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The Most Controversial Match In World Cup History

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dpa/Corbis

When Algeria lines up for their crucial World Cup Round of 16 match against Germany, it will be the first time the African nation has ever participated outside the tournament's group stage. They had a chance in 1982, but a dubious result between two other nations denied them the opportunity. That match was so controversial, fans burnt flags and money, television commentators begged viewers to change the channel, and FIFA eventually changed the World Cup's format to prevent anything like it from ever happening again.

One of the teams in that controversial match was West Germany, which makes Algeria's upcoming showdown all the more dramatic. Let's go back to the 1982 World Cup to find out what exactly happened on the pitch in Gijón between West Germany and Austria. Take us to Spain, Naranjito!

In 1982, West Germany were the most dominant force in world soccer. After winning UEFA Euro 1980, they cruised through qualification and easily earned a spot at the World Cup in Spain. Their first match was against Algeria, a team that West Germany could have beaten while chomping on cigars. Those aren't my words — a member of the West German team actually said they would be able to trounce Algeria while enjoying cigars. Another German reportedly boasted, "We will dedicate our seventh goal to our wives, and the eighth to our dogs."

When they actually played the match, however, there would be no dedications to Fräuleins or German Shepherds. Algeria beat West Germany 2-1, turning the entire tournament on its head. No African nation had ever even won a World Cup match until four years prior (when Tunisia topped Mexico 3-1), and now Algeria had put a global superpower on their keisters.

As group play continued, West Germany rebounded and thrashed Chile 4-1, while Algeria stumbled against Austria and lost 0-2. Then, on June 24th, Algeria squeaked out a 3-2 victory over Chile and earned a spot behind Austria at the top of the group with four points (back then, a win was only worth two points). West Germany still had their last group match to play against Austria, scheduled for June 25th. The Algerians had 24 hours to wait and hope for either a draw or an Austrian victory (a West German win by three goals or more would have also sufficed, as it would have knocked Austria below Algeria via goal difference).

The Algerians had reason to hope, too. Austria shocked West Germany 3-2 in the round of 16 of the previous World Cup (a.k.a. "The Miracle of Cordoba"), and before the 1982 match, Georg Schmidt, Austria's manager, said, "My players always find a special motivation against Germany." A valiant effort from the Austrians looked to be in the cards before kick-off, and not the result that would send both European teams through: a narrow West German win.

But then the match started at El Molinón stadium in Gijón. Horst Hrubesch (the pride of Hamm, Germany) scored in the 11th minute. And then...well, not much else happened. It soon became evident that the 1-0 scoreline was on remarkably sturdy ground. Some half-chances fell to the teams here and there, but they looked content to pass the ball around and conserve energy. According to the Guardian, at half-time, "one of the German players makes a beeline for an Austrian...puts an arm round his shoulder and engages him in discourse." Rumors abound that the two teams had decided at half-time that 1-0 was how it would end.

Now, here comes a big fat hedge: There is no concrete proof that the two teams conspired to achieve this result. It's not like they formed a circle around the ball and sang "Im Mӓrzen der Bauer" as the clock neared 90'. It's entirely possible that the world just witnessed an especially drab match, and not a monumental loogie to the face of sportsmanship. It's even more likely that both teams knew this result was mutually beneficial, and they decided to conserve energy and subconsciously suppressed their killer instinct (not easy, given the participants).

BUT...a hedge is different than a pardon. The Guardian compiled some stats to see just how lackadaisical the play was:

Opta have a detailed archive of every World Cup game since 1966, and there are some belting statistics for [the second half]. There were only three shots, none on target. West Germany made only eight tackles, around one every six minutes. Both sides had an overall pass-completion ratio in excess of 90%, a level usually reserved for people like Xavi and Paul Scholes – and, more tellingly, Jamie Carragher, the king of the no-risk pass. Austria had a 99% success rate with passes in their own half; West Germany's was 98%.

You can also check out these "highlights" and decide for yourself. (Man of the Match has to go to the video editor responsible for culling anything approaching competitive play from the available footage):

If you don't think something fishy was going on, spectators and commentators at the match certainly did. A huge section of Algerian fans in the stadium waved money and lit it on fire as soon as they suspected foul play. A German supporter in attendance reportedly burnt his country's flag and Robert Seeger, the man doing play-by-play for Austrian TV, asked viewers at home to change the channel. Afterwards, "a group of West German fans went to the team hotel to forcibly articulate their interpretation of the game...the players bombarded them with water bombs from the balcony."

The match is still known as "The Disgrace of Gijón" or, to those who have no qualms about equating sports with war, the "Anschluss."

The Algerians demanded that FIFA investigate the result, but the federation's three-and-a-half hour meeting about the subject returned no proof of tampering or illegality. Instead, they changed the rules to make it so the last match of each World Cup group stage happen simultaneously in the hopes of preventing any sort of collusion ahead of time. Obviously, this is little consolation to the Algerians, who in 1982 had to watch West Germany make it to the World Cup Final from the discomfort of their homes.

