Skip to content

France, Germany, and one of the ugliest incidents in World Cup history

Jun 30, 2014, 8:39 PM EDT

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 5.38.00 PM

As Germany closed out its Round of 16 win over Algeria, we heard Jon Champion allude to 1982, only this time, the ESPN broadcaster wasn’t talking up the collusion-angle that’d been reprised ahead of Monday’s game. Instead, Champion was alluding to one of the more notorious incidents in World Cup history, one that will come to the attention of a new generation of soccer fans ahead of Germany’s meeting with France on Friday in Brazil 2014’s quarterfinals.

It was the first two straight semifinals where West Germany would face Michel Platini’s France, eventually eliminating them on penalty kicks after the 3-3 draw. In the second half, however, the match was marred when German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher collided with France’s Patrick Battiston, sending the defender to the ground as he pursued a ball at the edge of the German penalty box.

Battiston would eventually be stretchered from the field and require oxygen after a hit that knocked out two teeth, cracked three ribs, and left the French player with a damaged vertebrae. Battiston didn’t regain consciousness for 30 minutes and eventually slipped into a coma.

No foul was called on the play. From YouTube:

Perhaps Champion describing this as a near-decapitation was an exaggeration, but he’s not the only one to put the incident in such graphic terms. The play is commonly referenced among the worst challenges in the sport’s history, making it even more inexplicable Schumacher was allowed to continue.

From The Observer’s Tim Pears, published six years ago:

[…] As the German journalist Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger puts it: ‘Just prior to crashing into Battiston he [Schumacher] did a little jump and turned his upper body in order to ease the impact. Ease it for himself, that is, as the helpless Battiston was hit in the face by Schumacher’s hipbone with full force, immediately going down unconscious.’

[…] By grim chance the Seville police had, for some unknown reason, barred Red Cross officials from the sidelines. It took three minutes for a stretcher to appear, lifted up from some basement store beneath the stands. Eventually uniformed men with Red Cross armbands trotted on […]

[French captain Michel] Platini later said that he thought his team-mate was dead. ‘He had no pulse. He looked so pale.’ Finally Battiston was carried off, accompanied on one side by a medic, on the other by Platini, who walked along bent towards Battiston’s ashen face. The unconscious player’s right arm flopped over the side of the stretcher, and Platini took Battiston’s hand. He spoke softly to him as he walked. As they neared the edge of the pitch, Platini raised Battiston’s hand and kissed it.

The whole report, posted on The Guardian’s website, is worth a read (that’s a big selection, but it’s only a small piece).

Battiston eventually forgave Schumacher, but reliving the incident remains difficult. From Goal.com:

“I have forgiven [him],” he told RTL. “But I don’t want to speak about it in these circumstances.”

Schumacher recently apologised once again for his actions but Battiston revealed that he has no interest in burying the hatchet with the German face to face.

“I do not particularly want to meet him,” the former Bordeaux man confessed. “Over time, I realise that people have forever marked him with this. But now it’s finished.

“It was [an incident] on the field of play; we’ll never know if it was deliberate or not.”

Thirty-two years ago, soccer was truly a different game. Had that foul occurred today, Schumacher likely gets dismissed, leaving his team without their starting goalkeeper for the impending penalty kick shootout (West Germany eventually lost to Italy in the final). Even back in 1982, there was outrage about how the incident was handled.

Thankfully, the sport’s changed. In addition to increased scrutiny on the field, the culture around the game is less forgiving when a player shows such blatant disregard.

Still, we’re likely to hear a more about this incident in the lead up to Friday’s quarterfinal. Though unfortunate, the play serves as a small, extreme reminder of how far the game’s hopefully come.

Latest Posts
  1. Brendan Rodgers: Liverpool lacks big-game mentality

    Apr 19, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Liverpool - FA Cup Semi-Final Getty Images

    Following Liverpool’s FA Cup semifinal loss to Aston Villa, the Reds’ boss said his side must learn how to deal with the occasion in big matches.

  2. Report: 8 gunned down during Brazilian soccer fan club meeting

    Apr 19, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    Corinthians Getty Images

    The horrible attack comes the night before a local derby, but police have ruled out fan violence as a motive.

