Thursday, 2 June 2016

1980s: European Championships A to Z

This week I am attempting to compile my own A to Z of the European Championships in the 1980s, from Arconada to Zenga, taking in mascots, balls and lippy Maltese goalkeepers along the way.


To many in Northern Ireland, Luis Arconada will be forever linked with Gerry Armstrong's goal in the 1982 World Cup, but the Spanish keeper would also have an unfortunate moment of fame linked with the European Championships. Throughout the tournament, Arconada had been superb, his saves against West Germany playing a huge part in Spain reaching the semi-final. Yet such is the lot of the goalkeeper, that Arconada's Euro 84 would be remembered for the wrong reason.

Michel Platini's free kick in the final should not have beaten Arconada, indeed the Spanish keeper seemed to have saved the effort. But then disaster. The ball squirmed under the keeper, Arconada trying desperately to recover, as slowly it dawned upon everyone what had happened. Just like Oliver Kahn in 2002, Arconada had chosen an inopportune moment to blot his copybook. 


You may think it strange to include a country that didn't actually qualify for any European Championship finals tournament in the 1980s, but Bulgaria certainly were inextricably linked with the British and Irish in this period. In the 1980 qualification campaign, Bulgaria finished below England, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, but above Denmark (whatever happened to them), yet in 1984 and 1988 they would have a direct impact on the fortunes of two nations separated by the Irish Sea.

Needing a win in Yugoslavia to qualify for Euro 1984, Bulgarian hearts (and those of the Welsh) would be broken late on (see Radanovic). Even so, Bulgaria would experience even more disappointment in 1987. All they had to do was to avoid defeat in Sofia against an already eliminated Scotland, yet an 86th minute winner from Gary Mackay ensured a free drink for the Hearts midfielder any time he visits Dublin, as Ireland qualified at the expense of the Bulgarians. Mackay would never score again for Scotland, but his name will be forever remembered in both Bulgaria and Ireland.


Appointed Ireland's manager in February 1986, Jack Charlton immediately set about transforming the fortunes of the national football team. With just one defeat in the qualifying programme, it appeared as if Ireland would just miss out on reaching West Germany, until Mackay's goal in Sofia changed the situation. Jack Charlton was on his way to becoming a national hero.

Charlton took full advantage of the so-called "granny rule" - thirteen players in his twenty man Euro 88 squad were born outside Ireland - but even so, his team were not given much of a hope in West Germany. Quoted at 7/2 just to beat England, Ireland produced the shock of the tournament, Ray Houghton's goal and Pat Bonner's stunning display helping Charlton get one over his own country. The Irish party was only just beginning.


"England could not have hand-picked more favourable opposition than the draw for the 1984 European Championships." Steve Curry's words in the Daily Express would look a little hollow as the qualification campaign progressed, as it soon became apparent that Sepp Piontek's team were an emerging force. A lucky 2-2 draw in Copenhagen should have been warning enough, with the woeful 1-0 defeat at Wembley confirming the fears of the English nation. Somehow, Euro 84 would have to limp on without England.

What a set of players Piontek had at his disposal: Morten Olsen, Soren Lerby, Frank Arnesen, Michael Laudrup, Allan Simonsen, and Preben Elkjær (see next entry). The team, backed by thousands of joyous fans (later given the collective term of roligans), Denmark marched all the way to the semi-finals, and would also entertain us at Mexico 86. You could do a lot worse things with your time than reading the excellent Danish Dynamite book about the story of that exciting team.


Denmark had a lot of star players at Euro 84, but one who stood out was Preben Elkjær. His combination of power and skill had already alerted most of Europe's scouts, and during the tournament it was announced that he would join Verona, a club that he helped win the Scudetto in 1984/85. It was not hard to see why he was sought after. Elkjær ended up with two goals from four matches at Euro 84, his dribble and finish against Belgium confirming Denmark's place in the semi-finals, and highlighting just how talented he was.

Unfortunately even star men can come a cropper during a penalty shoot out. Brady 1980, Baggio 1994, and Ronaldo 2008 are a few examples of this, and sadly for Denmark this list can have the name of Elkjær added to it. After drawing 1-1 with Spain, Elkjær would be the only player to miss in the shoot out (excluding Michael Laudrup, who was allowed to retake his penalty after George Courtney adjudged that Arconada had moved). The sight of the distraught striker trudging back to the half way line with his shorts ripped was an unfitting end to a tournament in which Elkjær soared.


