World Cup 2018: Why the final group games are played simultaneously
The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia has been in full swing for the past one week. Many upsets were witnessed in the opening group games with debutants Iceland holding Argentina to a 1-1 draw, Germany losing to Mexico and Japan defeating Colombia to become the first Asian team to beat a South American side at the World Cup.
The final group games will start from Monday with Russia facing Uruguay and Saudi Arabia going up against Egypt in Group A. One peculiar feature about these fixtures is that they will kick-off simultaneously at 7:30 PM (IST). All final group games will have a simultaneous kick-off and the reason for this dates back to the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain.
Football's mega event in 1982 saw African nation Algeria making their World Cup debut and their run of good form didn't stop as they went on to defeat West Germany in the opening game and shocked the entire world. After losing to Austria in their next game and winning the final group game against Chile, Algeria looked all set to make it to the second round, however, a disgraceful collusion between West Germany and Austria saw the debutant African nation eliminated from the first group stage.
Disgrace of Gijón
West Germany faced Austria in their final group game on the 25th of June, 1982 at El Molinon, Gijón. Algeria had already played their final game against Chile a day before and were in second position behind Austria with 4 points. Algeria looked in a good position as an Austrian victory or draw would've ensured them a place in the second round along with Austria and a West German victory by 3 goals or more would've seen them qualify with West Germany.
The opening 10 minutes of the match saw an attacking West German side take the lead through a goal by Horst Hrubesch. After West Germany scored both teams started passing the ball around in their own half and never looked like making an attacking move. They often passed the ball back to the goalkeeper and played inconsequential long balls into the opposition half. Both teams took shots with no attempt at accuracy and the only players who looked like making an effort were Austrian striker Walter Schachner and West German defensive midfielder Wolfgang Dremmler.
The game ended 1-0 and the collusion between West Germans and Austrians was clearly visible as many commentators refused to comment on the game and urged fans to switch off their television sets. The spectators at the stadium were also disgusted by the players' disgraceful display and a set of angry Algerian fans waved banknotes at the players. The Spanish daily newspaper El Comercio printed the match report in the crime section.
With this result, all 3 teams Algeria, Austria and West Germany had 4 points but the latter two progressed to the next stage due to a superior goal difference.
Introduction of simultaneous Kick-offs
In the aftermath of the game, Algerian football federation lodged a complaint to FIFA and believed that referee Bob Valentine should've intervened. However, FIFA found that no rules were broken and refused to take any action.
As a result, from 1984 UEFA Euro and 1986 FIFA World Cup the final group games were played at the same time to avoid any such occurrence in the future.
The simultaneous kick-off time ensures that no team can take unfair advantage of the other group game's result. For example, at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, after Matchday 2 all four teams in Group G were alive and had the chance to progress to the Round of 16. The final group games between Germany and USA and Portugal and Ghana had a simultaneous Kick-off so that no side could benefit from the result of the other game.
The main motive of having simultaneous Kick-offs is to maintain the sanctity of the game and ensure each team is given an equal opportunity to progress to the next stage. Over the years simultaneous kick-offs have also been experimented in domestic leagues if two or more teams are in a winning position on the final Matchday.