Cometh the Hour?


By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 12th 2014)

Wilderness Years Begin

Germanyʼs recent record in major finals is – well – unGerman. Renowned for ruthless efficiency they could be relied on to always be in the mix for major trophies, but the last time Germany lifted a trophy was in 1996. Remember who the successful coach was – a certain Berti Vogts. Argentinaʼs record is even worse. Their last appearance in the final was a losing effort in 1990 – an awful final. 

He inherited Franz Beckenbauerʼs World Cup winning team in 1990 and led then to defeat to Denmark in 1992. He left after eight years in charge after falling in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1994 and again in 1998 to Bulgaria and Croatia respectively.

Erich Ribeck led der Mannschaft (the national team) to a shameful exit in Euro2000 – bottom of their qualifying group. Rudi Völler managed one place better in Euro2004. Latvia finished below them, but two years earlier Völler led Germany to defeat in the final to Brasil. Luiz Felipe Scolari was Brasilʼs manager then.


After the failure at Euro2004 Jürgen Klinsmann replaced Völler. Germany reached the semi-final of the 2006 World Cup on home soil as Klinsmann blooded a young team and left the team to his assistant Joachim Löw, but despite the studious approach of Löw trophies continued to elude der Mannschaft. Löwʼs team matched Klinsmannʼs achievement finishing third. On both occasions Germany lost to the eventual winners.

Spainʼs rise to dominance began in 2008 in Austria. The late Luis Aragonés Suárez ushered in six years of unparalleled success by beating Germany 1-0 in the final. They knocked Löwʼs charges out in the semi-final in Durban in South Africaʼs World Cup. And in the Ukraine and Poland, Spain retained their European title, beating Italy 4-0 in the final. Germany had been beaten 2-1 by Italy in the semi-final.

Opportunity Knocks

Spainʼs defence of their world title was one of the worst ever. Sated by their three titles Spain returned home at the first opportunity. Germany continued growing into the competition with every passing match, culminating in a humiliating mauling of hosts Brasil 7-1 in Belo Horizonte – the worst thrashing ever in the semi-final of a World Cup.

The previous worst was 84 years ago in the inaugural World Cup when eventual winners Uruguay beat Yugoslavia 6-1 and the USA lost 6-1 to Argentina. Austria lost 6-1 to West Germany in 1954 as well. It had three times and at least one of them had a very good reason for losing so badly – they played a large portion of the match effectively with eight players. One of the wounded was the goal-keeper.

The USA never had a chance. The rules permitted no substitutions and Argentina had taken no prisoners on their way through to Belo Horizonte. Their goal-keeper was injured after 4 minutes. Another player played on injured and a third played with a broken leg until half time. This was before substitutions were allowed.

Best Chance

Surely Germany will never have a better chance to end almost two decades of trophylessness. They topped their group – one of the most difficult, dismantling Portugal, drawing with Ghana and just beating the USA before Algeria gave them a fright, but fell just short. They deservedly beat France and completely humiliated Brasil.

Nobody can say Germany has not reached the final on merit. They have reached finals and semi-finals, but ultimately this tournament will be viewed a failure if they fail to match Italyʼs achievement and win the World Cup for the fourth time. Germany have done well; theyʼve got close before. Is it Germanyʼs time to win the World Cup?

Arsenalʼs Lukas Podolski thinks so. “Of course”, he said before Arsenal ended their own trophy drought. “Of course we want to win the World Cup, but other teams want that as well and it was not easy. The pressure is big because we would say Germany are the favourites – the people in Germany, the newspapers say we already win the World Cup, but itʼs not easy”.



Germany Humiliate Brasil


by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (July 8th 2014)


Shorn of the talents of Neymar (injured) and Thiago Silva (suspended) Joachim Löw’s Germany dismantled the host Brasil 7-1. It was the worst defeat in a semi-final of the World Cup ever, beating the three joint best 6-1 – Argentina v the USA, Uruguay v Yugoslavia in 1930 and West Germany v Austria in 1954.

Five nil up within half an hour Germany could have notched a cricket score, but at half time they withdrew Mats Hummels in favour of Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker, having taken a decision not to humiliate their hosts. For ten minutes it was an even contest, but the bane of Brasil’s performance soon became evident as Germany cut through Brasil’s defence with consummate ease.

Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira won a corner off club colleague Marcelo. It was taken by Bayern München’s departing attacking midfielder Toni Kroos. The marking was abysmal as Kroos’ team-mate for club and country Thomas Müller was unmarked at the back post to volley in from 8 yards. Luiz Felipe Scolari’s teams are normally solid at the back. Tonight they were dismal.

Ten Minutes that Scarred a Nation

Brasil conceded the next four goals in less than ten minutes. Manchester City’s Fernandinho may wish that Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo had stayed true to form and remained a fussy disciplinarian referee against Colombia – this proved a good match to be suspended for. Fernandinho ought to have intercepted Müller’s pass to Kroos, but failed to do so. Kroos found Miroslav Klose whose shot was parried back to the German poacher – all his World Cup Finals’ goals were from within the box. Klose pounced on the rebound to become the record-holder with 16. Six minutes later Germany were 5-0 up as Brasil capitulated.

Within two minutes Germany cut swathes down the right flank. Kroos found Arsenal’s Mesut Özil who released Philipp Lahm. Germany’s captain squared for Müller to score der Mannschaft’s third. A minute later a comical defensive lapse by Fernandinho gifted another. Fernandinho made a mess of Dante’s pass, allowing Kroos to pinch possession, surge forward and a one-two with Khedira beat Júlio César Sores de Espíndola, even though the keeper got a hand to it. That was three in as many minutes.

Three minutes later the rout became embarrassing. Khedira was bossing the match and bagged himself a rare goal. David Luiz’ pass was intercepted and after exchanging passes with Kroos, Khedira bagged the fifth with less than half an hour played.


Captaining his country Luiz’ should never have completed the half let alone match. He elbowed Klose in the face twice. The first time Klose did him a favour and ignored it – the second time he went down. Replays confirmed that Luiz had indeed elbowed Klose twice. Both times referee Marco Rodríguez – the Méxican official who had ignored Giorgio Chiellini’s efforts to show him that Luis Suárez had bitten him – failed to take action.

What do Brasilians have to do to get sent off in this World Cup? In fact even yellow cards are rare. Just over a quarter of an hour into the match Marcelo went to ground wanting a penalty. Lahm’s tackle was well-timed, but Marcelo had dived. He should have been booked. Minutes earlier the same player had cynically blocked Müller and Bernard did the same to Kroos.

Hulk got in on the simulation later as well. Yet again no cards were brandished until after an hour even after the fiasco of the previous match. Luiz should have been shown the yellow card for clattering Müller right in front of the referee. And then there was his reaction to a later foul by Müller. Luiz kicked out at him, but didn’t connect. Germans fouled too, but far less. Luiz Gustavo deserved at least a card and both Fred and Óscar tried to buy penalties cheaply without success.


Both managers made changes at half time. Ramires and Paulinho replaced Hulk and Fernandinho at half time. Defensive frailties persisted – Luiz had a very poor game, but Müller couldn’t profit from his error. Paulinho almost made a quick impact, but Neuer’s double save from point blank range. A minute earlier he denied Óscar. With just under an hour played Júlio César tipped Müller’s shot from just outside the area over the bar.

A couple of minutes later Maicon became the latest to try to con a penalty. He failed, but yet again no card was shown. Finally – after three quarters of the match Rodríguez brandished a card in Dante’s direction for clattering Müller from behind. Chelsea’s André Schürrle had replaced the record-breaking Klose twelve minutes before he put Germany six up.

Lahm and Khedira exploited the weak defending on Brasil’s left. Lahm pulled it back for Schürrle to tap in. The carnage was still incomplete. A quick throw down the left wing found Müller. His reverse pass to Schürrle was sublime. Schürrle continued down the left of the area before lashing it past Júlio César at his near post for the best of Germany’s seven.

With a minute of normal time remaining Özil wasted a golden opportunity to make it eight, pulling his shot wide of Júlio César’s far post. To Neuer’s disgust Germany conceded as added tie approached. Neuer – the sweeper-keeper failed to come and clear the danger as Óscar latched on to Marcelo’s long pass to the left of Germany’s area. He cut to the right and beat Neuer to the keeper’s right. The look of disgust on Neuer’s face was priceless.

