This feature is a part of RETEUROSPECTIVE
Seven seconds into the Euro 1984 final, Spain knew they were up against it. At the Parc des Princes, Spain were taking on Michel Platini’s France, the favourites, the hosts, the team with fewer absentees and the team with an extra day of rest.
Then, seven ticks of the clock into the game, Julio Alberto was called for the tamest of shoves on Patrick Battiston. A minute later, another free-kick was awarded to Les Bleus by referee Vojtech Christov. “The referee will be feeling the pressure of the French crowd,” the Spanish commentary noted immediately. “The refereeing has been quite geared towards France in their matches.”
It’s not as if France had needed too much help to reach the showpiece event, though. They’d qualified as hosts, but had just reached the semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup and had Ballon d’Or holder Platini leading the way. They were an excellent side and won every match in the group stage of Euro 1984, scoring nine and conceding two.
Extra time had been needed in the semi-finals against Portugal, but France’s ride to the final had been much smoother than Spain’s, with the Spanish having arrived by scoring just one goal per match en route.
In the final, France were time and time again able to waltz right through the centre of Spain’s midfield of red-shirted players like Moses crossing the Red Sea, while Platini made Spain’s half his dance floor despite the close marking of José Antonio Camacho. The hosts’ number 10 regularly linked up elegantly with Bruno Bellone and, on occasion, with Bernard Lacombe. Les Bleus were simply better than La Roja.
Despite this, the scoreboard remained unmoved by the time the half-time whistle sounded. Spain were clinging on but had enjoyed a couple of promising bursts down their left thanks to Víctor Muñoz, Julio Alberto and Lobo Carrasco, as well as the best chance of the first half. That came in the 32nd minute as Spanish-born France defender Luis Fernández cleared a goalbound header from Santillana off the line.
As such, there were nerves at half-time inside the Parc des Princes. As one French fan had stated in the day’s newspapers: “We’ve become so accustomed to just missing out that we won’t believe we’ve won until we see the trophy in French hands.”
Fortunately for that fan, by the end of the afternoon the trophy was indeed in French hands, in those of captain Platini. And it was the Juventus playmaker who scored the breakthrough goal – albeit with some help from the referee and from the opposition goalkeeper.
In the 59th minute, the ball was played to Lacombe on the edge of the area, and the French forward threw himself dramatically to the turf in the vicinity of Spain defender Salva. Free-kick given. Platini stepped up, curled the ball around the wall to the bottom far corner and Luis Arconada spilled it, with the ball trickling over the line before he could claw it away. One-nil to France.
Spain’s search for an equaliser then spawned a new version of Platini for the final half-hour: counter-attacking Platini. The French superstar had been able to have his way in Spain’s half even with several red shirts theoretically in his way, so now he could truly have some fun.
The job still wasn’t done, though. That French fan who was holding off celebrating until the trophy was in Platini’s hands and the others like him still had some waiting to do. France created chance after chance as they sought goal number two, but the match remained all square as the final moved into stoppage time.
That was when it happened. That was when France’s counter-attacking paid off and culminated in a Bellone goal that sent the Parc des Princes wild with delight, as the striker chipped Arconada when played through one on one.
In the end, the better side did win, even if L’Équipe looked to present the success as an underdog story. Like the front page of the newspaper the following morning stated: “The date of 27 June 1984 is now written into France’s golden book of sports along with the following comment: ‘We didn’t think they were capable, but they did it’.”
In Spain, meanwhile, they spoke of this being the anticipated outcome but lamented the way in which they’d just fallen just short and hit out at the refereeing. There was still pride in the performance, though. As Mundo Deportivo’s Javier Díez Serrat wrote: “In the end, the result was the expected result, just not in the way that was expected. France weren’t the sparkling team that many French fans had hoped to see, while Spain weren’t there just to make up the numbers in the way that many Spanish fans had feared.”
Tellingly, both newspapers used the same image of the ball just squeezing over the line after Arconada’s error. That was what was most important. That, ultimately, was what made France Euro 1984 champions.
By Euan McTear @emctear