As usual, the European Championship took place in June. In another section (“Jackpot-Pauli”) you can read (or even pre-read) how I spent this month. Namely with winning. It may be that too much luck makes you reckless, but I think I had a good chance to put my betting skills to the test. Not only did the basic thinking of good and bad bets accompany me every day when I played backgammon, but I had also created other, in my opinion good, prerequisites for myself since my earliest childhood by visiting stadiums every week and playing football myself, as well as through my self-developed (albeit still immature) computer programme and my passion for statistics. In short: I felt equipped.
Micha was a constant companion. We attended all backgammon tournaments together. For the European Championship, I had received a betting slip from SSP. There were all the special bets for the European Championship on offer. So on all the preliminary round groups and the games, who will be European champion and who will be eliminated and when. The decision was made quickly: Together we transferred 2000 DM to a newly opened betting account.
We also immediately agreed on what to play with it: The opening game was Germany – Italy. In my experience, all opening games end in a draw anyway. In addition, it was even more fitting with this constellation, as the two group favourites met. And the 3-point rule didn’t exist for a long time, so a point wasn’t that worthless. In addition, you could bet on the result and the final score at half-time. Our truth was clear: the game ends 0:0, odds 6.5, plus the draw for odds of 3.20 and half-time final score draw-draw there was also a 4.5. A large part of the money was “tied”, bet on these three events.
Well, perhaps you remember. The half-time result was, as you might expect, 0-0 (I know, I know: beginner’s luck). Then Mancini came on and poured the Germans some (but not pure) wine. Because two Germans could write off part of their bets with it. The 0:0 is perdu. But we hadn’t used up our much-cited beginner’s luck yet. The new rule for goalkeepers had just been introduced, according to which they were not allowed to hold the ball in their hands for more than 4 seconds at the kick-off (rule experts before and file a complaint; I too know that this rule has long since been changed again). The difference only compared to before with the 4 seconds: In the past, you were either allowed to tap it three times or…. I don’t remember. Anyway, the goalkeepers didn’t know yet how and if the new rule would be applied. The ref was on our side when the Italian goalkeeper held the ball a little longer and gave an indirect free kick for Germany in the Italian penalty area. And even if I had long since preferred to deny my German roots at this point, in this case I was extremely grateful for Brehme’s irresistible shot from a clearance: 1-1.
The teams were satisfied, the referee too, and only a few token actions and a few minutes of compulsory play stood in the way of the final whistle. Then it was time. Our winnings, despite the botched 0:0, were a handsome 2000 DM. That’s how players are made players. We weren’t the first.
However, Micha was no longer overly motivated after that. He was satisfied. The assessment was only made intuitively. Surely it was luck. Where was the basis? But I, who had always been “playful” and, what’s more, was a bit of a stickler for my estimation skills, continued.
Essentially, I remember thinking that the bookmakers were offering too high odds on half-time X and victory for one team or the other in the end. Of course, I always picked “my” team and then bet on half-time X – victory for my team.
Before the semi-finals, I bet on Russia to be European champions. I had seen the team and thought they were underestimated. They were not a bit worse than the other teams, but I got “princely” odds of 8.0. In addition, I bet on my personal favourites in both semi-finals, namely Russia and Holland.
Russia had to play Italy and was actually the better team in the match, although they were considered the underdogs. The half-time result, after a few fingers crossed, was 0:0, just as I had “expected”, or rather hoped for. After that, the Russians won 2:0 without any problems. Another bet won! In addition, I had a “little horse” for the upcoming final match.
I awaited the second semi-final with great excitement and passion. I already thought at that time that the German team had been lucky far too often and should have been eliminated much more often at major tournaments. In this context, I remember the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, which I still have very fond memories of. How did the tournament go? As always, Germany had the luck of the draw in the preliminary round. Scotland, Denmark and Uruguay. There were also other opponents. In the first game, a laborious 1-1 draw against Scotland. Then a win against Uruguay. Then, according to Kaiser Franz, the fantastic match against Denmark.