  3. VIDEO: “I Was There” visits both sides of the Manchester derby

    Apr 19, 2015, 2:34 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 1.05.17 PM

    Go inside the Manchester Derby match day experience with a pair of supporter groups.

  4. David Silva may have escaped the worst following scary injury

    Apr 19, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT

    Silva Getty Images

    The Manchester City winger was sent home quickly from the hospital and he confirmed the “tests have gone well.”

  5. VIDEO: Pellegrini talks straightforward win over West Ham

    Apr 19, 2015, 1:27 PM EDT

    Pellegrini Getty Images

    The Manchester City manager wouldn’t be drawn into questions about his future at the club.

  6. Newcastle 1-3 Tottenham: Chadli, Eriksen see Spurs into sixth

    Apr 19, 2015, 12:51 PM EDT

    Spurs Getty Images

    Spurs bracketed halftime with a pair of goals and they stood tall to Newcastle’s spotty threat.

  7. Aston Villa 2-1 Liverpool: Gerrard denied fairytale ending as Villa stun Reds, reach FA Cup final

    Apr 19, 2015, 11:58 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-FACUP-ASTONVILLA-LIVERPOOL FBL-ENG-FACUP-ASTONVILLA-LIVERPOOL

    Villa will play Arsenal in the FA Cup final after beating Liverpool against all the odds.

  8. Jose Mourinho: Chelsea had Manchester United’s stars “in our pockets.” Is he right?

    Apr 19, 2015, 11:39 AM EDT

    Chelsea v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Mourinho plays up defensive masterclass. But how did he quell United’s attackers?

  9. Watch Live: Newcastle vs Tottenham (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Apr 19, 2015, 10:44 AM EDT

    StJamesPark Getty Images

    Spurs search for a European place as they take on struggling Newcastle from St. James’ Park.

  10. Manchester City 2-0 West Ham: Two first half goals put down poor Hammers

    Apr 19, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT

    ManchesterCity AP

    The home side produced enough moments at the Etihad to see off a timid West Ham side.

  11. Memphis Depay is a major summer target for top teams according to PSV exec

    Apr 19, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT

    Depay Getty Images

    With his goal of an Eredivisie title secure, Memphis Depay will be a popular transfer target this coming summer.

  12. VIDEO: Odd James Collins own goal opens scoring at the Etihad

    Apr 19, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT

    Goal Getty Images

    The West Ham defender flubbed an easy clearance and sent the ball into his own net as Manchester City have dominated West Ham in the first half.

  13. Borussia Dortmund names Thomas Tuchel as Jurgen Klopp’s successor

    Apr 19, 2015, 8:16 AM EDT

    KloppTuchel Getty Images

    Thomas Tuchel will follow in Jurgen Klopp’s footsteps for the second time when he takes over at Borussia Dortmund this summer.

  14. Watch Live: Manchester City vs West Ham (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Apr 19, 2015, 7:52 AM EDT

    PellegriniAllardyce AP

    A pair of slipping sides meet at the Etihad in a rematch of last seasons title-clinching win for Manchester City.

  15. Injuries piling up for top teams as Modric, Mertesacker go down

    Apr 19, 2015, 7:31 AM EDT

    Mertesacker Getty Images

    It’s that time of year, where big clubs look to the bench to replace important players in big games.

  16. MLS Snapshot: Real Salt Lake 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

    Apr 18, 2015, 11:39 PM EDT

    Darren Mattocks, Vancouver Whitecaps Getty Images

    Two red cards for RSL, a late goal for Vancouver and the Whitecaps just keep winning.

  17. WATCH: The 2 Robbies answer the question, “Should Chelsea worry about entertaining?”

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT

    Robbie Earle & Robbie Mustoe, The 2 Robbies Robbie Earle & Robbie Mustoe, The 2 Robbies

    Do the top teams have a responsibility to entertain, or should they look to win at all costs, no matter how boring it may be?

  18. MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew SC 3-0 Orlando City SC

    Apr 18, 2015, 9:29 PM EDT

    Federico Higuain, Columbus Crew SC Federico Higuain, Columbus Crew SC

    Crew SC are going to be a really, really scary team once they get going. They picked up a great deal of steam on Saturday night.

Featured video

Hazard seals victory for Chelsea