When Cheating Prospered


by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 4th 2014)


Tonight Joachim Löwʼs Germany must face another of the victims of the 1982 West Germany teamʼs win at all costs mentality. They beat Algeria in an entertaining and sportingly contested match – just. This afternoon they face Didier Deschampsʼ France in the first of Brasilʼs World Cupʼs quarter-final at Rio de Janeiroʼs Estádio do Maracaña – Estádio Journalista Mário Filho. Löw knows that yet another shameful injustice will loom large tonight.

Germanyʼs victory over Algeria – played in a sporting way – laid the Shame of Gijón of 1982 to rest. West Germany reached the final through disgraceful lack of sportsmanship – match-fixing in Algeriaʼs case and wanton thuggery in Franceʼs case. West Germany had fixed the result against Austria in the first round in order to ensure that both reached the second round at Algeriaʼs expense.

FIFA shamefully rejected Algeriaʼs complaint. Both teams made no effort as they swindled paying fans and football to secure the disgraceful result. Both should have been sent home in disgrace and banned for at least the next tournament, which West Germany also lost in the final. If FIFA had had the morals or courage to do the right thing then one of the sportʼs most disgraceful so-called challenges would not have occurred.

Schumacherʼs Assault

On July 8th 1982 France and West Germany met in the semi-final of the World Cup at Sevillaʼs Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pijuán. It proved to be one of the most infamous matches in the history of the World Cup Finals thanks to the vile cheating of West German goal-keeper Harald Schumacher. Dutch referee Charles Corver and his linesmen Bruno Galler and Robert Valentine missed one of the most blatant and outrageous fouls ever seen on a football pitch – one that broke not only the rules of the game, but of France too.

Schumacherʼs shoulder charge left Patrick Battiston unconscious. He had only been on the pitch seven minutes and French manager Michel Hidalgo had to bring on his last substitute. Corver claims that he was watching the ball and did not see the foul. If he missed that he had no business refereeing and even if he failed to see it – a disgrace of a challenge – what about the linesmen?

Battiston was stretchered off with current UEFA President Michel Platini accompanying the stretcher off the pitch trying to comfort Battiston.


Not only was Battiston knocked unconscious he lost teeth and had vertebrae damaged. He still carries the scars, but Battiston generously forgave Schumacher. He still believes that Schumacher did not do it on purpose – he was just incredibly pumped up. Battiston was not impressed with Schumacherʼs comment that heʼd pay for Battistonʼs crowns.

Schumacher was not punished at all for the horror-challenge. Corver gave the French nothing – not even a free-kick., let alone the red card that disgraceful assault deserved. Schumacher may not have intended to injure Battiston, but he did. It was nowhere near a fair challenge, or a mistimed one.

Battistonʼs outrage is reserved for his country. He believes that Corverʼs refereeing favoured West Germany. Two years later France hosted Euro1984. West Germany were defending champions. They failed to reach the knock-out stages. France, including Battiston, went on to win their first major trophy.



Les Bleus France Advance to Quarter-Final

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30th 2014)

Super-Eaglesʼ Jinx Continues 

With just over ten minutes remaining a tight match turned decisively in Franceʼs favour. Lilleʼs Vincent Enyeama flapped at Mathieu Valbuenaʼs corner and palmed it to Paul Pogba. Juventusʼ midfielder nodded it in to give Didier Deschampsʼ team the lead. It was a pity that the last keeper to concede a goal in the first round and jointly led keepers throughout Europe in clean sheets and made important saves in this match made the mistake that cost the Africans champions dear.

Two minutes into injury a different corner routine also involving Valbuena led to the second. A short corner to the Marseille midfielder caught the Nigerian defence out. Valbuena squared it for substitute Antoine Griezman. Enyeama was beaten by a deflection off Super-Eagles captain Joseph Yobo. Shortly after the Fenerbahçe defenderʼs error, Deschamps allowed Valbuena to receive a well earned ovation from French fans and waste a bit of time.


On the balance of play France deserved to continue Nigeriaʼs last sixteen jinx and put the horrors of their wretched campaign four years ago firmly behind them. Deschamps chose to deploy Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema on the left and Arsenalʼs Oliver Giroud in the striker role. Both proved ineffective. The introduction of Griezman proved to be the turning point.

Nigeria had been the better side in the first half. After 18 minutes CSKA Moscowʼs Ahmed Musa – the first and so far only Nigerian to score two goals in a match at the World Cup Finals – crossed for the much touted, but so far ineffective Emmanuel Emenike to score his first goal with a deft flick past Tottenham Hotspurʼs Hugo Lloris. Sadly for Stephen Keshi and his assistant Daniel Amokachi it was ruled offside and it was – just.

