Don’t mention the draw!

March 27, 2009

This week’s two World Cup qualifiers between Spain and Turkey have prompted the Spanish media to look back at a dramatic moment in the history of the two nations’ soccer teams.

It came at the end of the last of three matches the pair played in early 1954 to decide which would qualify for the World Cup in Switzerland later that year.

Spain won the first game 4-1 in Madrid but Turkey shocked the Spaniards by winning the second 1-0 in Istanbul. That meant they had to play a decider in Rome, goal difference not being taken into account in the rules of the time.

After the clash in the Italian capital ended in a 2-2 draw, the stalemate had to be resolved by drawing lots and a 14-year-old Roman named Luigi Franco Gemma, the son of an employee at the stadium, was picked to draw one name from the pot.

Adrian Escudero, scorer of Spain’s second goal in Rome, takes up the story:
“We shut ourselves away in the dressing room feeling utterly dispirited, thinking that there was nothing more we could do, that everything had gone so badly that the kid wouldn’t pick our name,” he told Friday’s As newspaper.

“And of course he picked Turkey. The disappointment was tremendous. We felt helpless. It was dramatic.”

As said the Turks invited Gemma to go to Switzerland as their mascot but did not say whether he accepted.

They went on to lose twice to eventual winners West Germany, 4-1 and 7-2, but did manage a 7-0 victory over Korea.

Drawing lots is a highly unsatisfactory way of resolving a qualifying group but one that could make for some great television.

PHOTO: Spain’s Fernando Torres juggles with a ball during a training session near Madrid. March 25, 2009. Spain will face Turkey in a 2010 World Cup qualifier match on March 28, 2009. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

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Crazy scores back then! But what a strange way to decide the winner. I never knew that. Surely, they knew their method doesn’t have to do with soccer capabilities.