Spain 12–1 Malta
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The Estadio Benito Villamarín in Seville hosted the match
UEFA Euro 1984 qualifying|
|Spain qualified for UEFA Euro 1984|
|Date||21 December 1983|
|Venue||Estadio Benito Villamarín, Seville|
|Referee||Erkan Göksel (Turkey)|
On 21 December 1983, Spain played Malta in the last qualifying match for UEFA Euro 1984. The game is often described as one of the most important in the Spanish national football team's history.[by whom?]
Four days before the game, the Netherlands defeated Malta 5–0 and finished their qualification schedule with 13 points and a goal difference of +16. If Spain won their final qualifier and thus also finished on 13 points, then goal difference would decide which team qualified.
With a goal difference of +5, Spain would need to defeat Malta by a margin of 11 or more goals to qualify. The team had only managed to score 12 goals in their previous seven matches, and before the game the Maltese goalkeeper, John Bonello, said: "Spain couldn't even score 11 goals against a team of children."
After 17 December, and before Spain's match against Malta, the group 7 table stood as follows:
|1||Netherlands||8||6||1||1||22||6||+16||13||Qualify for final tournament|
|3||Republic of Ireland (E)||8||4||1||3||20||10||+10||9|
Rules for classification: Qualification tiebreakers
When half-time came and the scoreline was 3–1 to Spain, few expected them to score enough goals to qualify. However, Juan Antonio Señor, who had missed a penalty kick awarded to Spain in the second minute of the first half, scored Spain's 12th and last goal in the 88th minute; Rafael Gordillo scored a 13th in the final minutes of the game but it was disallowed by the referee. That did not matter, however, as the Spaniards won by the 11-goal margin required for them to beat the Netherlands to qualification.
The match was broadcast by RTVE in Spain. Afterwards, many claimed that the Maltese were paid to not play their best and to let Spain win by a large margin, and it was rumoured that words had been exchanged between Maltese and Spanish officials and players at half-time. In March 2018, two Maltese players, Silvio Demanuele and Carmel Busuttil, claimed the Spanish players had been using doping as "they had foam in their mouths and could not stop drinking water". They also claim the Maltese players were drugged via lemon wedges during halftime. However, as of 2018, match-fixing has not been proven.
The Malta Football Association launched an inquiry into the result, and its chairman George Abela (later the President of Malta) brought about changes to the national team. Abela said that a lack of facilities meant that the team lacked serious professional preparation for a tournament such as the European Championships, and the closeness of away fixtures (Malta had played in the Netherlands only four days prior to their 12–1 loss in Seville) was a further hindrance and such scheduling would be avoided in future.
Spain and the Netherlands finished the qualification stage level on 13 points, level on the aggregate score between them, level on goal difference, but Spain qualified on goals scored (24, compared to 22 for the Netherlands).
|1||Spain||8||6||1||1||24||8||+16||13||Qualify for final tournament|
|3||Republic of Ireland||8||4||1||3||20||10||+10||9|
- The match produced the second-largest win in Spain's history (the largest was 13–0 against Bulgaria in 1933), and Malta's largest loss.
- The four goals scored by Santillana put him as the top goalscorer in qualifying group 7.
- "Spain's top newspaper recalls 12-1 victory over Malta 30 years ago today". Times of Malta. 21 December 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
- independent.com (March 20, 2018). "Watch: 1983 12-1 defeat against Spain - Maltese players say they were drugged".
- Mattia Chiusano (June 20, 2004). "E la Spagna rifilò 12 reti a Malta". la Repubblica (in Italian). p. 48.