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. Rodriguez, Schneiderlin close to joining Pochettino at Tottenham

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:57 PM EDT

    Southampton v Fulham - Premier League Getty Images

    Two Saints look to follow their former manager to North London.

  2. PST’s Major League Soccer Player of the Week: Portland’s Diego Valeri

    Jul 28, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT

    Diego Valeri's fifth goal of the season, his second game-winner in a row, gave Portland a 3-2 win in Montréal. (Credit: AP) AP

    Timber’s game-winning goal in Montréal separated him from a tight field.

  3. After Balotelli, Martinez take “selfies” with pitch invaders, should we be worried?

    Jul 28, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Source, Twitter: @NA_B27 Source, Twitter: @NA_B27

    After two on-pitch selfie occur with players over the weekend, security needs to be stepped up.

  4. Brazil want Neymar to play at 2016 Olympics in Rio

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT

    BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JUNE 23: Neymar of Brazil celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group A match between Cameroon and Brazil at Estadio Nacional on June 23, 2014 in Brasilia, Brazil. Getty Images

    Could Neymar represent Brazil at the 2016 Olympics in Rio?

  5. Everton buy smart, sign Bosnian midfielder Muhamed Besic

    Jul 28, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    muhamed_besic AP

    Besic, 21, has signed a five-year deal with the Toffees.

  6. VIDEO: Gareth Bale scores wondergoal for Real Madrid on US tour

    Jul 28, 2014, 1:43 PM EDT

    Villarreal CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Bale smashes in an absolute beauty from distance. Check it out, here.

  7. The great Southampton exodus continues. Why is this happening?

    Jul 28, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT

    Southampton v Hull City - Premier League Getty Images

    After selling over $170 million of talent so far this summer, what are Saints playing at?

  8. US striker Terrence Boyd out injured after tearing ACL

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-RAPID WIEN-KRC GENK Getty Images

    Boyd out after injury in Queens Park Rangers friendly.

  9. Lionel Messi’s tax fraud case will go ahead

    Jul 28, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT

    Messi AP

    He may be one of the best soccer players the planet has ever seen, but Messi is not above the law.

  10. Arsenal confirm $27 million signing of Calum Chambers

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    Source: Arsenal FC Source: Arsenal FC

    Arsenal splash the cash to sign 19-year-old Southampton academy graduate.

  11. Harry Redknapp says Loic Remy failing Liverpool medical is “not possible”

    Jul 28, 2014, 10:25 AM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers' Remy reacts during their English Premier League soccer match against Everton in Liverpool Reuters

    Did Remy fail a medical at Liverpool? ‘Arry isn’t buying it.

  12. British politicians call for Russia to be stripped of 2018 World Cup

    Jul 28, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT

    Vladimir Putin AP

    Clegg, Downing Street, discuss Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.

  13. Manchester City host #AskJesus (Navas) Twitter chat, hilarious comments ensue

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT

    Navas Getty Images

    If you use the hashtag #AskJesus, expect to get results like this.

  14. Atletico Madrid sign French striker Antoine Griezmann

    Jul 28, 2014, 8:04 AM EDT

    Antoine Griezmann

    Atletico add Griezmann to partner Mandzukic in new-look attack.

  15. Arsene Wenger taking $27 million “gamble” on teenager Calum Chambers

    Jul 28, 2014, 7:38 AM EDT

    calum_chambers Getty Images

    Arsenal may be taking a “gamble” but it certainly paid off the last two times they bought teenagers from Southampton.

  16. Liverpool plays to compact 1-0 win over Olympiacos

    Jul 27, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT

    LiverpoolOlympiacos AP

    Liverpool looks focused on improving its shape heading into the upcoming Premier League season.

  17. MLS Roundup: Dallas pulls out heroic draw, Valeri gives Timbers late win

    Jul 27, 2014, 10:17 PM EDT

    Fernandez Getty Images

    Raul Fernandez held Vancouver to a draw while Portland won a 3-2 barnburner with Montreal.

  18. Petr Cech says he won’t back down at Chelsea anytime soon

    Jul 27, 2014, 7:24 PM EDT

    Cech Getty Images

    With Thibaut Courtois hot on his trail, Petr Cech isn’t about to let the youngster’s hype get in the way of his 11-year Chelsea career.

  19. VIDEO: Mario Balotelli takes amazing selfie with two pitch invaders

    Jul 27, 2014, 6:43 PM EDT

    Source, Twitter: @NA_B27 Source, Twitter: @NA_B27

    AC Milan got hosed, but Mario Balotelli had some fun as a second-half substitute.