In the 1982 World Cup in Spain, West Germany and Austria played a game that changed the tournament forever.
The German-speaking countries have been accused of colluding in a final group game so they both would advance to the next round at the expense of Algeria. Spanish newspapers dubbed it "El Anschluss," a reference to the Nazi's annexation of Austria in 1938.
Whether collusion occurred or not, FIFA officials changed the World Cup format so that final group games now are played simultaneously.
Thirty-two years later, "El Anschluss" is on the minds of soccer fans as the United States prepares to play Germany in a GroupG finale Thursday in Recife, Brazil, that will help determine who advances to the round of 16.
A draw would clinch first place for Germany, which has a better goal difference, and second for the United States. Portugal and Ghana, who also play at 9 a.m. in Brasilia, would be eliminated.
Soccer experts Monday said the idea of Germany and the United States playing for a draw was ridiculous. But the close connections between the teams fueled talks about the possibilities.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was one of Germany's biggest stars when playing in three World Cups in the 1990s. He also coached Germany to third place in the 2006 tournament with assistant Joachim Loew, who now is the German coach.
On top of that, the United States has five German-American players on its roster. Klinsmann summarily rejected the collusion talk Sunday night after the United States drew Portugal 2-2 on a Portuguese goal with about 30 seconds left in stoppage time.
"I don't think that we are made for draws, really, except if it happens like tonight--two late goals, last seconds," Klinsmann said. "I think both teams go into this game and they want to win the group."
In 1982, that was not the case. West Germany and Austria played a day after Algeria and Chile, allowing the teams to know a one- or two-goal German victory would allow both to advance.
When Germany scored, the players stopped playing, according to reports.
"You're talking about a game that is decades away that is only part of the German history and not the United States," Klinsmann told reporters in Brazil.
Germany still is trying to overcome the game in Spain, said James Montague, author of "Thirty-One Nil: On the Road With Football's Outsiders." He said the result that day put a stain on Germany's "football character."
Montague isn't surprised by the talk this week. The Algerians, he said, haven't forgotten about it.
It's not the only time accusations of collusion have occurred in World Cup history, either.
In 1978, host Argentina entered its final group match against Peru knowing the result of Brazil's game. The Argentine game was moved to a later time. The hosts scored a 6-0 victory to reach the final on goal differences at the expense of the Brazilians.
"Something strange was going on there as well," English soccer commentator Keir Radnedge said Monday from Brazil.
Mountain View's Jalal Talebi recalled questions about a similar situation at the 1998 World Cup in France, where he coached Iran. He found it distasteful to even think about such a scenario when talking Monday night from London.
"Sometimes, some things happen," Talebi said. "But even if you do it, everybody will hate that kind of thing."
Chances to collude to help teams advance in a soccer tournament seldom come around--during the World Cup or European Championships.
Paul Caligiuri, who represented the United States in the 1990 and '94 World Cups, said it's not in the Americans' character to rig a result.
Same goes for Klinsmann.
"He wants to win against Germany as much as the players do," Caliguri said.
A victory would put the United States atop the group and presumably give it an easier path to advance through the knockout rounds, but Montague said the risks are too high to collude.
"If it did happen, it would be an apocalyptic, ground-shaking occurrence," he said. "Especially if another African team--Ghana--gets denied because of it."
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