The 2022 World Cup has already been filled with drama and unpredictable moments throughout the group stage. After all, tournament contenders Belgium, Germany, and Uruguay have all been knocked out of the competition. Underdogs like South Korea, Japan, and Morocco have also thrillingly qualified for the knockout round.

One of the most exciting aspects of the World Cup is the last round of group stage matches. While the early games of the tournament are spaced out so that viewers can catch all of the games, the final matches of each group are played at the same time. This is done to ensure all teams play their best and do not manipulate matches.

‘Disgrace of Gijón’ changed the rules

The rule to play these games at the same time was put into place back in 1986. It was implemented after a match refereed to as the “Disgrace of Gijón” at the 1982 World Cup. West Germany beat Austria 1-0 in the game, but both teams qualified for the next stage. The fixture was the last to be played in the group and both teams knew exactly what was needed to advance.

West Germany quickly went up 1-0 in the match and then both teams finished the fixture in lackluster fashion. FIFA claimed that no laws were broken by either team, but rearranged game times for the following World Cup.

No more simultaneous World Cup games, other changes

It has been rumored that FIFA is toying with the idea to switch to groups of three teams for the 2026 World Cup. This would most likely signify the end of simultaneous group stage games. The move would open the door for defensive soccer and possibly match manipulation.

In 2022, the simultaneous games at the World Cup provided serious drama on the last matchday of the group stage.

The next edition of the World Cup would also see 48 teams involved rather than 32. Under the new plan, FIFA would put three teams in 16 different groups, as opposed to the current format of eight groups of four teams.

Along with the disappointing group stage shakeup, FIFA could also include penalty shootouts for draws in the group stage as well. This would potentially give shootout winners an extra point in their group.

Soccer fans, however, will hope that the governing body of the sport has a change of heart of the decisions. The simultaneous final group stage games are chaotic and enthralling.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Sportimage