A long-time 'deskie' dabbles in plenty of things without really focussing on anything 'seriously'. Loves economics, football, cricket, films, reading and believe it or not long-distance running!

B Baskar

France vs Germany – A personal journey

| Updated on July 04, 2014 Published on July 04, 2014

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The quarter final clash between France and Germany tonight at the Maracana stadium at the ongoing FIFA World Cup has brought back some wonderful memories.

Having grown up in a North Indian city in the seventies without TV, my first encounter with world football was a cover picture of Sportstar brought by a cousin of mine visiting from Madras. The picture was that of Argentine captain Daniel Pasarella holding aloft the World Cup and standing with him were Mario Kempes with his shaggy hair, Leopoldo Luque with handle bar moustache and, if memory serves me right, Oswaldo Ardiles. Inside were a number of pictures and reports of the recently concluded World Cup held in Argentina which I lapped up with the gusto of a typical 13-year-old.

It was four years later after I had moved to Madras that I got to see World Cup action on TV. The tournament was being held in Spain and it had expanded from 16 teams to 24 and it was here that the world got its first glimpse of a man called Diego Maradona. I remember the now defunct Sportsworld had run a comic strip on all the World Cup tournaments held thus far which had served as a ready reckoner for me.

There were only replays of the initial round of matches so I couldn’t get to see the magic of Zico, Socrates and Falcao live early in the tournament nor was their heartbreaking exit at the hands of Paolo Rossi’s Italy telecast live. The two semi-finals and the finals were telecast live. The first semi-final between Italy and Poland was a lively encounter with Italy easily getting past Poland, thanks to a brace by the in-form Rossi.

The France-Germany match was the late night kick-off, which many later went on to describe as one of the best World Cup matches ever. The match kicked off around midnight with just me and my cousin sitting eagerly in front of a black-and-white Dyanora TV with a blue tinted screen. Some of the biggest names of the game then were on display – the German team boasted Rumenigge, Breitner, and a talented youngster Littbarski while France had Platini, Tigana, Girese and Rocheteau.

The Germans, the reigning European champions and one of the favourites to lift the Cup had started disastrously by losing to Algeria. Then came their hugely controversial 1-0 win over Austria in their final group match which allowed both teams to go through at the expense of Algeria in what is now called as ‘The disgrace of Gijon’. It took years of German football to get rid of this taint and even in this Cup at the round of 16 match there were plenty of spectators screaming ‘Gijon.’

France had also started badly by losing to England in their opening tie 3-1. But as the tournament progressed they got into their stride and by the time they reached the semis they genuinely fancied their chances of lifting the Cup.

To say that the match lived up to its billing would be an understatement. The Germans scored first with the talented Pierre Littbarski getting on the score sheet. The French pressed forward and won a penalty a few minutes later with the legendary Michel Platini converting it at ease. Both teams were attacking with verve but there were also some vicious tackles flying thick and fast.

The most explosive moment of the match came in the second half in which France were gaining ground. Platini’s terrific pass sent Patrick Battiston through to the German goal when the German goalkeeper Harald ‘Toni’ Schumacher came rushing out and crashed into him. Seconds later Battisiton was lying flat on the ground with three teeth missing. He was stretchered off the pitch and given oxygen before being sent to the hospital. Incredibly enough France neither got a penalty nor was Schumacher given a red card.

The match continued to sizzle with both sides having chances with France’s Manuel Amoros clattering the cross bar in the dying minutes of the game. The match went into extra time and within minutes France had scored twice and the scoreline read 3-1. But the Germans were in no mood to give up with Rumenigge scoring first and then Klaus Fisher equalising with an outstanding scissor kick. The match went into penalties with Schumacher saving twice and the French goalkeeper Ettori saving only once. The French quite rightly believed that they were robbed off a place in the finals by Schumacher’s thuggery. But the match left me exhilarated and emotionally exhausted and got me truly hooked on to the game.

Four years later the two teams met again in the semis in Mexico, but there was to be no revenge for France. Germany won that match 2-0 as France were left drained after defeating Brazil on penalties in the quarter-finals.

So will the Germans be third time lucky or will the French finally get their revenge?

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Published on July 04, 2014
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