Turning Points

A mistimed but reckless tackle by Paris Saint-Germainʼs Blaise Matuidi ended Lazioʼs Ogenyi Onaziʼs afternoon. Matuidi was shown a yellow card by American referee Mark Geiger. Matuidi was genuinely apologetic to Onazi, but the midfielder was stretchered off. He would not return.

Enyeama made a couple of important saves, but could do nothing when former Newcastle United favourite Yohan Cabaye picked up the pieces of John Mikel Obiʼs clearance and shot from outside the area. He was very unlucky that it beat Enyeama, but struck the crossbar.

Midway through the first half Pogba surged through the centre, playing a neat one-two with Valbuena before volleying. Enyeama denied him. With just over twenty minutes remaining Benzema and Griezman combined on the left to create a golden opportunity for Benzema. Enyeama took the pace off it and Victor Moses scrambled back to clear.

Eventually the pressure told. France got the goals to take then through to the quarter-final and a tie against either Algeria or Germany.

France Eliminate Ecuador and Top Group

by Valery Villena © Valery Villena (June 25th 2014)

France Progress

France could not find a way to breach Ecuador’s defense even though the South Americans played with only ten men since the 50th minute after their captain Antonio Valencia was sent off in this intensely contested match which did not produce a winner – it was a 0-0 draw, but could have easily ended in a French victory or even an Ecuadorian triumph, as both teams had good chances to score. The result saw France advance as group winners and Ecuador was eliminated.

Prior to this encounter Didier Deschampsʼ French team was viewed by some as serious contenders in this exciting World Cup – already considered by most to be the best tournament ever – after destroying Honduras (3-0) and Switzerland (5-2) in their first two matches.


In the sixth minute French defender Mamadou Sakho was extremely fortunate not to be sent off by the Ivorian referee Noumandiez Doué after delivering an elbow to the face of Ecuador’s midfielder Oswaldo Minda. The tens of thousands of Ecuadorian fans who packed the Estádio do Maracanã felt aggrieved and showed their disgust and disapproval by jeering the referee who did not even book the offender.

The game was evenly matched with France enjoying a little more possession. In the 37th minute les Bleus had their best chance when Morgan Schneiderlin’s excellent cross resulted in Juventusʼ midfielder Paul Pogbaʼs header which was heading for the opening goal, but a spectacular save from ʻman of the matchʼ Ecuadorian goal-keeper Alexander Domínguez. Three minutes later it was his French counterpart Hugo Lloris’ turn to save a point blank header from Enner Valencia.

Game-Changing Incident

Almost immediately at the start of the second half, Antonio Valencia saw red for a studs- showing tackle on Paris Saint-Germainʼs Lucas Digne, who laid on the pitch injured and received medical treatment. It was a well-deserved red card that the Ecuadorian captain could not protest in the least bit.

Following the sending-off, France saw most of the ball and came close to scoring a few times through Blaise Matuidi, Karim Benzema, Pogba and Oilivier Giroud, but Domínguez’s spectacular play in goal kept his team in the game. Ecuador also enjoyed a few chances to score, but Enner Valencia, Renato Ibarra and Michael Arroyo’s shots were well rebuffed by Lloris.


Ecuador kept defending heroically and counter-attacking at every chance, looking for the goal and the victory which could give them a spot in the next round. The game opened up with chances galore for both teams, but both keepers were superb. However, in a bizarre move, in the 82nd minute, Ecuador’s manager, the Colombian Reinaldo Rueda, removed forward Michael Arroyo and brought in defender Gabriel Achilier.

It seemed a bizarre decision as if he thought Ecuador would progress to the next round by hanging on to the 0-0 draw. Seven minutes later and almost into stoppage time, Rueda brought in striker Felipe Caicedo, who had been a starter until today’s match, but it proved too late.

An intense and exciting 0-0 draw meant Ecuador had once again failed to reach the last sixteen. The result means that France as group winners will be joined by Switzerland –who crushed Honduras 3-0- as the two teams from Group E that advance to the Round of 16 where they will meet Nigeria and Argentina respectively.









Magnificent France Destroy Switzerland

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 20th 2014)

Order Restored?

France made a mockery of the recent FIFA rankings. Ottmar Hitzfeld saw his 6th ranked Swiss taken apart by Didier Deschampsʼ team ranked eleven below them. 5-0 up with ten minutes to go the French switched off as Switzerland grabbed two late goals and there was still time for shades of Clive Thomas as Karim Benzema scored a stunning goal in the fourth of at least three minutes injury time after being found on the edge of the area by Moussa Sissokho.

