No.11: Toni Schumacher Flattens Patrick Battiston (Spain, 1982)
Sometimes no matter how encapsulating a contest is, an unsavoury moment can overshadow it.
In the 1982 World Cup, the semi-final between France and West Germany was an absolute classic. One of the finest matches in World Cup history. But if you ask people to recount their memories from that particular game, they won’t remember the vibrant football played by the French or unshakeable will to win showcased by the Germans. They typically remember something all the more sinister.
The game started at a phenomenally frantic pace. Pierre Littbarski gave Germany the lead early on in the contest, before Michel Platini equalised for France from the penalty spot.
Prior to kick-off, this one was billed as a clash of styles and thats exactly how it panned out. The French knocked the ball round with swagger and poise, whilst the West Germany side were doing their utmost to rough up their opponents with some strong challenges.
Not long after the break, Patrick Battiston was introduced to the game after Bernard Genghini limped off. His introduction seemed to inject some real impetus into the French effort, and they began creating chances at will, with the majestic Platini pulling the strings.
It was Platini once again who was involved as the French created another opening. His gorgeously floated pass split the German defence and Battiston was racing onto it. The German goalkeeper Toni Schumacher charged out of his goal, but his efforts looked to be futile, for was never going to reach the ball first.
But did he pull up? Slow down? Try to stop the ball? Well, not quite:
What happened next?
Schumacher’s hip crashed into Battiston’s face, leaving the French midfielder unconscious and short of three teeth. He was treat with oxygen on the pitch and lay almost motionless for four minutes.
The referee didn’t give a foul and Schumacher got the game back under way with a West Germany goal kick. Despite this, the incident is considered by many to be the worst piece of foul play that has ever been seen in a World Cup.
As fate would have it, the German ‘keeper then went on to play a vital role in the match. Schumacher made several crucial saves as France piled on the pressure throughout the second half. The match went to extra time, and went Les Bleus netted two early goals to go 3-1 up, their place in the final looked as good as sealed.