Hosted the tournament in 1984, won the tournament in 1984, and finally got their hands on the Henri Delaunay trophy in 1984, there was a lot for the French to like about that particular year. A 1-0 win over Denmark in a tense opener was followed by a 5-0 win over neighbours Belgium, and a narrow 3-2 victory against Yugoslavia, with Platini leading the charge. The nail-biting semi-final win (see eXtra-time) set up a final with Spain, France's comfortable win sparking scenes of joy in the Parc des Princes.

The less said about the defence of the title the better. Henri Michel took over the reins from the successful Michel Hildago, leading France to a third-placed finish at Mexico 86, yet finishing third in their Euro 88 qualifying group was a meek way to surrender their crown. At least French fans still had the glorious memories of Euro 84, however.


There were some excellent goals scored at the various European Championship finals in the 1980s, so I'm simply going to list a few of them. Ray Wilkins' beautiful lob against Belgium; Michel Platini's astute header against Yugoslavia; Elkjær's run and finish to see off Belgium; Michael Laudrup in a rare high for Denmark at Euro 88; Vasily Rats against the Netherlands; Ronnie Whelan's volley; that Marco Van Basten goal.


Inevitably it would be English fans at the centre of most of the trouble that occurred at Euro 1980 and 1988. Riots on the terraces during the England-Belgium match at Euro 80 caused the players to leave the pitch, with tear gas filling the air, and in West Germany there was aggro before and after England's defeats in Stuttgart and Dusseldorf. It wasn't just an English disease, though. West German and Dutch fans clashed in Hamburg, and the Dutch had previous regarding violence.

The Euro 88 Netherlands-Cyprus qualification match was shrouded in controversy, Cypriot keeper Andreas Charitou left temporarily deaf and sightless in one eye after a smoke bomb was thrown by a Dutch supporter in Rotterdam. The match was held up for 50 minutes, and although the Netherlands won 8-0, UEFA met to decide the fate of the team. Deciding against disqualifying the Netherlands, initially UEFA awarded the match 3-0 to Cyprus, but then backed down after a Dutch appeal. The match was replayed behind closed doors - the Netherlands won 4-0 to confirm their place in West Germany - much to the annoyance of Greece who had temporarily been thrown a lifeline.


Television coverage at Euro 84 was hardly extensive. In fact, only two live matches were shown on the BBC - the West Germany v Spain group match, and the final - with ITV apparently angering BBC bosses by choosing to only show highlights. It's almost inconceivable now to think that a major tournament could be covered with such a lack of interest.

The lack of home nations present obviously shaped this decision, but as a young football fan this proved to be a big disappointment. Especially when I missed out on seeing the likes of Platini, Tigana, Giresse, Elkjær, Chalana and others live on my television, along with that classic France-Portugal match (see eXtra-time).

John Bonello

Not a name to immediately come to mind when discussing the history of the European Championship, but bear with me. Going into their final qualifying match for Euro 84, Spain looked dead and buried. Needing to beat Malta by eleven goals in Seville, not many gave them a prayer of pipping the Netherlands to the top spot in the group. "Spain couldn’t even score 11 against a team of children," claimed Malta keeper John Bonello. Oh dear.

Bonello would be left with plenty of egg on his face, and a sore back from picking the ball out of the net. Spain missed a first half penalty, and only led 3-1 at the break. Yet in an extraordinary second half, Bonello was beaten a further nine times, as Spain pulled off the impossible. They might not have been able to score eleven against children, but the twelve put past Bonello would be enough to see Spain qualify for France, and leave a lot of Dutch fans shaking their heads in disbelief.


Ireland had fully proved that their win over England was no fluke. A 1-1 draw against the Soviet Union in their second group match meant that Jack Charlton's team were just one match away from reaching the semi-finals. Avoid defeat against the Netherlands, and the remarkable adventure would continue.

Just eight minutes were remaining when Irish eyes finally stopped smiling. Substitute Wim Kieft was the match winner, his header from Ronald Koeman's mishit shot spinning past Pat Bonner like a Shane Warne leg-break. And with that lucky bounce of the ball changed the fortunes of two nations.


I'm not sure UEFA spent a vast amount of money on the branding of the European Championships in the 1980s. After all, there is a striking similarity between all three logos used between 1980 and 1988 (in other words they were nearly identical). The basic concept remained the same; a wavy flag design with the colours of the host nation's flag combined with the word UEFA. I still think they were better designs than the London 2012 logo, though.


