Algeria factors into this week's World Cup format and 1982 scandal

Algeria factors into this week's World Cup format and 1982 scandal
Algeria's Lakhdar Belloumi, left, celebrates after scoring the second and winning goal for his team during a World Cup soccer match against West Germany in Gijon, Spain, on June 16, 1982. (Associated Press)

World Cup watchers who welcome the schedule format that calls for the last two games in each group to happen concurrently can credit the scandal of 1982. (Conversely, blame can be directed at the same miscarriage of justice from viewers who dislike the overlapping matches.)

Algeria had completed successful group play in '82, highlighted by an incomprehensible upset of West Germany. One German player, as legend goes, had told an Algerian beforehand that he would compete with a cigar in his mouth. Another had vowed that the Germans' seventh goal of the game would be dedicated to the players' wives and the eighth to their dogs.

After Algeria's win, it was poised to advance from the group unless the Germans defeated Austria by one or two goals, in which case those two would proceed, based partly on the tie-breaking factor of goals difference.

The foes essentially fixed their match, with the Germans scoring early and the sides wandering around aimlessly for about 80 minutes. No shooting, few lengthy passes, little running, minimal tackling. The 1-0 final score was convenient for both.

There already was growing sentiment to alter the schedule after a less egregious matter from 1978. Argentina knew it needed four scores against Peru to outpoint Brazil, which had wrapped up its group agenda earlier in the day, to gain an edge in goal difference. The Argentines, adjusting their strategy, amassed six goals and bumped aside Brazil to advance.

For the 1986 tournament, the plan that featured simultaneous games was adopted. In Brazil, they run Monday through Thursday, and the final pair involves Algeria, which is still alive in Group H.

This time, the Algiers will not have to worry about hanky-panky in another game.