Go Austria! What's that? Poland Have Scored?

 by Martin Belam, 4 September 2005

Yesterday I spent an entertaining afternoon in the pub watching three World Cup Qualifying matches exclusive to Sky Sports. The BBC gets a lot of complaints every time England play and there isn't coverage on BBC One - although I can guarantee on Wednesday night when the Northern Ireland - England match is on BBC One, we'll get a lot of complaints from people who think there is too much football on television.

Anyway, yesterday for the third match, Poland vs. Austria, the landlord turned down the commentary and put some music on. There were still quite a few people hanging around watching the match, and so when Austria scored in the 13th minute there was a large cheer, as an Austrian win, or a draw in that match would have been helpful to England. And then the score on the screen came up POL 1 - AUS 0. To a man, we had all assumed that Poland were playing in red and Austria in white - and with no commentary available to contradict our assumptions it was only the goal that revealed the error. Cue a lot of sheepish faces.

It isn't the worst incident of getting the teams wrong in a pub my friends have been involved in. Back in November 1993 England faced a World Cup match against San Marino. In order to stand a chance of qualifying for the 1994 World Cup they needed to beat the minnows by seven clear goals, and hope that the Dutch lost their game away to Poland which was taking place at the same time. What happened next is legendary - as San Marino opened the match by Gualtieri scoring the fastest goal in international football history - after just 8 seconds of play. Meanwhile, in a pub in England, my friend Rob looked up, saw the ball hit the back of the net, and naturally assumed only England could have scored so early. So he proceeded to shout and cheer and whoop and holler in a pub where everyone else was sitting in a horrified, stunned, silence...

Keep up to date on my new blog