In 1980 we were introduced to a new concept at the European Championships: the mascot. Pinocchio was the weird looking character used at Euro 1980, a wooden toy with a nose in the colours of the Italian flag. France understandably went route one with their idea of Péno the white cockerel, with West Germany opting for Berni the rabbit, obviously opting to follow Paul Daniels' advice to magic a rabbit eight feet high.


When the Soviet Union defeated the Netherlands in their opening group match at Euro 88, little did we know that a little under a fortnight later the Dutch would gain revenge in the final to end their disappointment in major championships. The Van Basten inspired win over England, and the Kieft winner against Ireland, gave the Dutch an opportunity to extract some revenge for 1974, and their late win over the West Germans must have tasted sweet. But they still had a job to finish.

The 2-0 win over the Soviet Union saw the Netherlands claim a first major, captain Ruud Gullit opening the scoring, with Van Basten's clincher the stuff of dreams. When Hans van Breukelen saved Igor Belanov's penalty, it was confirmation that nothing was going to deny Rinus Michels and his men.


Obviously linked to the entry above, this colour was the background for many a match during Euro 88. The vast band of supporters decked in their team colours (and that of their Royal Family) made most terraces a wall of orange, with television directors constantly cutting to the swaying orange sea every time the Dutch scored a goal. And what a classic Dutch kit the likes of Koeman, Rijkaard and Gullit wore. Very 1980s, but there's nothing wrong with that.


Just like Maradona at Mexico 86, a number ten that led his country to glory in a major championships. Michel Platini had not started the tournament as captain - he took over the role from Manuel Amoros after the defender inexplicably got himself sent off against Denmark - but the new skipper certainly led by example. Seven goals in the group stages, including hat tricks against Belgium and Yugoslavia, put France into the last four, and Platini would score in both knock out matches to end the tournament as top scorer on nine goals.


The format of the European Championships during the decade left little room for error in the qualification period. With seven qualifying group winners joining the hosts at each tournament, there were some notable absentees at the finals. The 1982 World Cup winners Italy didn't even make it to Euro 84; France may well have won Euro 84, but they failed to make it as far as West Germany four years later; there were no home nations at Euro 84; and the Soviet Union would only qualify for one finals tournament in 1988.

In truth, the 16 team format probably worked the best. Eight nations in the finals seemed too few, but the current format of 24 teams looks a little bloated. Still, I'm sure UEFA know what they are doing, after all, it's not as if they would be stupid enough to award the hosting of Euro 2020 to multi-nations across the continent. Oh.


A hero in the former Yugoslavia, but a villain to many in Wales, defender Ljubomir Radanovic wrote himself into European Championship folklore on December 21, 1983. As Yugoslavia prepared to take on Bulgaria in the final Group Four qualifying match, the equation was simple(ish). A Yugoslavia win would see them through, with Wales relying on a draw or a 1-0 win for Bulgaria. A 2-1 Bulgarian win would see lots drawn between Wales and Bulgaria, but a 3-2 win or a victory by two goals or more would complete the Bulgarian renaissance in the group. Easy.

As the game neared its conclusion, the 2-2 scoreline was enough to send Wales to France, yet the delicate nature of the group was demonstrated when Bulgaria broke late on and squandered a three-on-one attack. As the match moved into stoppage time, Radanovic popped up to head home a cross that sent the home fans into raptures, but left Welsh hearts broken. The "Split decision" had added on a few more years to the Welsh hurt.

Stock, Aitken and Waterman

Be afraid. Be very afraid. England's Euro 88 single was as successful as their finals tournament (see Useless), with the Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) inspired All The Way peaking at number 64 in the charts. A song that sounded just a tad similar to their other efforts at the time, SAW must have thought they were on to another winner with this single. Yet a combination of a discerning English public, and a poor tournament consigned All The Way to the bin marked flop.

The video was bad enough, but the appearance of Bobby Robson and his players on Wogan took discomfort to new levels. For a more thorough examination of All The Way, please read here.


Time to wallow now in a pit of nostalgia. The simple beauty of an Adidas Tango football was part of major championships during the 1980s, with the River Plate, Mundial and Europa used for the three European Championships. You can keep your Jabulani and Brazuca; give me that black and white patterned football any time.


Little did we know that Euro 80 would be the peak of England's achievements when it came to the European Championships in the 1980s. Ray Wilkins' goal against Belgium was a high moment that would be descended from during Euro 1980 and the following two tournaments. England didn't even make it to Euro 84 (see Denmark) during a time of real pressure for Bobby Robson. Come 1988, England's manager must have hated the European Championships.

