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WC 2006: The best semifinal I ever saw
2006-07-03 21:13
by Bob Timmermann

In the summer of 1982, I was 16 and getting ready for my senior year of high school with a couple of summer school classes, but other than that, I didn't have a lot to do. I worked for my dad in the evenings, but my days were free and I got a chance to watch a lot of the World Cup that year from Spain. For what I believe was the first time, Spanish language TV in Los Angeles was showing nearly all of the matches live. Prior to that, most World Cup matches were only shown on closed circuit TV in movie theaters. And those movie theaters tended to not be in the San Fernando Valley.

The Final Four (as it were) that year were: Germany, France, Italy, and Poland.

I really can't do justice in recounting all the events in the match since I can't keep track of all the names. The World Cup website has a good recounting of the match between Germany and France in Seville.

What I remember about the match are these things:
1) German keeper Harald (or Toni) Schumacher clobbering France's Patrick Battiston late in the second half and knocking him out of the game. Literally. Battiston was knocked unconscious and lost a couple of teeth. And the French had to use their last sub as you only got two back then.
2) It was the first time I had seen an international match go into overtime. So, being an American and not quite understanding the Univision announcers. I assumed that the French won once Marius Tresor scored two minutes in. But they kept playing. And then Alain Giresse scored again. "Ahh, they play the whole period," I thought. Then Heinz-Karl Rummenigge scored. Then the ref blew the whistle.
And I thought, "Well, France won 3-2!" But no, I found out then that they just switched ends. And the Germans got another goal in the 108th minute on a spectacular goal by Klaus Fischer. Then the whistle blew 12 minutes later. This time, they finally stopped playing.
3) I sort of knew there was a penalty kick tiebreaker and for some reason, I knew how it worked. And it was exciting to watch. The first three guys on France made theirs, before Germany's third man missed. Then France's Didier Six (a really cool name) choked his. Pierre Littbarski tied it up at 3-3. Michel Platini made it 4-3 France. Rummenigge made it 4-4. Maxime Bossis went up to the spot for France and Schumacher stopped him. And Schumacher looked like the most evil man on the planet then. I was surprised he didn't take the ball and eat it to show his contempt. Horst Hrubesch made his PK and the Germans went to the finals.

The weird thing was that I found myself rooting for Germany in the match. I have no idea why. The Germans were the bad guys. Schumacher was a thug. The team was not warm and fuzzy. Yet, I wanted them to win. I felt exhilirated after watching that match. It had surpassed an earlier match that I had considered the best of the tournament, Italy's 3-2 upset of Brazil in the second round (which was round robin that year.) I doubt that either of the semis this year will match that drama. And I certainly hope that Jens Lehmann doesn't turn into a Toni Schumacher.

But if France and Germany meet in the final, expect to see this match dredged up again in even greater detail.

2006-07-03 22:25:56
1.   Greg Brock
That was a great story, Bob. My first great World Cup memory was the Italy/Argentina semi-final in 1990. But it doesn't hold a candle to the tale you just told. Really well done.
2006-07-03 22:37:51
2.   Bob Timmermann
You should watch the video on the link at the FIFA website. It's the German TV feed showing Fischer's goal. The only thing I understand is "Fischer" and "Drei und Drei!"

It's amazing how primitive the TV coverage was then. There rarely were replays shown during the coverage. And they usually weren't in slow motion.

2006-07-03 22:43:00
3.   Greg Brock
It's funny. Mother Brock was a foreign exchange student in Brazil in the 60's, so she naturally became friends with every Brazilian in the Redondo Beach/Torrance/Palos Verdes area. Thusly, my intro to international soccer was through friends who got old satellite feeds of international matches, and old vhs tapes from South America. I saw the "Hand of God" about a year after it happened. US cable would largely have nothing to do with it. How things have changed.
2006-07-03 22:45:59
4.   Bob Timmermann
The "Hand of God" game should have been on NBC and live. They didn't delay the games from Mexico.

Charlie Jones calling the action.

2006-07-03 22:49:13
5.   Greg Brock
Yes, but I was a youngin', unawares of the importance of World Cup action. Only through alternate channels was I aware of the magnitude, and a year later at that.
2006-07-03 22:57:58
6.   Linkmeister
My goodness. That was a good story, Bob. I admit I never paid any attention to soccer until a few years ago, but you managed to make it interesting.

I remember a rock (well, dirt-clod)-throwing incident featuring Palos Verdes Drive when I was 10.

2006-07-03 23:05:00
7.   Greg Brock
I don't think there is a man among us who hasn't gotten in trouble for a dirt-clod related incident at one point or another. Dirt clods are God's little gift to 8-12 year old boys. Dirt-clods, slingshots, and bb guns define us all.
2006-07-03 23:38:07
8.   Bob Timmermann
You mean nobody else watched that match?

Then I guess my work is done here.

2006-07-03 23:49:23
9.   Greg Brock
It was a really good story, Bob.
2006-07-03 23:55:12
10.   Bob Timmermann

ABC showed the final that year.

They had commercials during it!

2006-07-04 00:08:45
11.   Greg Brock
When the story of American interest in soccer is written, I truly believe the '94 Cup will have played a far greater role than people believe. The TV coverage, the youth involvement that resulted, etc. Stories like yours should be collected, so that we can examine the genesis of American soccer interest. A more ambitious and eloquent writer than I is probably working on it as we speak.
2006-07-04 00:49:37
12.   xaphor
Great re-cap. I only have faint memories of that game being young and upset about our exit in the second round despite allowing only one goal the entire tournament.

One of the great things about not having a rooting interest in a tournament is how open one is to the entire field rather than fixating on a single team. Growing up it is hard to remember the games England was not directly involved with and once England was out the rest of the tournament always felt like torture. It's foolish, yet continued enjoyment always feels like betrayal.

It certainly doesn't help to have a field of France, Germany and Italy. Even after the Euro I didn't mind Portugal, but they're on the list for this year. Than again torture is second nature for the British :)

Bring on the WBC. It was a nice change of pace not caring who wins and loses.

2006-07-04 02:06:29
13.   Backstop
Oh yeah, I remeber that game....was 13 at the time, already a 'veteran' of the '74 and '78 WC's....our team (Holland) hadn't qualified for this WC, so it was the first time I really watched it for the football, without a rooting interest. And the first name that pops into my mind when I think about the '82 WC is Paolo Rossi...he scored what? 6 goals that tournament, and all in the final rounds of the tournament? And the incredible play of Brazil, especially the game against Argentina in the second round. After that I thought there was no way they were not going to make it to the semi's...but then came Italy and Rossi, who, if I remember correctly, scored all three goals in the final second round match against Brazil. And then came the game you mentioned...poor Battiston. And eternal shame on us, as the referee was Dutch...he didn't even pull a yellow for that foul. I think Battiston had his mouth wired shut for 6 weeks after the incident. But what a game....

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