Euro Moments: Sensational Michel Platini leads France to glory
The French captain scored an incredible nine goals in five games at Euro 1984
Michel Platini of France with coach Michel Hidalgo after victory in the 1984 European Championship Final against Spain at Parc des Princes in Paris. France won the match 2-0. Photo: David Cannon /Allsport
It was France that started the World Cup. After all the trophy is named after Jules Rimet, Fifa President from 1921 to 1954. It was also France that started the European Championships. After all the trophy is named after Henri Delaunay, former Uefa General Secretary and Fifa board member.
So why then, 54 years after the first World Cup and 24 years after the first European Championships, had the French not won either of the tournaments they started? What did they need to get them over the line?
The answer: possibly the greatest footballer of his generation.
Long before Michel Platini’s financial activities submerged him in controversy, he was mesmerising opponents on the pitch in the most stylish way possible.
Alongside Luis Fernandez, Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana in the midfield, they formed the carre magique or ‘magic square’.
After going out of the 1982 World Cup at the semi-final stage thanks to a penalty shootout loss to West Germany, Michel Hidalgo’s side came into the 1984 finals as favourites to lift the trophy.
It cannot be understated how much of that was down to the presence of Platini in their team. The 28-year-old came to the tournament in his home country in the middle of a run of three successive Ballon d’Or awards.The following year he would help Juventus to the European Cup by beating Liverpool in the final but it was the summer of ’84 where he was virtually unplayable.
The France captain scored the winning goal in his side’s opening group match against Denmark, before netting a hat-trick against Belgium in the next game and ending his group stage masterclass with another hat-trick in the 3-2 defeat of Yugoslavia in Saint-Ettiene.
Speaking to the BBC years later John Motson said of the then 28-year-old: “In that tournament, Platini was unbelievable. I’d put him on the same level as Diego Maradona at the 1986 World Cup and Johan Cruyff in 1976.” High praise indeed from the man in the sheepskin coat.
This was unprecedented stuff at a major finals. Platini scored in each of the five games France played on their way to lifting the trophy, netting a total of nine times – an average of 1.80 goals per game.
To put it in context the next best ratio is Alan Shearer’s seven goals in nine games.
But back to Platini and France.
After strolling through the group stage the hosts came up against Portugal in the semi-finals.
Jean-François Domergue put the home side ahead after 24 minutes before Jordao equalised for Portugal late on. Extra time required.
Just eight minutes into the additional period Jordao netted again and France were in trouble. Trailing 2-1 with just 12 minutes to go were they set for yet more semi-final heartbreak?
Not if Platini had his say. After Domergue scrambled an equaliser with six minutes to go, France’s captain marvel stepped forward to drag his country to the final.
But it was his midfield partner Tigana who was instrumental in the winner. Picking the ball up 30 yards from goal the man who would go on to manage Fulham jinked past two Portugal defenders before squaring to his captain.
From six yards Platini still had some work to do but did it perfectly, dragging the ball back before calmly slotting past two Portugal defenders.
France were in the final.
That final was to be played against Spain at Parc des Princes. After the drama and emotion of the semi-final there was only going to be one winner in Paris.
And who else to open the scoring than Platini just short of the hour mark. A late second came by the way of Bruno Bellone and France had finally won a major tournament.