- guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 11 August 2004 17.24 BST
"After the laughable Italian conspiracy theories about Denmark's 2-2 draw with Sweden in Euro 2004, I wondered whether any other high-profile match has attracted similar levels of uproar," writes Hayley Hitchins.
Perhaps the most notorious game of all took place during the 1982 World Cup in Spain, when West Germany and Austria met in the final match in Group B. The Teutonic neighbours were well aware that a 1-0 win for the Germans would ensure that both sides would qualify for the next round ahead of Algeria. Sure enough, a Horst Hrubesch goal gave West Germany the lead after only 10 minutes, at which point the game ground to a virtual halt.
Despite catcalls from the crowd and the sight of one German fan burning the national flag in disgust, the pat-a-cake continued for a full 80 minutes, at which point both sides walked off congratulating themselves on a job well done. Reasonably enough, Algeria protested to Fifa, but to no avail. Four years later, in Mexico, Fifa ensured that the last round of matches in the first round took place simultaneously.
A near-scandal of a South American flavour had taken place at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, where the hosts, under serious pressure from the ruling military junta, needed to beat Peru by four goals in the last of the second-round group matches to pip Brazil to a place in the final. Amid allegations of match-fixing - which remain unproved to this day - Argentina thumped the Peruvians 6-0 to squeeze out their arch-rivals and reach the final, where two goals from Mario Kempes helped see off Holland 3-1.
There was also a whiff of suspicion about Spain's path to the finals of the 1984 European Championship in France. Having lost 2-1 in an earlier qualification game to Holland, the Spanish went into their final match needing to beat Malta by 11 clear goals, a feat that appeared unlikely when they went into half-time with a tenuous 3-1 lead. But, suddenly, the floodgates opened in the second half, and Spain got the nine goals they needed to win 12-1 and qualify for the finals. There were few neutral fans weeping for them when they lost 2-0 in the final to France.
On the club scene, there were distinctly fishy goings-on in Italy at the end of the 1992-93 season, when AC Milan met lowly Brescia on the penultimate weekend of the season. Milan needed only a point to be sure of taking the title ahead of friends and neighbours Internazionale, while Brescia thought that a point would be good enough for them to avoid relegation.
For over 80 minutes, the two teams engaged in a shameful game of cat-and-mouse, in which the cat appeared to have fallen asleep and the mouse was on tranquilisers. Then, in the 82nd minute, Demetrio Albertini let rip with a cracker to put the Milanese in the lead. This was not in the script, and Brescia duly equalised two minutes later when they mysteriously found themselves with a huge overlap. Little good did it do them: other results went against them, and Brescia went down, to the chagrin of no one outside the town itself.
"Me and my friend have been having a heated debate over who was the best outfield emergency goalkeeper," says Brian Deegan. "I am standing firm on Peter Beardsley; other names in the hat include Lucas Radebe and Stephane Henchoz. Sort this out!"
Lucas Radebe, who went in goal for Leeds at Old Trafford in April 1996, famously threatened to derail Manchester United's title challenge in the game that sparked the Alex Ferguson rant that in turn fuelled Kevin Keegan's "I would love it" outburst. Radebe went in goal in the 16th minute and kept the door shut until the 72nd minute, when Roy Keane scored a crucial goal.
Stephane Henchoz is certainly worthy of mention. As any Arsenal or Manchester United fan will remember, he made a couple of great saves in the Millennium Stadium during the FA Cup final and Community Shield in 2001. Sadly, he was still playing centre-half at the time.
Nat Lofthouse and Bobby Moore both saved penalties for Bolton and West Ham respectively (though Moore was unfortunate enough to have the rebound blasted straight past him), and there are honourable mentions for Beardsley, Mal Donaghy, David Speedie and Vinnie Jones. But the daddy of stand-in goalkeepers has to be Niall Quinn.
On April 20, 1991, Manchester City keeper Tony Coton hauled down Derby's Dean Saunders in the box and was sent off. From the resulting penalty, taken by Saunders, Quinn dived full-length to his left to save. Eight years later, having just put Sunderland 1-0 up at Bradford, Quinn had to go in goal for the last 14 minutes when Thomas Sorensen was stretchered off - and he kept a clean sheet.
"Why do Spanish fans go 'Eeeeeeee!' when a shot goes wide instead of 'Ooooohhh!' like the rest of us?" asks Keith Stokes, all those years ago. "And when a goal is scored they all go 'Aaaaahhhh!' unlike the rest of Europe who opt for the more traditional 'Yeahhhhh!' Someone should tell them they sound ridiculous."
According to Antonio Gonzalez, a man whose word we're prepared to take as gospel for the simple reason that he has the most Spanish sounding name in the world, the reason is simple. It's because Spaniards speak Spanish, not English.
"What we say when a shot goes narrowly wide is normally 'Huy!' (pronounced 'Oo-ee!')" he explains. "It happens to be the Spanish equivalent of 'Ooh!' which you English exclaim in that mixture of surprise, relief or disappointment to see the shot go wide. The lingering 'y' produces that 'Eeeee!' sound that has confused you so. When a goal is scored, the roar that you hear as 'Aaaahhh!' is nothing other than 'Gol!', an anglicism used in Spanish for 'Goal!'. How inappropriate, eh?"
David Lea backs up Antonio's explanation and adds that many Spanish people have asked him the same question in reverse about English fans: "Why do you shout something that sounds nothing like 'Goal!' when you score?" they enquire. Now who sounds ridiculous, Keith?
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GUVNOR'S TRAVELS (THE SEQUEL)
Last week, Matthew Wakely asked who had played in the Merseyside, Manchester and Milan derbies (Paul Ince). But, as Nick Efthymiou points out, Ince is dwarfed by Christian Ziege, who has taken part in more derbies than a weary donkey: Merseyside, Milan, Munich, Tyne-Tees and north London. Beat that.
Can you help
"Can anyone tell me if Maheta Malango's goal for Brighton on Saturday, after only 12 seconds, is the fastest debut goal in English football?" asks Robin Burchfield.
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