It was Brasil’s worst defeat in a tournament for almost a century – a 6-0 drubbing by Uruguay on September 18th 1920 in the Campeonato Sudamericano de Football, which is now known as the Copa América.


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.


Germany Beat Algeria at Third Attempt

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

Natural Order

Germany defied historic precedent at the third attempt to finally to see off the challenge of Vahid Halihodžićʼs brave Algeria team, but they required extra time to do it. Joachim Löwʼs introduction of substitute André Schürrle proved effective. While others including Bayern Münchenʼs Thomas Müller failed to penetrate the Desert Foxesʼ defence.

The Germans found CSKA Sofiaʼs Raïs MʼBoli in top form and the Algerian repelling almost everything thrown at them. Müller failed to add to his tally apart from an assist that owed more to Schürrle than Müller. Schürrleʼs sublime back-heel 2 minutes into the first period of extra time broke the dead-lock.

Their second, which proved crucial came late. Arsenalʼs Mesut Özil, who had been largely disappointing, squared for Schürrle to shoot as the match approached its end. His effort beat MʼBoli, but was blocked on the line by Watfordʼs Essaï Belkalem. It rebounded to Özil. The Arsenal man lashed it back. Mʼboli could not keep it out.

Despite time running out Algeria refused to give up and finally found a way past Manuel Neuer. Bayern Münchenʼs final barrier had almost played more as Germanyʼs sweeper than keeper, but was finally beaten in the last minute of injury time.

Valenciaʼs Sofiane Feghouliʼs cross from the right found substitute Abdelmoumene Djabou – one of the few Africa based players in this World Cup – at the back post. He shot across Neuer to score, but it proved too little, too late. Time ran out on the Desert Foxes.

Finishing Touch

If Algeriaʼs final ball had been up to scratch the result would probably have been different. Feghouli squandered a golden opportunity with just under a quarter of an hour played. Mehdi Lacenʼs pass. He created the space for himself, but the angle was tight. He chose to shoot – wrong choice. found the midfielder on the right but he should have cut it back to the six yard box for El Arabi Soudani rather than shoot from tight angle.

Two minutes later Algeria scored, but the officials correctly disallowed it. Napoliʼs Faouzi Ghoulam had an excellent match causing difficulties for the Germans on the left. His cross was met with a diving header by Sporting Lisbon striker Islam Slimani. It beat Neuer, but not the assistant refereeʼs offside flag.

Shortly after that Internazionaleʼs Saphir Taïder spread play to the left flank. Soudani put Ghoulam through on the left of the area, but he shot wide. Özilʼs defensive work was in tracking Ghoulam and challenging him was awful. It took over half an hour for Müller to get a real chance, slipping his marker Aissa Mandi, but his header went wide of MʼBoliʼs goal.

Bayern Münchenʼs departing midfielder Toni Kroos broke free to unleash a powerful shot that MʼBoli saved well, recovering quickly to superbly stop the rebound by Mario Götze. Ten minutes into the second half – Germany were much improved – a 25 yard effort by Philipp Lahm was tipped over by MʼBoli after good build up play by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Kroos.

MʼBoli denied another header by Müller too and Neuer swept efficiently outside his area when the long ball tactic employed by Algeria threatened. His performance summed up Algeria tonight – heroic, exceptional even, but ultimately not quite enough.

Germany will meet France in the quarter-final – another match with echoes of injustice from 1982. West Germany went all the way to the final then with cynical and shameful methods then – the fix in Gijón and goal-keeper Harald Schumacherʼs disgraceful attack on Patrick Battiston which knocked the defender unconscious. Battiston later slipped into a coma.

Disgracefully, Schumacher was never punished for what he did in Seville – not even a foul – and played a crucial role in the penalty shoot-out that followed it. And we complain about referees now.


Restorative Justice

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


Thirty-two years ago a shameful injustice occurred in Gijón. West Germany and Austria played out a disgraceful match to ensure that both progressed to the second round. The fix was as obvious as it was shameful, but FIFAʼs response was even worse. Both Austria and West Germanyʼs teams did what they had to in order to suit their own interests – they cheated the fans and football itself.