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entertainment
Impossible Figure Skating Moves from the Movies
Paramount Home Video
Paramount Home Video

Figure skating is always one of the most anticipated events during the Winter Olympics. But in Hollywood, filmmakers have taken a few liberties on the ice, namely when it comes to some of the technical elements. And the judges are not impressed. Here are a couple of skating moves that could never have been completed without a bit of movie magic.

THE CUTTING EDGE

It's a climactic moment near the end of the 1992 movie, The Cutting Edge, when figure skater Kate Moseley (played by actress Moira Kelly) turns to her pairs partner Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney) just before they are to take the ice at the Olympics and excitedly declares, “We're doing the Pamchenko!”

Frantic, Doug tries to talk her out of it. “Forget it. It's too dangerous,” he yells over the sound of the cheering crowd at the skating arena.

They argue right up to the very moment their music starts on the ice about whether to attempt the controversial “Pamchenko twist,” a highly difficult and dangerous maneuver their coach invented that, if completed during their skate, would mean an instant gold medal. Long story short (spoiler), they execute the move flawlessly and the movie ends with no doubt that they've won Olympic gold.

It's a triumphant ending. But let's just say there's a very good reason the filmmakers used a series of cuts to create the illusion that they actually did the move. The truth is, the Pamchenko twist is impossible.

Earlier in the film, coach Anton Pamchenko (Roy Dotrice) tosses a bunch of weathered looking diagrams onto the ice during a practice that detail a highly dangerous pairs move he has been inventing for the last 20 years.

Intrigued, Doug takes a look. “A bounce spin into a throw twist ... and I catch her?”

The Pamchenko twist does have a basis in reality. It is composed of two parts, as Doug deftly put it. The first part is a “bounce spin,” which is a real move that is actually illegal in competition, per International Skating Union rules. It's often performed in exhibitions and shows because it is quite a death-defying crowd-pleaser—the man grabs the woman by her feet and swings her up and down as he rotates. The woman's head typically comes mere inches from smashing on the ice if it is done correctly. If done incorrectly ... well, just try not to think about that.

The second part is a “throw twist,” more commonly known as a “split twist.” This is a required technical element in high-level pairs competition. To get full credit, a man and woman must start skating backward together. The male partner typically launches the female above his head, where she splits her legs and twists in midair as she pulls them back together. The man catches her as she comes down. Elite-level pairs teams regularly complete triple-twists (the woman does three rotations in the air). Two-time Olympic champions Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov completed a textbook split triple-twist in their long program in the 1988 Olympics—the first technical element in this video.

Now, put the bounce spin together with the throw twist. The physics just don't compute. The centrifugal force built up during the bounce spin would launch the woman—assuming she is released at the highest point of the bounce spin—on a parabolic trajectory. In theory, she could use the momentum to twist in the air, but it's highly unlikely that she would be thrown high enough to pull it off without getting her head smashed onto the ice during the bounce spin. And even if she did, the horizontal trajectory would launch her so far away from her partner that there's no realistic way he could have enough time to stop his own momentum from the spinning and traverse the distance to catch her.

Pamchenko says in the film that it's all about the timing. But frankly, it's not worth risking the horrifying injuries that would inevitably result to test his theory. There are plenty of other legal and physically possible moves pairs skaters can spend their time and energy perfecting.

BLADES OF GLORY

In Blades of Glory, Will Ferrell and Jon Heder play two champion singles skaters who are banned from men's competition for life after an unseemly incident at a competition. Desperate to get back on the ice, they team up as a pair. In order to stand a chance of beating reigning pairs champions Stronz and Fairchild (Amy Poehler and Will Arnett), they attempt a highly dangerous and difficult maneuver called the Iron Lotus—which has only ever been attempted in North Korea with comically disastrous results.

If the Pamchenko twist is impossible, the Iron Lotus is downright laughable—which is the point, of course. It starts out the same way, with a bounce spin. However, at the height of the bounce, the male skater launches the female into a back flip instead of a twist. While she's flipping, he does an Arabian cartwheel underneath her. Once completed, he catches her by the arm and leg, and the pair gracefully rotate out of it together.

“I swear to God, if you cut my head off,” Chazz Michael Michaels (Ferrell) warns his partner, Jimmy MacElroy (Heder), before they attempt it in the final performance of the film. As they launch into it, their coach (Craig T. Nelson) screams, “No! Don't do it! I was wrong, it's suicide!”

But wordlessly, magically, they nail it. Or rather, computer-animated stunt doubles nail it, because it's physically impossible. It would require the “female” skater to reverse her momentum in mid-air to transition from the bounce spin into the back flip. Maybe it's possible on the moon, where gravity isn't so much of a factor.

So what have we learned from this little figure skating physics lesson? You won't be seeing any Pamchenko twists or Iron Lotuses in Pyeongchang. And don't try any of this at home.

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Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
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WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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