World Cup's Craziest Moments: Trail Blazers and Broken Teeth
Stephen Brennan, a Brit, teacher, and soccer fanatic, will tell the World Cup's craziest moments over the next few days. Read the others here.
Cameroon Makes It to the Quarters, 1990
Teams outside the strongholds of South America and Europe had featured in the World Cup before. There had been upsets; North Korea beat Italy in '66, Algeria overcame West Germany in '82, and of course the United States' greatest World Cup moment came in 1950, when it famously beat England 1-0. However, Cameroon's run in 1990 is particularly memorable and has ushered in a new era where African sides are to be feared rather than humored.
In 1990, 11 of the 22-man Cameroonian squad played either in the capital, Yaoundé, or the lower French divisions. Their coach was a football journeyman from the Third Division Russian league who spoke neither English nor French and had to communicate to his players through a driver at the Cameroonian embassy in Moscow. Their star player, 38-year-old Roger Milla, had to be called out of three years of retirement as the team struggled to qualify for the tournament in Italy. To make matters worse, when they did qualify, their first game was against defending WC champions Argentina.
However, the team's hunger to succeed saw it beat the Argentinians, despite two sendings off. Not only that; the Indomitable Lions went on to defeat Romania, beat a good Colombian side in last 16, and come within eight minutes of beating England in the quarter finals. Milla was a sensation, not only for his goal scoring but for his trademark corner flag celebration. As goal scorer Omam-Biyik said at the time, "We hate it when European reporters ask us if we eat monkeys and have a witch doctor. We are real football players, and we proved this tonight."
Schumacher Flaws France, West Germany Versus France, Semifinal 1982
The semifinal between France and West Germany in Seville, Spain, was one hell of a game. Played at a frenetic pace from the first whistle, these two great sides contested a six-goal thriller. Rampant runs, gorgeous passes, and the ruthless professionalism of the West Germans against the elegant flair of the French.
However, it is not Tresor's goal or Fisher's overhead shot for which this game is remembered. No, mention this game to anyone who saw it back in '82 and the name Harald Schumacher and his horrific foul on French substitute Patrick Battiston comes to mind.
Toward the end of the second half, Battiston made contact with a beautiful pass from Michel Platini, just outside the German penalty area. German goalkeeper Schumacher barrages forward, leaping straight into the Frenchman's face. Battiston was instantly out cold, while Schumacher nonchalantly waited for play to restart so he could take his goal kick. The referee gave neither the red card nor the penalty the attack deserved.
Battiston was stretchered off the field, taken to a hospital with three broken teeth and a damaged vertebra. The ultimate irony is that Schumacher finished out the match as a hero for the Germans, saving two penalties in the penalty shootout (the first in WC history) after the game was tied 3-3 after extra time.
To Schmacher's credit, despite now being labeled "The Butcher of Seville," he offered to pay Battiston's dental bill right after the match. Later he apologized, and they became friends.