Not only was the match fixed, giving both the result that suited themselves, but they preserved energy that their next opponents did not have the opportunity to do. It was as ungentlemanly conduct as could be imagined and Algeria – the victims of the fix – went home. Adding insult to injury FIFA rubber-stamped the fix by dismissing Algeriaʼs complaint about it.

The Previous Fix

FIFA had the opportunity to prevent this shameful episode in its history. West Germany and Austria had the opportunity to engineer the fix because of an anomaly. Algeria had played earlier, so both knew exactly what result suited them both before their so-called match. That should never have happened as four years earlier an even more notorious fix occurred.

Brasil had played earlier, so Argentina knew that they had to beat Perú by at least four goals. They won 6-0. Over the years more and more came out about that disgraceful fix. The then dictator of Argentina – one of the vilest men of the twentieth century General Jorge Videla – visited Perúʼs dressing room at half-time to ʻremind them of their dutiesʼ.

The Condor Moment

There were further allegations that the fix resulted in economic ʻfavoursʼ for Perú and that it was part of the infamous Operation Condor – a despicable agreement where various South American dictatorships tortured, disappeared or murdered political opponents. On May 25th 1978 thirteen Peruvians were the victims of ʻextraordinary renditionʼ before the term became commonly used to Argentina.

Their lives were saved by a journalist reporting their arrival in Argentina. Years later after the fall of Videla and the end of Perúʼs military dictatorship details of alleged deals for Perú to throw the match against Argentina that would allow Argentina to reach the final at Brasilʼs expense – something Videla needed to exploit the popularity of the football to legitimise his tyranny – began to emerge.

Too Little Too Late

Argentinian judge Norberto Oyarbide demanded the extradition of Perúʼs former dictator Francisco Morales Bermúdez over the rendition of the 13 Perúvians in 1978. Perú refused to extradite the former general. Meanwhile, ʻcoincidencesʼ abound. Shortly, after the match secured the result that Videla needed Argentina signed a food aid aid deal with Perú guaranteeing 23,000 tonnes of wheat per year.

The truth about the fix has never been established as FIFA has yet to investigate it. The allegations surrounding the 1978 World Cup remain raw over 35 years later, but one question rarely gets asked. Why werenʼt the crucial matches played at the same time? That would have prevented the shameful fix from happening at all.


And even more importantly, in the four years after Argentinaʼs World Cup why had FIFA failed to initiate changes that could prevent repetition. If FIFA had not dropped the ball so shamefully after Videlaʼs interference West Germany and Austria would never have been in a position where they could cheat Algeria and football itself.

Tonight Vahid Halihodžić will have no trouble with motivation. Islam Slimani and his team-mates have already made history this campaign. They have the opportunity to make some more and avenge the injustice of Gijón too.


Algeria Earn Another Crack at Germany

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 26th 2014)


Sporting Lisbonʼs Islam Slimani has earned a permanent place in the hearts of Desert Foxes supporters along with the heroes of 1982 Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi – the scorers of Algeriaʼs goals against West Germany. Slimaniʼs 60th minute header equalised Aleksandr Kokorinʼs 6th minute goal.

The draw against Fabio Capelloʼs Russia was enough for Algeria to advance to the knock-out phase for the first time in their history and a clash against of all countries, Germany, the villains of 1982. Algeriaʼs coach Vahid Halihodžić kept his job due to fan-pressure. He has made it clear that the Desert Foxes are playing for their fans.

The North-African nationʼs first appearance in the World Cup Finals left a bitter after-taste. This time they had their fate in their own hands, barring a very unlikely result in the other group match Belgium versus South Korea. That never looked likely as even facing ten men South Korea were beaten 1-0. Algeria only needed to avoid defeat and did so.


Taking advantage of a clash of heads that left Valenciaʼs Sofiane Feghouli requiring treatment for a head injury, Russia broke forward. Dmitri Kombarovʼs enticing left-footed cross was powerfully headed in by Aleksandr Kokorin. In pole position Russia sat back and stifled the match. Algeria had to score, making them vulnerable to the counter-attack.

