Having qualified for the FIFA World Cup 1982 second round by topping Group 5, Northern Ireland got their Group D campaign under-way on 1st July 1982. Austria, having lost to France in the first game of the group, knew that anything other than a victory eliminated them from the competition. Billy Bingham’s Northern Ireland knew avoiding defeat set them up for effectively a quarter-final against the French in three days time.
Northern Ireland made two changes from the side that had triumphed over Spain in the final Group 5 match. Jim Platt replaced Pat Jennings in goal and Sammy Nelson was brought into the defence for the suspended Mal Donaghy.
Bingham’s side, to their credit, started the match much brighter than the Austrians. Perhaps it was because their opponents faced potential exit from the tournament but Northern Ireland were positive from the off. They attacked with pace and struck out in front just as the half hour loomed. Billy Hamilton headed smartly home after a swift break down the right.
Gerry Armstrong then missed an excellent chance to double the lead before half-time.
Following the break, Austria were rejuvenated. Changes to the personnel and the tactical system were made at half-time by their coach Georg Schmidt and paid off within five minutes. A smart corner routine was dealt with by the Northern Irish defence but only cleared to the edge of the area. Ernst Baumeister drove the ball back in and it was diverted away from the already-committed Platt by Bruno Pezzey.
As fortunate as Austria’s first goal was, the second was truly magical. A sloppy free-kick was conceded on the edge of the Northern Irish area and Reinhold Hintermaier drove home a thundering free-kick from 30 yards into the top corner.
Had Austria gone on to win the game, they would have had to consider themselves rather lucky to claim the two points. The Hamilton-inspired Green and White Army were well worth a draw in the match. They got their reward for all of their hard-work 11 minutes after going a goal behind. Each and every loose ball was chased down and it was that perseverance that paid off to level the match. Jimmy Nicholl beat the Austria ‘keeper to a deflected ball and looped over a cross for Hamilton to nod in his second goal of the match.
Elsewhere in the competition, West Germany and England kicked off their second round group with a goalless draw, Italy beat Argentina 2-1 in a group also featuring Brazil and Zbigniew Boniek scored a hat-trick for Poland as they defeated Belgium 3-0 in Group A.
Northern Ireland Team
Jim Platt, Jimmy Nicholl, Samuel Nelson, Chris Nicholl, John McClelland, David McCreery, Martin O’Neill, Sammy McIlroy, Gerry Armstrong, Billy Hamilton, Norman Whiteside (Noel Brotherston)
Final Score: Austria 2-2 Northern Ireland
Austria Goals: Bruno Pezzey (50), Reinhold Hintermaier (64)
Northern Ireland Goals: Billy Hamilton (27, 75)