England qualified superbly for West Germany, dropping just a single point along the way, their 4-1 win in Yugoslavia seeing them installed as second favourites for the tournament. But Euro 88 would be an unmitigated disaster. Gary Lineker missed a host of chances against Ireland - he would later be diagnosed with hepatitis - as England lost the opener, and despite playing well against the Netherlands, Marco van Basten ended English hopes after just two matches. The Soviet Union then dismantled a punch drunk England 3-1, in a tournament that was as disastrous off the pitch as on; Bryan Robson punched Peter Shilton and Tony Adams wet the bed. An appropriately messy end to a useless tournament.

Van Basten

A dream centre forward, but a nightmare for Tony Adams and other centre backs during Euro 88. Marco van Basten entered the tournament with a record of 6 goals in 19 internationals, and would come off the bench in the Netherlands opening defeat to the Soviet Union. But he would truly announce himself to English football fans on Wednesday June 15, his hat-trick pushing England closer to the exit door and leaving a 21-year-old Adams with scars that would take a long time to heal.

Van Basten was not finished, however. A brilliant finish in the semi-final against rivals West Germany put the Netherlands into their third major final in 14 years, and this one would have a happy ending. And what a way to clinch the trophy. You never tire of seeing Van Basten's stunning volley fly over the head of Rinat Dasayev, a goal worthy of winning any tournament. With five goals in the finals, Van Basten ended up as the top scorer and if his career had not been blighted by injury, you wonder what else he might have won in the game to accompany his three Ballon D'Ors and one FIFA World Player of the Year title.

West Germany

Winners in 1980, hosts and semi-finalists in 1988, West Germany were a regular presence at the European Championships in the 1980s. Indeed the only time they struggled was in 1984; two defeats against Northern Ireland in the qualifiers saw them sneak through with ten minutes of the campaign to go, and a last minute loss to Spain in the group stage meant that for once we could write off the West Germans.

The late win over Belgium in the 1980 final - two goals from Horst Hrubesch - gave West Germany their second European Championship, and as Euro 88 progressed it looked as if the hosts would complete a hat-trick. But in a hard fought contest with the Dutch, the West Germans came up short, and it would be eight years before a united Germany completed this achievement.


Only two European Championship finals matches made it into extra-time during the decade - the pointless third/fourth play-off at Euro 1980 went straight to penalties - and the first of these has rightly entered the hall of fame of classics (for the other match, see Elkjær). France v Portugal in 1984 was supposed to be a stroll in the park for the hosts, a run of the mill title eliminator before the main event four days later. Yet France would be rocked to their core, falling to their knees before staggering to their feet and recovering to land the knockout blow.

From beginning to end there was drama. A crashing free kick from stand-in left back Domergue; a fine display from Portugal keeper Bento keeping France at bay; the wing trickery of Chalana testing French nerves; Jordao heading an equaliser and giving Portugal a shock lead in extra-time; Domergue saving the day with another goal; Jean Tigana setting up Platini for a last minute clincher; and John Motson getting understandably excited at the exhausting match he was witnessing. Just a shame it wasn't shown live for British viewers.

Yvon Le Roux

Two matches at the Parc des Princes bookended Euro 84, and French defender Yvon Le Roux had reason to remember both. Involved in the 50-50 tackle that saw Denmark's Allan Simonsen break his leg in the opener, Le Roux was sent off with five minutes to go in the final, his second bookable offence giving France an anxious last few minutes to survive. In truth Spain never looked like scoring, and it would be Bruno Bellone who clinched the title for the hosts. Relief undoubtedly for Le Roux.


Ah, the old four steps goalkeeper rule. Italy were leading hosts West Germany 1-0 in the opening match of Euro 88, when keeper Walter Zenga and English referee Keith Hackett took centre stage. Hackett had been "hissed and harassed by the Germans among the 65,000 crowd" according to Steve Curry in the Daily Express, so his decision to penalise Zenga for taking more than four steps with the ball raised a few eyebrows.

To pile more anger upon Italian ire, Andreas Brehme scored from the resulting indirect free kick, as Hackett's performance brought criticism from all parties. But rules are rules, even if the four step regulation was rarely applied at the time. By the end of the tournament, it may well have been the biggest contribution made by an Englishman in West Germany (see Useless).

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