Of course, Germany had played for victory with the best of intentions and the greatest of efforts. Because winning the group would be something. Then, in Beckenbauer’s original quote after the game, they played “one of the best games I can remember”, tragically lost 0:2 and then, quite surprised, looked at their upcoming opponents: Their opponent in the last 16 was Morocco! A really tough opponent, especially as Denmark, as group winners, only had to deal with Spain!
Germany also defeated the giants Morocco. And they did it in style with a direct free kick by Lothar Matthäus from 35 metres in the 89th minute, which actually found its way into the goal. Later, I was indignant to hear some people claiming that it wasn’t a goal kick at all!
The further course of the draw also brought Germany giants. In the quarter-finals, they had to get rid of hosts Mexico. I remember the game so well that I both know that Germany had to play with 10 men at some point and that the 90 minutes and the 120 entertaining minutes were soon over. Scoring scenes? What do you need something like that for entertainment. And then there was a penalty shoot-out. And who invented it? Germany won 4:1.
But in the semi-finals, it had to be over. I’ve been extremely biased for a long time. Now they hit France, too. Not only had France played by far the best football I myself had seen in a long time, they had also knocked out Italy in a great game and later in one of the best, if not the
(I have other advocates too) best game in World Cup history, they had knocked out Brazil, albeit only in a really dramatic penalty shoot-out.
I must be the only dreamer who also thought that in this semi-final match the French were vastly superior. But it was the Germans who scored the goals, 2:0, another final. Fortunately, they then lost the final, 2:3 against Argentina. But in this game they really did by far the best in the whole tournament.
Denmark, by the way, lost 1:5 to their opponents Spain. Of course, Germany would have beaten them, too…
But now, for the semi-final match, I even had the opportunity to back up my opinion with a money bet.
In parallel, the following things happened: The backgammon tournament in Hamburg had just ended. By the way, we had a hard time finding a hotel there because it took place shortly before the semi-final match between Germany and Holland. Here, too, my memory, my arithmetic and, of course, primarily the internet provided me with information: The semi-final match took place on 21 June 1988, which was a Tuesday. The tournament had lasted until Sunday. But we had stayed one day longer. I had been successful in the tournament and the casino in Hamburg offered excellent conditions for playing Black Jack, so we took advantage of our extended stay. However, we had to leave the hotel early on Tuesday. Everything was booked up. Certainly the Dutch fans. So I watched the game in Berlin.
Besides, I had just met Andrea. And we talked on the phone every day. Even before the game. But now I had to watch. And in the first half I had to hope that nothing would happen. Even though I was extremely biased. And it remained 0-0 until the break. Well, now I could push for Holland. But right after the break there was a penalty kick for Germany, justified or not I won’t even ask. Matthäus converted. 1:0 for Germany, as always, 55th minute.
By the way, I had recorded the game on video. I wanted to be able to watch it again later. And the remaining 35 minutes were such a demonstration of class by the Dutch. The Germans were always late. The Dutch were superior in all respects. It was really impressive and much more than I had expected. But would the superiority also be rewarded?
The penalty for Germany was also, if you like, questionable in my opinion. But the referee saw sense and gave a similar penalty for Holland, 74th minute. Koeman converted, 1:1. 15 minutes to go. That has to be rewarded. Meanwhile I had Andrea on the phone again. I couldn’t stand it. The first was justice, the second was my money and the most important was my infatuation. Then, who doesn’t remember, I had long been standing on my desk, the long pass, running duel, duel, Kohler – van Basten. Van Basten as the winner, spikes the ball past the goalkeeper into the far corner. I bounced around on the table for a while, had to listen to Andrea’s admonishing words at the same time, but I didn’t care at that moment.
And how often did I put the cassette back in…?
For the final, I only had my little underdog bet on Russia, 100 DM for odds 8.0, but I really couldn’t be angry with Holland for winning the game.
A cash check showed a profit of about 2500 DM for my part. Wait until the 1990 World Cup, I’ll be right there!