The hero and villain of a Seville thriller
Schumacher inflicted horrific injuries on Battiston in a thrilling semi-final
He was controversially impatient as the Frenchman received treatment
Schumacher then emerged as the hero in the shootout
“All in all, goalkeepers today are cooler and calmer than when I was playing. I was a big mouth back then, and frequently had to pay the price for that too. But you do need courage for that. At the end of the day it's a question of character.”
This was what Harald ‘Toni’ Schumacher told FIFA.com in 2011, acknowledging the volatile mix that made him one of the most controversial players of his generation. And in one match, both famous and infamous, those qualities and deficiencies were laid bare before the world.
The game itself, a thrilling semi-final in Seville that took place on this day in 1982 and in which six goals were shared by West Germany and France, is renowned as one of the all-time great FIFA World Cup™ encounters. So dramatic was it, in fact, that Michel Platini – despite ending up on the losing side, and going on to win European titles with both club and country – remembered it as "my most beautiful game".
"What happened in those two hours encapsulated all the sentiments of life itself," said the captain of France's 1982 side. "No film or play could ever recapture so many contradictions and emotions. It was complete. So strong. It was fabulous."
Schumacher was at the heart of the drama throughout, and the image above captures him producing a vital save from Maxime Bossis in the penalty shootout that decided the outcome. The Cologne keeper had already kept out Didier Six, and these heroics paved the way for Horst Hrubesch to fire home the winning kick and complete a remarkable German comeback. "They showed such strength of character," coach Jupp Derwall said afterwards, referring to the fact that his players had been 3-1 down with just 12 minutes of extra-time remaining.
But while Derwall called for his team to be given "the credit they deserve", most of the post-match focus – and attention in the years since – has centred on the game's most notorious moment. On that occasion, Schumacher shared centre stage with Patrick Battiston, and neither would be able to forget the collision that left the latter badly injured and the former cast forever as a villain.
Battiston, a substitute who had been on the field a matter of minutes, broke two teeth, cracked three ribs and damaged a vertebra when he was flattened by the German keeper's wild charge from goal. Having seemingly ignored the ball, and somehow avoided punishment, Schumacher incurred yet more criticism by seeming unconcerned and even impatient while the Frenchman was treated.
In fact, as he explained later in his autobiography, the retreat to his area betrayed his nervousness about the extent of Battiston's injuries. “It was cowardice," he acknowledged. "Perhaps it was the first moment in my life when I was a real coward.”
For his part, Battiston bore no grudge. "I have forgiven," said the former Saint-Etienne and Bordeaux star. "Over time I have come to realise people have forever marked him with this."
Moreover, plenty in France believe that this incident proved crucial in uniting the team – and the nation – ahead of their triumphant UEFA EURO campaign two years later. "People started loving football in France from the time [of that semi-final]," Gerard Houllier said. "Everyone thought they were the victim of something and in France we like victims. We got together. Two years later we were European champions."
As for Schumacher, he endured frustration in the 1982 Final and again emerged with a runners-up medal four years later in Mexico. No-one, however, could deny that he departed the World Cup having made an indelible mark.
Did you know? The original match ball from this classic World Cup semi-final numbers among the unique artefacts at the FIFA Football Museum in Zurich.