Tomorrow morning, the US World Cup soccer team takes on African nation, Algeria, with a spot in the second round on the line. The scenario for advancement can be simple for the Americans. Win, and they're in. A tie will require the US to lean on other teams' results. No one wants that.
The US team will not have to wait long to find out if they do advance after the game. Awhile back, the World Cup instituted a rule where all four teams play the final Group game at the same time. Did the higher ups want to create an atmosphere of suspense? Perhaps. Each team with a fighting chance would go into the final Group game not knowing the other result.
After doing some digging, I found out the real reason for this change, and it's a rather ugly story. The 1982 World Cup, held in Spain, went down in the history books as one of the most controversial due to the scheme of two countries, West Germany and Austria. On Day One of the tournament, Algeria (yes, the same nation the US wrangles with tomorrow!) scored one of the greatest World Cup upsets ever with a 2-1 victory over West Germany. The Algerians played inspired soccer and had a chance of advancing to the next round. In the final match of group play between West Germany and Austria, Algeria had played its final group game the day before. The table and the possible scenarios for advancement had been set. A West German win by 1 or 2 goals would qualify both West Germany and Austria. A larger German victory would qualify Algeria over Austria, and a draw or an Austrian win would eliminate the Germans.
What happened during the game was pretty disheartening and downright disgraceful. West Germany scored 10 minutes in. For the rest of the game, Austria and West Germany kicked the ball around nonchalantly, as if they were playing at a practice session. No further goals were scored, the result held, and both teams were through.
While the situation was deplored by even people from the scheming countries, nothing could be done. A country's hopes were dashed as Algeria was denied a berth in the second round. Perhaps, it a bit of justice was served when Italy beat Germany 3–1 in the World Cup Final that year.
After that unfortunate incident, FIFA changed the rules for the timing of the final group games.