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Euro look-backs: Vorsprung durch technikcally perfect at Euro ’80

June 10, 2016

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Guten tag, pet: champions of Europe again, Die Mannschaft’s Euro ’80 triumph saw the successful christening of a new generation of West German international football talent for the decade ahead

Europe. It seems to be all about Europe this summer, doesn’t it? While half the UK population looks determined to try and extricate itself from its continental neighbours in 13 days’ time, the other half appears to be, perhaps grudgingly, of the opinion the UK’s better off staying put. And meanwhile, the English, Welsh and Northern Irish football teams are determined to stay ‘in’ for as long as humanly possible (and, as for the Scots, well, they’d just love to be there in the first place, while confusingly – as far as this sentence goes – maybe not part of the UK).

Yes, Euro-fever has verily gripped the zeitgeist, not least too because the continent’s quadrennial summer soccer palooza finally kicks-off tonight with hosts France taking on Romania. What better day then to pick up this blog’s ongoing series casting an affectionate eye back on European Championships past? And this time, specifically, the focus is a tournament seemingly forgotten in the mists of time by many, yet (nice and topically) maybe not by that nation which over the last half-century has found itself at Europe’s very ‘heart’ – for at Euro ’80 it was, yup, the turn of those Red Devil underdogs to flex their muscles from Brussels…

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When, where and who?

June 11-22 1980/ Italy/ Participants were Belgium, Czechoslovakia,
England, Greece, Italy (hosts), Netherlands, Spain and West Germany

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The champs

West Germany

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The runners-up

Belgium

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(Red) devilishly good: Euro ’80’s surprise package, Belgium not only topped their group – denying
the hosts a spot in the final – but ran the West Germans damned close in the showpiece title match

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The final

West Germany 2 : 1 Belgium

Goals: Hrubesch 10 mins (1 : 0);
Vandereycken 75 mins (pen) (1 : 1); Hrubesch 88 mins (2 : 1)

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Third/ fourth place play-off

Czechoslovakia 1 : 1 Italy

(Czechoslovakia won 9 : 8 on penalties)

Goals: Jurkemik 54 mins (1 : 0); Graziani 73 mins (1 : 1)

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The low-down

The first European Championships to feature eight teams and so more than just a quartet of matches – all the past efforts had been open to only four teams – Euro ’80 should have seen the four-yearly event really kick on, but it seems many across the continent didn’t realise it had even kicked-off. Why was this? Well, too many of the matches those who bothered to to turn up to or tune into on their TV sets proved dull, undeniably defensive affairs; far from a great advert for the great, beautiful game.

Not that that was the case everywhere, though. In the host country, Italy, expectation was understandably high. Having been crowned World Champions twice by this point and being one of the world’s leading soccer nations, surely their team – jam-packed full of stars, as it was – needed only to turn up to their three round-robin group matches to make it to the final, right? Er, wrong. Drawing two of their matches, winning one and managing to score just one goal, the Azzurri only managed to finish runners-up in their group which meant that, with two groups and oddly no semi-finals this time out, they failed to make it through to the last two, no doubt causing then a giant, collective Mediterranean shrug.

Not so for Europe’s other world-leading nation in international soccer. Maybe oddly, as a side remembered for being flushed with success throughout the ’70s and the ’80s, West Germany were far from awesome at this point. Having been defeated by Czechoslovakia in the Euros final four years before, the team that graced this tournament featured a majority of relative youngsters; the celebrated old-guard of the past decade having moved on. And surprisingly – or maybe not, given we’re talking the Germans – the new-look Mannschaft manned-up, making it through their group (defeating a Dutch side containing the last vestiges of the Total Football-friendly players of the Cruyff era) and winning the final with a brace from the big, bulky Hamburger SV striker Horst Hrubesch; a real achievement for him, given he’d only been called up to the team as a late replacement and having been injured himself in the European Cup final just weeks before, which his side lost to Nottingham Forest.

However, maybe the team that achieved just as much glory (for nostalgic types looking back through rose-tinted glasses, at least), were runners-up Belgium. Yes, that’s right; Belgium. A nation boasting then, well, almost zero footballing pedigree and even fewer names than their fellow finalists, they defied the odds to emerge from a depressingly hooligan-hit opening draw against a Kevin Keegan-led England – whom, in their first tournament since 1970, lived up/ down to expectations by underwhelming yet again – to eventually top Italy’s group (albeit on goal difference, although they did score four more goals than the latter). And then, come the final, they only narrowly lost thanks to Hrubesch’s last-minute winner. (Red) devilishly good, you might say.

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Perms and Pinocchio: England captain Kevin Keegan’s hairdo starred against Spain (l), even if
his and his team’s talent didn’t, while the tournament’s funky mascot charmed all and sundry (r)

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The most valuable player

Horst Hrubesch

Honourable mentions: Klaus Allofs,
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (both West Germany) and Jan Ceulemans (Belgium)

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The top scorer

Klaus Allofs ~ 3 goals

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The turkeys

Italy

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The unforgettable moment

Horst ‘The Monster’ Hrubesch’s redemptive, winning bullet header late in the final

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The abiding memory

As I think I’ve made clear by now, this was hardly a tournament to live long in the memory; certainly not for the English, with violence from hooligans purporting to be English fans holding up one the uninspired national team’s matches for at least five minutes. And not for the Italians either, whose first tournament on home soil for 46 years ended in embarrassing failure. However, it undeniably saw a new dawn for the West Germans; key members of its winning team would go on to grace the latter stages of pretty much every Euros and World Cup for the next decade. And, of course, for the Belgians, whose talented group of relative unknowns would cause an even bigger splash at the ’86 World Cup, where they’d reach the last four. And, in fact, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Italians in the end. For, just two years later, they’d be crowned World Champions. Yes, Italy’s international football always seems to have flitted between triumph and disaster – just like their governments. Ah, European politics, eh?

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