An interesting aspect of following Asian football, and in particular the national teams qualifying for and playing in the Asian Cup, is that you never know who you will come across in the management stakes.
Over the past decade, there have been some truly big names managing Asian national teams, far too many to mention. They have not always brought success mind you, but it is always a buzz to come across such notable ex-players.
In the lead-up to the Australia versus South Korea game on Saturday night, I noticed for the first time that South Korea was being managed by one Uli Stielike.
I recalled a famous Stielike playing for Real Madrid and Germany in the late 1970s and early ’80s. Not knowing, or remembering, his first name I wondered if Uli Stielike was one and the same.
Sure enough, Uli Stielike is the Stielike of that era (pronounced Shtill-ee-ker, with the accent on the first syllable).
Saturday night belonged to Uli, much to the chagrin of Socceroo fans, but let me take you back 30 plus years to a night which carries less fond memories for Uli (for him personally, even if his team actually triumphed).
Stielike spent nine seasons with Madrid, was part of many trophy winning teams, and he himself won four consecutive awards for best foreign player in La Liga, so you can be assured that he was no slouch as a player.
As far as the national team goes, from early on he was groomed to replace Franz Beckenbauer in the libero role. He was equally adept in central midfield, being capable of winning the ball (with plenty of vigour) as well as using it with intelligence and accuracy.
Old timers will recall that Stielike played in Germany’s World Cup losing side of 1982 (against Italy), but above all, he is probably best remembered for his part in one of the most famous matches in World Cup history: the 3-3 semi-final against France in 1982.
This match is actually the very first World Cup game to go to penalties, and it probably has never been surpassed for drama, so is fondly recalled by all fans of the world game.
As great as Stielike’s professional career was, it’s fair to say that his part in this semi-final and the subsequent final loss are low points.
Stielike’s miss from the spot temporarily put West Germany behind in the penalty shoot-out against France. We all recall Stielike slumping to his knees, and virtually having to be carried back to the rest of the group, completely inconsolable. He missed his teammate, the infamous Harald Schumacher, make a save from Didier Six’s penalty, who too takes a cue from Stielike and slumps to the ground.
After Platini’s penalty, Schumacher then saves the spot kick from Maxime Bossis, who turns around to look at his teammates with an expression of: sacre bleu!
The final penalty falls to the strapping, blond, and aptly named, Horst Hrubesch, who unceremoniously smashes it into the net to give the Germans an unlikely victory (noting that at one point they trailed 3-1 in extra time).
But back to Uli Stielike. I believe that penalty miss is the only miss any German player has ever made in the whole history of the World Cup and European Cup.
This article would not be complete without remembering his famous miss and response to that miss (from 1:30, and note Pierre Littbarski’s reaction upon Schumacher making the next save).
Good luck to Uli and the South Koreans for the remainder of the Asian Cup.