Do Teams In Need Of A Draw Collude In International Soccer?

The U.S. and Germany both advance with a tie tomorrow and risk elimination with a loss, so there's been some fun speculation that the squads might play it safe and dull and produce a gentleman's draw. This sort of thing isn't unheard of—in 1982's Schande von Gijón, West Germany and Austria knocked the ball around to maintain the 1-0 margin and thus allow both teams to advance—but what about this exact draw-and-both-teams-are-in scenario?

We combed through all the World Cup and Olympic tournaments—where the stakes are a lot lower, but the incentives break down the same way—and found five matches of this type. Four have ended in ties, but just one in a scoreless tie. Here they are:

2010 World Cup: Uruguay 1, Mexico 0

Neither of these two teams were favored in Group A, which featured France (a top-10 squad by FIFA rankings) and South Africa (which sucked, but the home squad had never failed to advance). The second-place finisher was on track to face Argentina, which went 3-0 with seven goals for and one conceded in group play. While there certainly was incentive for Mexico to try and win, there were still concerns about collusion:

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez says his side will approach the match "as if we were just setting out on the group phase," while his Mexican counterpart, Javier Aguirre, underlined that his side's priority was getting into the last 16.

"We just want to make sure of getting through to the next round. I hope my team are sound and will be strong and solid as they were against France."

Tabarez insists there will be no collusion over a draw.

"I can rule that out absolutely," he stressed.

"I don't like it that anyone might think I would do such a thing - that is hurtful to me and to the Uruguayans. This team has shown what it is capable of."

Suárez scored for Uruguay in the 43rd minute, the lead held, and both teams ended up advancing. (Mexico finished with four points and a +1 goal differential; South Africa had four points and -2.) Mexico would go on to get trounced by Argentina, 3-1.

2004 Olympics: Mali 3, South Korea 3

This was a pretty bonkers hour and a half of soccer, as Mali and South Korea—tied with four points in Group A—played concurrently with Mexico and Greece (the hosts). Through 55 minutes, Mali was up 3-0 and Mexico was up 1-0, enough to put those two squads in.

South Korea stormed back with goals in the 57th and 59th minutes, followed by a Mali own-goal in the 64th. That was apparently enough of a battle for the two squads, who closed out the game lamely enough to draw jeers from the Greek crowd. Mali and South Korea would both fall in the quarters.

1984 Olympics: France 1, Chile 1

Just two summers after the West Germany debacle, the Washington Post was quick to note that the matchup presented an "intriguing paradox" in which both teams were incentivized to tie. No one told Chile, which scored nine minutes in. France tied in the 50th minute, and Chile's coach had the money quote:

Henri Michel, the coach of France's Olympic soccer team, was "content" with his team's 1-1 first-round tie tonight against Chile before 28,114 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium. But Isaac Carrasco, the coach of Chile, called the tie "a most beautiful thing."

Chile would lose in the quarters, and France would go on to win gold.

1980 Olympics: Czechoslovakia 0, Kuwait 0

This, the heavily boycotted Moscow Olympics, was the last time professional soccer players were barred from Olympic competition. Amateurish soccer and the boycott proved to be a bad combo, leading FIFA to later commission a technical report about how badly the 1980 Olympic soccer tournament sucked.

It's totally possible that Czechoslovakia and Kuwait colluded to tie and secure advancement from Group B, but nobody could have given much of a shit. Czechoslovakia would go on to win gold over East Germany, while the USSR—the home favorite—took bronze.

1954 World Cup: Brazil 1, Yugoslavia 1

The 1954 World Cup had a wacky format: In lieu of a round robin, the top two seeds in each group didn't actually play each other, and group games went into extra time (but not penalties). Brazil handled Mexico, 5-0, in their opener, but France lost to Yugoslavia, 1-0, setting up the 120-minute, French-eliminating tie above.

Not much of a case for collusion, as the two goals came in the second half. Both teams would immediately lose in the knockout rounds.