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Euro look-backs: Les sacré Bleus at Euro ’84

June 25, 2016

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Michel, leur belle: France’s Number 10, Michel Platini, truly proved to be their captain fantastic; his goal tally (remarkably just one shy of his shirt number) propelling  the host nation to triumph 

So, the UK population – or, at least, its majority – has made its decision; its heading out of Europe. Conversely, though, the UK’s national football teams are certainly not out of the Euros; not yet at least. Yes, today’s second round clash between Wales and Northern Ireland ensured there was always definitely going to be British interest in the quarter finals whatever happened and, as it turned out, the red dragon roared and managed to squeeze its way past the nor’n irons and into the last eight. But what of England?

Well, at present, the three lions are still in the Euros (facing mighty wee Iceland on Monday, to be precise) even if – and forgive me for getting political again – the majority of their people are pleased to see them out of Europe. Maybe fittingly then, today’s look-back at European soccer Championships past casts its glance at one the English played no role in whatsover – and indeed one that the British TV media played little attention to either. Well, more fool them. Because France’s balmy (and, at times, rather barmy) Euro ’84 was one of the all-time greats. And if you doubt that, you really need to read on…

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When, where and who?

June 12-27 1984/ France/ Participants were Belgium, Denmark,
France (hosts), Portugal, Romania, Spain, Yugoslavia and West Germany

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The champs

France

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The runners-up

Spain

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The final

France 2 : 0 Spain

Goals: Platini 57 mins; Bellone 90 mins

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The semi-finals

France 3 : 2 Portugal

Goals: Domergue 24 mins (1 : 0); Jordão 74 mins (1 : 1);
Jordão 98 mins (1 : 2); Domergue 114 mins (2 : 2); Platini 119 mins (3 : 2)

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Spain 1 : 1 Denmark

Goals: Lerby 7 mins (0 : 1); Maceda 67 mins (1 : 1)

(Spain won 5 : 4 on penalties)

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The low-down

Nowadays reviled the world over as a dubious football politician, 32 years ago Michel Platini was revered as a dynamic – and possibly the world’s greatest – football player. Indeed, it would never get better for Le Roi – and rarely that good again for his nation – as, during that heady, balmy fortnight in June ’84, he guided his side to Euro triumph. Aided in his efforts, lest we forget, by the marvellous midfielders that were Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana (making up an irresistible triumverate), Platini scored an astonishing nine goals in five matches – including a hat-trick each in group games against Belgium and Yugolsavia – thus, at last establishing Les Bleus as a footballing tour de force as they barnstormed their way past everyone to walk away from Paris’s Parc des Princes stadium with arguably the sport’s most prestigious piece of silverware (the World Cup trophy’s golden, after all) and their first international title.

In a rather Gallic-shrug-of-the-shoulders, ironic manner, though, the piece de resistance wasn’t the final against Spain, which was won by the host nation thanks to a Platini direct free-kick squirming its way under the hapless opposing ’keeper and a late strike from Bruno Bellone (the only French striker to actually score in the tournament). Instead, the show-stopper was France’s semi against the surprise package that was Portugal. Surely one of the greatest ties in the history of the Euros, it was a dramatic old ding-dong (see video above) that saw the Portuguese, with barely 10 minutes of the 90 remaining, cancel out the host’s slender lead (surprisingly provided by left-back Jean-François Domergue), only to snatch the lead themselves in the first period of  extra-time. France’s stars got their act together, though, and via Domergue again scored an equaliser, only for Platini – who else? – to pop up and seal a place in the final with a winner in the last minute of extra-time.

The other semi also saw fireworks, in that the tournament’s other most fancied team didn’t make it through. Yes, Denmark (who’d previously impressed at Euro ’80 and this time featured the talents of in-demand striker Preben Elkjær as well as midfielders Frank Arnesen and – then, an emerging – Michael Laudrup) lost on penalties to Spain, thanks to the talismanic Elkjær missing from the spot in a climactic penalty shoot-out. Indeed, to their credit, the Spaniards had already achieved notoriety by dumping the West Germans out in the group stage – yes, that’s right, the reigning champions went out in the group – with to a 1-0 victory in which they’d grabbed a winner in the final minute.

So, Euro ’84 may have featured no home nations, no Netherlands, no World Champions Italy and no Germans through to the latter stages, but if exciting, high-scoring and – at times – crazily unexpected football’s your thing, then bleu was definitely the colour in summer ’84.

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Platini, patterns and Panini: France’s hero lifts the trophy (left), the brilliant diamond-adorned Belgian home kit and the stylish French away kit (middle) and the Panini Euro ’84 sticker-book (right)

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The most valuable player

Michel Platini

Honourable mentions: Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana (France),
Frank Arnesen and Preben Elkjær (Denmark)

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The top scorer

Michel Platini ~ 9 goals

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The turkeys

West Germany

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The unforgettable moment

Even though he delivered those couple of moments where he produced back-to-back hat-tricks and clinched France’s final place at the death in the semi, it really has to be the moment when Monsieur Platini finally lifted the trophy – real Le Roi of the Rovers stuff. I thank you.

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The abiding memory

In retrospect, Euro ’84 was something of a standalone – as well as a stand-out – tournament. Although the French managed to reach the last four in both World Cups ’82 and ’86, at neither (beaten by, yes, the West Germans both times) were they able to find the sparkling form they did here. Indeed, they wouldn’t reach the final of a major tournament again until they triumphed – again – on home soil in the World Cup of 14 years later. Moreover, neither of the European football mainstays that are Spain or Portugal shined again in the ’80s or ’90s. The one side that did impress here as part of a trend during those two decades were the dynamic Danes, whom looked good again in the World Cup two years later, topping their group over the team that would eventually finish as beaten finalists… West Germany, of course. Yup, Euro ’84 – it was a wonder of a one-off, for sure.

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