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The retro Euro teams we loved: France, 1984

Michel Platini was outstanding while Giresse, Tigana and Fernandez weren’t half-bad either.

Image: S&G/S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

Why we loved them

WITH A SUAVE sophistication, that magnificent Gallic arrogance and some magical individuals, France stepped up to the plate on home soil with Europe’s best player – Michel Platini – pushing them to glory.

Essentially, the victory remains a crowning glory for football played the right way. Ten years previously, the ‘Total Football’ model was spoiled by the Germans. In 1978, something similar happened when the Dutch were beaten by the ‘cynical’ Argentina. In 1982, pragmatism won out again in the form of Germany and the ‘evil’ Harold Schumacher getting the better of the organic brilliance of the French in the semi-finals while the majestic Brazilians suffered defeat at the hands of the Italians. In 1984, the right team won for a change. Also, there was that jersey.

The story

France qualified as the host nation and were clear favourites but were drawn in a spectacularly difficult group alongside a glorious Denmark side and two genuine dark horses – Belgium and Yugoslavia. All three of France’s opponents had topped their qualification group so it was expected that Group A would be a tight affair. And that’s how it started.

Soccer - European Championships France 1984 - Group One - Denmark v France - Parc des Princes Source: Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport

The hosts needed a 78th-minute goal from Michel Platini to beat the Danes in the tournament opener but it came at a massive cost. With the minutes ticking by, captain Manuel Amoros brought the ball deep into Danish territory before being brought down by Jesper Olsen. Inexplicably, the skipper (after initially flinging the ball towards’s Olsen’s head) headbutted the impish winger in retaliation. It was a  moment of absolute insanity and Amoros would miss the majority of the tournament because of suspension. Next up for the French was a clash with Belgium and it proved a remarkably one-sided affair with Platini opening the scoring after four minutes before adding a further two. Alain Giresse and Luis Fernandez also found the net in what was a firm statement of intent.

Soccer - European Championship - Group Two - France v Belgium Source: Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport

Platini followed that up with another stellar performance against Yugoslavia, grabbing another hat-trick as France came from behind to record a 3-2 victory. With maximum points from three games and scoring nine times, the side bounced into a last-four meeting with Portugal with confidence sky-high. But, in a true testament to tournament football, it was a cult hero who emerged from the shadows to dominate a thrilling, frenetic and ferocious game. Jean-Francois Domergue only went on to make nine appearances for his country but got to celebrate his 27th birthday with a brace against the Iberians in Marseille. The first was a glorious free-kick from the edge of the box before he popped up with six minutes to go in extra-time to level at 2-2 after Jordao had put Portugal in front with a double of his own.

Source: C Guiot/YouTube

The French had battered Portugal for long periods but thanks to an inspired performance from iconic goalkeeper Bento, they had battled back and taken control. Still, the speed of the French attack and the running of Fernandez, Jena Tigana and Platini continued to cause huge problems at the back and in the last minute of extra-time, Tigana evaded a litany of challenges, pushed his way to the penalty area and squared for Platini who thumped the winner to the net. In the final, it was a pretty straightforward victory for the French against a disappointing Spanish side.

Soccer - European Championship - Final - France v Spain Source: Peter Robinson/EMPICS Sport

Inevitably, Platini scored again – his 9th goal of the tournament – though it came from a huge goalkeeping howler from Luis Arconada. They were forced to play the last five minutes with just 10 players after Yvon Le Roux’s second yellow card but they put a ribbon on things with what was effectively the last kick of the game. Latching on to Tigana’s perfect through-ball, Bruno Bellone conjured a magnificent finish as he raced into the area – delicately dinking over the onrushing Arconada to ensure a first major trophy for the host country.

Stand-out player

Soccer - World Cup Spain 82 - Group D - France v Northern Ireland Source: EMPICS Sports Photo Agency

Try as you might, you can’t really overlook Michel Platini’s majestic performances and the quality and quantity of his goals. Hitting nine goals in just five games at a major tournament is a record no one is ever likely to equal or surpass so his place in history is certain to be assured. And rightfully so. At key times, it was Platini who got France out of trouble – most notably in their opener against Denmark and the extra-time winner against Portugal. There were other moments too, like when Belgian goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff tried to psyche him out before he took a penalty in their group game. Calm as you like, Platini merely sent Pfaff the wrong way.

Stand-out moment

Belgium had topped their qualification group and would go on to finish fourth at the 1986 World Cup. But France picked them apart in the summer of 1984, humiliating them by racking up a 5-0 win during the group stage. Platini netted the first after just four minutes – rifling low left-footer inside the near post after Fernandez’ thunderous free-kick had rebounded back off the crossbar. But Giresse’s goal just after the half-hour mark was particularly special as he exchanged passes with Tigana before clipping a deft finish over the advancing Pfaff. The quickness and power of the French midfield was evident again just before the break as Fernandez raced into the penalty area, evaded Pfaff and sent in a cross to the far post. When the ball was recycled, he held his position to nod home from close range. Platini converted from the spot with fifteen minutes to go and saved the best for last as he swept a superb header to the far corner late on.

Source: Stanisław Leszczyński/YouTube

The team

Starting XI (v Belgium, 16/6/1984) Joel Batts, Luis Fernandez, Patrick Battiston, Max Bossis, Jean-Francois Domergue, Jean Tigana, Michel Platini (c), Bernard Genghini, Alain Giresse, Bernard Lacombe, Didier Six.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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