tied Ronaldo on 15 with his equaliser against Ghana.

An instinctive poacher, he will look to get closer than Podolski to Thomas Mueller, Germany's player of the tournament so far who, after a blistering start, has slipped back in the race for the golden boot.

Get back into contention in that race and his German team will likely be facing a mouth-watering European heavyweight clash against France in the quarter-finals.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America