The draw for the 2018 World Cup takes place this Friday with every nation anxious to avoid that great World Cup cliché ‘The Group of Death.’ So here’s a look back some of the toughest World Cup groups ever assembled.
Mexico 1986- Group E: West Germany, Denmark, Scotland, Uruguay
How did it go down?
Scotland qualified for Mexico ’86 in the face of tragedy- manager Jock Stein collapsed and died at full-time of their dramatic final qualifier against Wales. With qualification secured Stein’s number 2 took charge for the tournament: Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson (yes that Alex Ferguson).
But hopes that they could do it for their late manager took a knock when Scotland drew 1982 World Cup runners-up West Germany, the dynamic young Danes who’d impressed at Euro ’84 and tough tackling South Americans Uruguay, ouch.
But with a maximum of 3 sides to qualify one win would probably take any side through and Scotland had a manager who’d taken Aberdeen to not only the SPL title but beaten Real Madrid in a European final, so there was clearly hope. But Ferguson courted early controversy by excluding Liverpool skipper Alan Hansen from his squad sticking largely with the players who’d brough success to Aberdeen and headed to Mexico in confident mood.
The group kicked off with West Germany making a surprisingly slow start and trailed Uruguay for 80 minutes before Klaus Allofs scored a late equalizer. Meanwhile Scotland struggled to contain Denmark and lost courtesy of Preben Elkjaer Larsen’s second half strike.
Next up Scotland faced the Germans and made a wonderful start with Gordan Strachan giving them the early lead. It didn’t last long and Rudi Voller ensured it was 1-1 at half time. In the second half Allofs popped up for the winner and Scotland would need to beat Uruguay on the final day of the group to qualify.
That task suddenly looked much easier after Denmark ripped through the Uruguayan’s 6-1 with Elkjaer netting a hat trick. The Danes were the sensation of the group phase and pounded the Germans in their final match 2-0 to win the group with a 100% record with Elkjaer, Michael Laudraup and Manchester United’s Jesper Olsen outstanding.
So to Nezahualcoyotl for the Scots date with destiny. Uruguay were already marked as a dirty side and in the first minute an appalling tackle on Strachan saw Jose Batista dismissed. Surely Scotland could find a way through against 10 men for 89 minutes? They couldn’t and despite camping in the Uruguayan half for most the game they just couldn’t find a way through and it finished 0-0 and Uruguay qualified for the last 16 in third place of Group D.
What Happened Next?
Scotland were home before the postcards and became the first Scotland side to fail to record a single win at the World Cup. Ferguson returned to Aberdeen, never to take charge of his nation’s side again, but by November he got a call from Manchester and things went pretty well for him at Old Trafford.
Denmark meanwhile didn’t so much run out of gas as blew all 4 tyres as they were hammered 5-1 by Spain in the last 16. Uruguay were derided for their foul tactics leading some Scotland fans to actually want them to get through to the quarter finals and lose to England! Of Course Uruguay lost to Argentina in the last 16 and England faced an even greater cheat in the quarters.
West Germany went almost unnoticed as they made it to the quarter finals where they inflicted penalty heartbreak on hosts Mexico and set up a repeat of their classic 1982 semi final with France. The French were supposed to get their revenge for the foul means by which the Germans beat them in ’82 and in doing so set up a Platini vs Maradona final. But the French didn’t read the script and fell to a flat 2-0 defeat. So West Germany without ever looking impressive made it to another final and almost took home the trophy after coming back from 2-0 down, but fell to a late Jorge Burrucharga goal and Argentina were champions.
Next time: Italia 90: England vs Ireland vs Holland round 2!
Football fan, follower of England, Leeds and will watch any game possible (between raising twins!)