Thanks to the 2-2 draw between the United States and Portugal on Sunday, FIFA faces its nightmare scenario: two teams needing a draw in their match to ensure progression into the knockout round.
Cynically, all the United States and Germany need to do in their Group G clash on Thursday is sit down, pick some grass, have a nap, and do absolutely nothing. A 0-0 draw would see both teams through to the knockout round, no matter what Portugal or Ghana do in their match.
It’s a scenario FIFA has done its best to prevent, after the infamous farce in Spain 1982 that saw an 80-minute kickabout between West Germany and Austria, sending Algeria home and bringing shame to both sides. Knowing a one-goal West German win would see both sides through, both sides sat on the ball after the goal was scored, despite the growing jeers from angry fans.
The “Non-Aggression Pact of Gijón,” as it’s known in Germany, is seen as one of the lowest points in World Cup history, making a mockery of the competition and depriving the tournament of seeing the underdog Algerians make history.
It was the catalyst that sparked FIFA to schedule the final slate of group matches to be played simultaneously, so outcomes aren’t clear until the very end.
But the specific series of events that could render that system moot have happened in Brazil. Germany and the U.S. both sit on four points, while Ghana and Portugal both have one. If Germany and the U.S. tie their match, it is impossible for Ghana and Portugal to catch them.
Immediately after the Portugal-United States match, the questions began to swirl — will we see a repeat of 1982? Will U.S. manager and former Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann collude with his friend, German manager Joachim Löw?
For Klinsmann’s part, he isn’t biting.
“You’re talking about a game that is decades away in its own part of German history and is not part of the United States,” he told reporters.
“The United States is known for giving everything they have in every single game. If you look in the past, we make things happen. Otherwise Mexico wouldn’t be here.”
Klinsmann is referring to the Americans’ final match against Panama in World Cup qualification, a meaningless tie for the U.S., but crucial for Mexico. The Americans saved Mexico’s World Cup hopes with two goals in injury time, allowing El Tri to clinch a playoff with New Zealand.