FIFA World Cup: Why are final group-stage matches happening at the same time?

From November 29, matches of the same group will be played simultaneously instead of at different times as in the first and second rounds of group matches. 

Pyrotechnics explode at a giant World Cup trophy prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group D match between Tunisia and Australia at Al Janoub Stadium on November 26, 2022, in Al Wakrah, Qatar.

Pyrotechnics explode at a giant World Cup trophy prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group D match between Tunisia and Australia at Al Janoub Stadium on November 26, 2022, in Al Wakrah, Qatar. | Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

From November 29, matches of the same group will be played simultaneously instead of at different times as in the first and second rounds of group matches. 

With the Qatar World Cup entering its final round of group games, there will be changes in timings of the matches.

From November 29, matches of the same group will be played simultaneously instead of at different times as in the first and second rounds of group matches.

Why did the format change?

To know why this is being done, one needs to go back to the 1982 World Cup in Spain. It was a group match between West Germany and Austria at the El Molinon stadium in Gijon, Spain, on 25 June 1982, which later came to be known as the ‘Disgrace of Gijon.’

Algeria had a memorable start to the 1982 edition as it beat West Germany 2-1 on opening day. With the win, Algeria became the first African team to beat a European team at the FIFA World Cup. It lost 0-2 to Austria in its second match before finishing its group stage with a 3-2 win against Chile. With two wins, Algeria also became the first-ever African team to win twice at a World Cup.

With Algeria playing its final group match a day before West Germany and Austria, the qualification scenarios were clear for both European teams.

A West Germany win by one or two goals would have seen the Germans and Austria qualify based on goal difference. A West Germany win by four goals or more would have been seen the former qualify with Algeria. A West Germany win by exactly three goals would have sent Algeria and Austria to the next tiebreaker (goals scored). In that scenario, where West Germany had won by a margin of three and a tiebreaker happened between the other two sides, Austria could have qualified only if it scored two goals or more in its defeat ( i.e 5-2 or 6-3 etc.)

In the match, the Germans bagged just one goal in the first 10 minutes. As the match progressed, the pace of the match gradually deteriorated, and there was no visible effort to play by either team, and West Germany won 1-0.

What was the outcome of the ‘Disgrace of Gijon’

West Germany and Austria were accused of fixing the result, allowing both the European nations to qualify. But FIFA ruled that neither team had broken any rule in theory.

Since the ‘Disgrace of Gijon’, FIFA revised the structure of group games for future tournaments where the final two games in each group would be played simultaneously so that such scenarios don’t arise.

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