My Favorite World Cup Match: July 8, 1982, The Magic of Seville
With the World Cup right around the corner, the inevitable debates come up as to which was the best ever World Cup match.
In the lead up to the main event we are naturally inundated with Television Specials and highlights from past World Cups.
To pick a favorite World Cup match varies depending upon your generation.
Experts will point out to World Cups that might be decades remote from our own lifetime. These matches usually stand out due to high drama, many goals, score reversals, big names involved, sending offs, etc…
However, there is little emotional resonance when you have not witnessed Gordon Banks making a save from Pele, Rivera scoring in overtime vs. West Germany or Geoff Hurst’s last minute overtime winner in 1966 (They think it’s all over, Well it is now..).
Since the 1982 World Cup, turned me into a fan, naturally my favorite World Cup match is from that Tournament.
Though not a very original choice, the Semifinal match between France and West Germany in Seville’s Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium on July 8th, 1982 stands out as my preferred choice.
Over a decade later in an Interview, France’s Captain Michel Platini stated that just in that one match he went through every possible emotion that any person can go through.
To those of us who witnessed the match on our Television sets, we could not agree more, irrespective of our allegiances and even if we were neutral.
Thirty years later this match is still talked about and referenced and has become an unforgettable memory for the participants as well as the global audience that witnessed it.
By this stage of the Tournament, after Brazil’s elimination, France had become the neutrals’ favorite due to their positive displays especially in the Second Round.
The French squad, managed by Michel Hidalgo, had improved as the Tournament had progressed with Alain Giresse and Dominique Rocheteau in fine form.
Their weak point had been the goalkeeper Jean-Luc Ettori who many viewed as too nervous and inexperienced to inspire confidence.
Photo From: Onze, December 1982(Alain Giresse and Hans-Peter Briegel)
The West Germans, managed by Juup Derwall, had not made themselves popular especially after the farce match vs. Austria in the Group stage, but had advanced due to hard work and determination, if not brilliance.
They were a far more physical team exemplified by towering figures such as Hans-Peter Briegel, Manfred Kaltz and Horst Hrubesch.
Captain Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had not been fully fit throughout the World Cup, but nevertheless had managed four goals up to that point.
West Germany had taken the lead in the 17th minute, after Ettori could only parry an attempt by Fischer; the deflected ball reached Pierre Littbarski who scored from outside of the box.
Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 84, January 1996(Littbarski scoring for West Germany)
The French tied up the match in the 26th minute through a penalty kick by Platini, awarded after a foul by Bernd Forster on Rocheteau.
The real Drama started early in the second half. French midfielder Bernard Genghini was injured and substituted in the 52nd minute by Patrick Battiston.
With barely ten minutes on the field, Battiston was sent clear by Platini with only goalkeeper Harald Schuamcher to beat. His lobbed attempt went just wide, however, the onrushing Schumacher collided with him.
Photo From: L’Equipe, L’equipe de France de Football, La Belle Histoire(Schumacher and Battiston’s collision)
Such was the impact that Battiston was knocked unconscious and lost two teeth.
The sight of Platini holding his hand while he was being taken off with a stretcher became one of the lasting images of this World cup.
Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 84, January 1996
(Battiston with Platini)
With no more midfielders on the bench, Hidalgo had to send in defender Christian Lopez as a defensive midfielder.
To everyone’s amazement, not only Dutch referee Charles Corver did not award a penalty kick, but also Schumacher was not sent off nor even shown a yellow card.
Corver instead awarded a goal kick for West Germany.
With the score even after full time, the match went into extra time.
Perhaps due to the fatigue, most of the goals and entertainment was saved for these thirty minutes.
The more adventurous French took the lead two minutes into the overtime. They were awarded a free kick on the right side. Giresse crossed it near the penalty kick spot to his Bordeaux club mate, the veteran Marius Tresor, who had been remarkably unmarked. He smashed a volley into the net.
Photo From: Onze, July 1982(Tresor scoring with a volley)
Six minutes later, Platini passed to Didier Six on the left side, who in turn passed it to the onrushing Alain Giresse whose long distance shot deflected off the post into the net.
Giresse’s celebration would also become one the most famous images of this Cup.
With France up by two goals, many believed the match was wrapped up and perhaps France themselves believed it as well.
By now Derwall had replaced midfielder Briegel and sent on striker Rummenigge to make a difference and he did.
Just four minutes after Giresse’s goal, he pounced on a cross from Littbarski from the left and gave the Germans some hope.
Photo From: Chronik des deutschen fussballs, 2005
(Rummenigge about to score despite pressure from Janvion)
Six minutes after that, in the 108th minute, a cross from Littbarski on the left was headed across the goal by Hrubesch and Klaus Fischer tied up the match with an overhead kick.
The teams were scoreless for the final twelve minutes and for the first time in World Cup History a match was to be decided by a penalty kick shoot-out.
France started first and both teams converted their first two attempts by Giresse and Manuel Amoros for France and Kaltz and Paul Breitner for West Germany.
Rocheteau scored on France’s third attempt, but Uli Stielieke failed in his attempt and broke down in tears.
While the cameras were on the tearful Stielieke, they missed out Schumacher’s save on Didier Six’s attempt.
Littbarski scored in his attempt to level the shoot-out.
Platini and Rummenigge converted their respective attempts.
France’s Maxime Bossis missed his attempt, leaving Hrubesch to score his and settle the tie for West Germany.
However, West Germany’s victory had come at a price. Their opponents in the Final, the Italians were fresher while the Germans were physically more exhausted. In addition, their victory had seemed unjust due to the Schumacher-Battiston incident and the general public opinion was against them and not surprisingly they lost the Final with the crowd against them.
After the match vs. France, a journalist notified Schumacher that Battiston had lost teeth in the incident. Schumacher was quoted saying “if that’s all that’s wrong with him, I’m prepared to pay what it costs to have them crowned.”
When he published his very controversial autobiography, Schumacher claimed that no malice was intended in his response. He had been fearful that Battiston had suffered worse head injuries and was grateful that he had not.
A few years later Uli Stielieke was asked in an interview that some of the French players had found him too aggressive, his reply was that if to win a match of that importance one has to be aggressive, then yes he could have been. An attitude filled with determination, which was in sharp contrast with France’s lack of winning mentality.
This match had lasting effect especially on the French Football. To this day when one utters the word Seville in French Footballing lexicon, it is understood to be this match and all that it encompasses.
French observers have referenced this match as their romanticism being overcome by rugged resilience and stronger mental strength.
Succeeding French Football Generations would learn to be tactically and mentally stronger and often reference this match as a learning experience.
France were able to build up on this experience and two years later triumphed in the European Championships on home soil and in fact were able to overcome and reverse a seemingly lost Semifinal in overtime vs. Portugal and credited the lessons learned in Seville.
This match will still be talked about for years to come for its significance to the History of the game and especially my generation who got to watch it.