The shame of Gijón

It’s twenty five years since the Austrian national side made any sort of impression on a major tournament. In the 1982 World Cup, their meeting with West Germany was in the knowledge that a 1-0 victory for their neighbours would secure passage for both sides into the second round.

gijonThe mutually-beneficial game of keep-ball that followed the West Germans’ early opener prompted widespread cat-calls from a cross-section of the Gijón crowd. As the odd flag burned, pockets of Algerians, angered at the cynical manner in which their nation was being eliminated, were kept from a field of play ringed by police officers with dogs.

West German coach Jupp Derwall, who coincidentally died this week at the age of 80, justified the anschluss with the words: “we wanted to progress, not play football.”

Which brings us to this evening. Also distracted by results elsewhere and keen to progress without playing much football, Steve McLaren’s England face an Austrian outfit neutered by a two-year absence of competitive fixtures.

In a date no-doubt intended at its fixing to be an ice-breaker for next summer’s competition, Steve McLaren will step into the Ernst Happel Stadion, the venue for its final, dreaming of a Viennese waltz but knowing he may soon wake up in a whirl.

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