Mighty West Germany were on the receiving end of a historic event at the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™, becoming the first side from the continent to lose to an African team at the global showpiece.
Before the match, not even the most optimistic of Algerian supporters could have envisaged anything other than a resounding victory for the Germans. The European heavyweights boasted a number of footballing superstars of the time, including Paul Breitner, Horst Hrubesch and Bayern Munich’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who had been named European player of the year in 1981 and 1982. In contrast, Les Fennecs’ leading men Rabah Madjer, Lakhdar Belloumi and Ali Fergani were little-known figures on the world football scene.
In front of 42,000 spectators crammed into the El Molinon stadium in Gijon to watch the opening match in Group 2, the game quickly turned into a tight, tactical affair with the Germans dominating proceedings throughout a goalless first period.
After the interval, however, coach Rachid Mekhloufi’s Algeria roared out the blocks with renewed vigour and fierce determination, relying on swift counter-attacking football designed to exploit the gaps left by the 1980 European champions’ relentless forward surges.
This tactic bore fruit nine minutes into the second period, when Algeria’s Madjer scored to give the Africans a shock lead. It was Djamel Zidane whose perfect pass to Lakhdar Belloumi put him through with only keeper Harald Schumacher to beat, only for the imposing German custodian to stick out a foot and deny him. Fortunately for the Desert Foxes, the rebound fell to the lurking Madjer, who fired the ball home.
The goal spurred the Germans into piling even more pressure on the Algerian backline. A clever positional switch between strikers Hrubesch and Rummenigge would prove key to their equaliser, with the latter getting on the end of a cross from Felix Magath to drag his side back on terms.
Yet less than a minute later, the Algerians had regained the lead with an almost carbon copy of Rummenigge’s goal. One of the most celebrated strikes in Algerian football history came via a lightning break down the left wing from the gifted Salah Assad, whose centre found Belloumi who stole in at the far post to tap the ball home. The goal turned out to be the winner and in the process elevated the scorer to all-time hero status in Algerian footballing circles.
What they said
“If we lose this match I will throw myself into the Mediterranean Sea,” West Germany coach Jupp Derwall.
“We played a different style of football, a style that no one has ever seen before, it is a mixture of German, Italian and Latin American football,” Algeria captain Ali Fergani.
“We’re a determined group and we’ve been playing together since 1979. We played without any fear and won the game thanks to our own brand of football, I believe that Germany are the best team in this competition which makes our victory all the sweeter,” Algeria player Rabah Madjer.
What happened next…..
Algeria lost their next match 2-0 against Austria before going on to win 3-2 against Chile, while West Germany crushed Chile 4-1 and grabbed a vital 1-0 victory over neighbours Austria. In the other group game Austria had run out 1-0 winners over Chile, which meant that both West Germany and Austria qualified ahead of Les Fennecs by virtue of their superior goal difference.
Breitner and Co went on to finish top of their second-round group and earn a semi-final clash with an exciting French side including Michel Platini. A thrilling encounter ended 3-3 after extra time, with the European champs showing nerves of steel to win the shootout 5-4.
Following their exertions against Les Bleus, West Germany were unable to overcome the challenge of Italy in the Final, with a Paolo Rossi-inspired Azzurri clinching the world title after a 3-1 success.