Nobody really expected that Algeria, who were participating in their first World Cup ever, had a chance in their opening match against the reigning European champions of West Germany and their many stars, such as the veteran Paul Breitner, Hamburg’s extraordinary header Horst Hrubesch, Bayern Munich’s Karl Heinz Rummenigge (European footballer of the year in 1981 and 1982) and the young FC Köln talent Pierre Littbarski, as the teams drew each other in the first round group 2 together with Austria and Chile.
The opening match was thus important for the Algerians who played one of the best games in their lives, and in a very entertaining match managed to pull one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history.
First half had been quite tactical, with the Germans dominating, and with most observers thinking that the Europeans champions, in spite of the lack of goals, would in the second half have no problem scoring, as first half ended 0-0. However, the Algerians came out to the second half with renewed energy and faith in their abilities and started using their quick counter-attacking players as the Germans quietly pressed forward. Nine minutes into the second half this bore fruit, when Djamel Zidane (no relation to the later French superstar) made an excellent pass that completely tore through the German defense, putting the outstanding Lakhdar Belloumi alone with Harald Schumacher. The German goalkeeper managed to deflect the shot with his foot, but the ball bounced to Rabah Madjer, the later FC Porto star, who made no mistake and surprisingly brought Algeria ahead.
The Germans now put more pressure and player harsher. Horst Hrubesch and Karl Heinz Rummennigge both had chances before the latter equalized for West Germany when he pushed in a good cross from Felix Magath. But only one minute after the equalizer Algeria went ahead again on a goal that looked almost like a copy of Rummennigge’s a minute earlier: the excellent technical player, Salah Assad, combined on the right side of attack and rushing to the back-line made a perfect cross to Lakhdar Belloumi in front of the goal, who scored what would be Algeria’s winning goal.
Lakhdar Belloumi is still considered one of the greatest stars of Algerian football of all time, but in spite of many big European clubs trying to lure him to Europe, he always remained in his hometown club GCR Mascara.
The last part of the match was both very entertaining and hectic. West Germany attacked while the Algerians defended heroically. Horst Hrubesch had a goal annulled, while Rummennigge hit the post and goalkeeper Mehdi Cerbah made an incredible save on a shot by Real Madrid’s Uli Stielike in the dying minutes.
However, Algeria was also very dangerous on the counter-attacks, and had a couple of excellent chances, as well as Madjer having a goal strangely annulled.
Jupp Derwall, West Germany’s coach, had before the match said that he would jump into the Mediterranean if they lost, but he had to eat his words and the Mediterranean was saved. Algeria had pulled a huge sensation and were now the darlings of the tournament. Losing their second match 0-2 to Austria, they got a much-needed 3-2 victory in their last match against Chile, almost putting them in the next round. However, Austria and West Germany were to play their last match right after Algeria’s victory, and both knew that the only result that would see both teams go through was 1-0 for West Germany. After only 10 minutes Horst Hrubesch scored for West Germany, and the rest of the match both teams just stopped playing while the Algerians desperately looked on.
Algeria had been eliminated by the pitiful West Germans and Austrians. Although they had obviously played on the result, FIFA made no attempts at punishing the teams. However, it did lead to one change in the rules: since then all last round matches are played simultaneously so as to avoid speculation on the result.
However, this was a meager consolation to a great Algerian team that were nevertheless the moral and real victors of the group.
- 16th June 1982, El Molinón, Gijón
- Attendance: 42,000
- Referee: Enrique Labo Revoredo (Perú)
Goals: 1-0 Madjer (54), 1-1 K.H. Rummenigge (67), 2-1 Belloumi (68)
Algeria: Cerbah; Guendouz, Kourichi, Merzekane, Assad, Fergani, Belloumi, Madjer (Larbes), Zidane (Bensaoula), Dahleb, Mansouri
West Germany: Schumacher; Briegel, Breitner, Foerster, Dremmler, Littbarski, Hrubesch, K.H. Rummenigge, Magath (Fischer), Stielike, Kaltz