Referee Björn Kuipers had already blown the final whistle. It hardly mattered to France who have two wins a goal difference of +6. But Switzerland now have a negative goal difference of -2. They will be watching Ecuador versus Honduras with interest hoping they cancel each other out.


Arsenalʼs Olivier Giroud replaced Juventus midfield starlet Paul Pogba in the starting line-up. He justified Deschampsʼ faith after 17 minutes, rising highest to head Mathieu Valbuenaʼs corner so powerfully that Diego Benaglio could not keep it out despite getting a hand to it. Seconds later it was two as Blaise Matuidi latched onto Karim Benzemaʼs through ball. His shot beat Benaglio at his near post – poor goal-keeping. France were rampant.

It took 27 minutes for the Swiss to penetrate the French defences, but Granit Xhakaʼs strike was rightly disallowed. It almost went from bad to abysmal less than five minutes later. The Ivorian-born former Arsenal man Johan Djourou-Gbadjeri tripped Benzema to concede a penalty. The Real Madrid striker blew the opportunity to open his account for the night as Benaglio saved to his right.

The rebound fell to former Newcastle United midfielder Yoann Cabaye. It was easier to hit the deserted net than miss, but Cabaye managed to hit the cross-bar. The reprieve was short-lived. A quick break released Giroud on the left. His cross to the back post was swept in by Valbuena.


France could have settled for what they had, but after weathering an early second half storm led by substitute Blerim Dzemali. France regrouped and after 67 minutes Benzema finally got his goal. He could and possibly should have had a hat-trick. Pogba put him through for Benzema to put it through Benaglioʼs legs to score.

Six minutes later Swiss captain Gökhan Inler gave possession away, resulting in a quick break. Benzema delivered to Sissokho at the back post. Newcastle Unitedʼs midfielder completed the scoring for les Bleus. A small degree of Swiss honour was restored thanks to dreadful defending at a free kick especially by Benzema.

Dzemaliʼs free-kick went through the French wall to beat Lloris at his right-hand post. With three minutes of normal time remaining Inler set Xhaka up at the back post to beat Lloris once again to boost Switzerlandʼs battered goal difference. Benzemaʼs late strike didnʼt count. It remains to be seen how important that turns out to be.



The Battle of Porto Alegre

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 15th 2014)

Class Gulf


The criticism levelled at Luís Fernando Suárezʼ Honduras team had no effect on the Colombian coach or his team, although French counterpart Didier Deschampsʼ comments irked the Hondurans. Nevertheless, the gulf in class was telling with Real Madridʼs Karim Benzema at the heart of all three goals.

Wilson Palacios enticed former Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba into retaliation after treading on him and kicking him until Pogba reacted and tripped him. Palaciosʼ plan backfired as referee Sandro Meira Ricci yellow carded both players. With half-time approaching Palacios paid the price. Yoann Cabayeʼs cross was almost controlled by Pogba.

Palacios made sure that Pogba could not score with a clumsy shove in Pogbaʼs back that earned him a second yellow card and France a penalty that Honduras delayed as long as they could. Benzema who had suffered a long goal-drought was back in form. He maintained his concentration and scored the penalty.

Rustic Defence

The first major foul was committed by Patrice Evra on Anderlechtʼs Andy Najar after just 7 minutes. Pogba and Mathieu Valbuena. The Marseilles midfielder brought the best out of Hondurasʼ keeper Noel Valladares Bonilla who tipped Valbuenaʼs shot onto the crossbar. But while Honduras favour the niggly method, their physical approach strayed over the boundaries of fair competition.

Emilio Izaguirre Girón was fortunate to stay on the pitch after a totally unnecessary foot up challenge on Valbuena under the nose of the refereeʼs assistant. It resulted in a gesture to calm down. But that should have been a red card. As it appears to have been seen by that official, itʼs unlikely anything can be done about it now – another reason to utilise technology.



But there was also the first goal-line technology issue. Cabayeʼs pass found Benzema in space on the left of the area. His shot hit Valladaresʼ left-hand post and rebounded to hit the keeper before crossing the line. The technology proved that it had crossed the line. Benzema had no doubt, but the way it was used was farcical. First it said no goal and then it said that it was a goal.


Both Deschamps and Suárez were confused. The goal stood and rightly so. Technology had been vindicated, but more is needed. But it was not Benzemaʼs – it was an own-goal by Valladares. The Real Madrid striker got his second and Franceʼs third when Valbuena played the free-kick on the right flank back to Mathieu Debuchy near the edge of the area. His shot rebounded to Benzema who beat Valladares at his near post. France emerged unscathed, but Honduras, who had the support of the crowd won few friends with such a cynical display.