Sergei Ignashevich playing his 100th match tackled Feghouli as the attacking midfielder advanced towards the area. Ignashevich then foiled a cross meant for Slimani too. But Russia had offensive ambitions too. Oleg Shatovʼs penetrating run culminated in a 30 yard shot that went just wide, but Algeria posed a threat too. Abdelmoumene Djabouʼs corner was nodded on for Slimani to head powerfully towards the top corner. Igor Akinfeev took no chances, saving to his left, but it wouldnʼt have counted as referee Cüneyt Çakir had spotted an offside

A minute into the second half Russia had a chance to ease their worries. A lovely move by Russia included a one-two between Kokorin and Aleksandr Samedov before the latterʼs shot required a great save by MʼBoli to keep Algeria in the competition. Five minutes later Kerzhakov showed exemplary determination to force his way past Djamel Mesbah and Tottenham Hotspurʼs Nabil Bentaleb to get shot away, but it was deflected for corner.

The misses proved costly as dreadful marking by Kombarov left Igor Akinfeev stranded as Slimani headed Yacine Brahimiʼs free-kick in for the equaliser that reversed positions. Russia needed to score and Algeria could settle for the draw that they had. They held out for the remaining half hour. Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakir quite rightly booked Algerian squad member Liassine Cadamuro-Bentaïbo when he came off the bench to boot the ball high into the stands to waste some time. Çakir added extra time too. The Desert Foxes would not be denied. A last sixteen tie against Germany was too enticing.



USA Qualify despite losing to Germany

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 26th 2014)

Müller downs Klinsmannʼs USA

There was no question of an easy and convenient draw that would have suited both teams. Joachim Löwʼs team defeated his former bossʼ USA 1-0. Thomas Müller scored the only goal of the match after 54 minutes. He joins Brasilʼs Neymar and Argentinaʼs Lionel Messi as the tournamentʼs top scorer to date on four goals.

With Portugal beating Ghana 2-1 in the other match the result was enough for both Germany and the USA to go through to the last sixteen. Arsenalʼs record signing Mesut Özilʼs corner was returned to him before he crossed from the right. Club colleague Per Mertesackerʼs header was parried by American goal-keeper Tim Howard. Müller curled his shot into the opposite corner to Howardʼs left. There was nothing that the 35 year-old Everton keeper could do about it.


In 2006 Jürgen Klinsmann took a young German team to the semi-final of Germanyʼs World Cup playing entertaining attacking football. Klinsmann resigned – he lived in the USA and commuted. The future for German football looked bright. Klinsmannʼs assistant at that tournament took over. Löw has yet to deliver the big prize – Spain proved a formidable barrier, but both Löw and Klinsmann remain true to their principles and football philosophy.

Nevertheless clear cut chances were at a premium prior to the goal. Müller was thwarted by a couple of last ditch blocks by the LA Galaxyʼs Omar Gonzalez, but the better chances fell to the Americans. Michael Bradley released Graham Zusi on the left just outside the area. Zusiʼs shot curled just over Manuel Neuerʼs goal. Ten minutes later Bradleyʼs through-ball just eluded Jermaine Jones – an integral part of Klinsmannʼs influx of German-American talent.

At half time the false 9 tactic gave way to a record-equalling centre forward Miroslav Klose. It almost bore fruits immediately. Bayern Münchenʼs Jérôme Boateng crossed for Klose shortly after the second half began, but the impressive Gonzalez intercepted again. Minutes later Philipp Lahmʼs cross was just too high for Klose.


A nasty collision between Jones and substitute Alejandro Bedoya left both Americans needing treatment. Bedoya had been rightly booked seconds after coming on for a foul on Bastian Schweinsteiger. During injury time the USA pressed for an equaliser they only needed for pride.

DeAndré Yedlinʼs ball into centre was laid off by Jones for Bedoya to shoot, but a superb block by Lahm averted the danger. Moments later US skipper Clint Dempseyʼs header from Jonesʼ nod-on cleared Neuerʼs bar. Germany held on to top the group while the USA reached the last sixteen – a huge achievement in such a tough group for a country where football is a minority interest sport. They would almost certainly face Marc Wilmotsʼ young Belgium side while Germany could face Algeria – victims of an infamous fix 32 years ago between West Germany and Austria which changed the format of the group stage of the World Cup.