On this day in the Euros, June 19: The genius of Platini rocks Euro 84
The silky-footed Frenchman lights up his home tournament
Having taken a while to get going, with just five goals in the first four games, Euro 84 exploded into one of the tournament’s finest summers.
It ended up averaging 2.73 goals per game — a total beaten only once since the Euros’ expansion past the extended weekend of a four-team tournament — and much of that was due to the colourful Group A containing France, Belgium, Denmark and Yugoslavia.
Hosts France had started by edging past Denmark 1–0 before demolishing Belgium 5–0 with a hat-trick from Michel Platini augmented by goals from two other members of les Bleus’ midfield “Carré Magique” (Magic Square), Alain Giresse and Luis Fernandez. (Jean Tigana was goalless on this occasion, as was usually the case: the box-to-boxer only scored once in 52 caps, against Hungary at Mexico 86.)
Yugoslavia weren’t the silky force they had been in the 1970s: their only win at a finals since 1974 had been via an 88th-minute penalty against Honduras.
Easily beaten 2–0 by Belgium, Todor Veselinovic’s side then faced Denmark in an open, even game that they somehow contrived to lose 5–0. The Danes were as clinical as the Yugoslavs were profligate: goalkeeper Tomislav Ivkovic pushed Frank Arnesen’s cross into his own goal for the opener, and three or four golden chances were spurned before Arnesen’s 69th-minute penalty led to a collapse and the concession of two further late goals.
The final group games on June 19 were held simultaneously, in a new development prompted by the 1982 ‘Disgrace of Gijon’ in which West Germany and Austria played out a mutually beneficial 1–0 scoreline which saw both teams progress at the expense of Algeria, who had played the previous day.
As it happened, no such situation could occur in this group anyway. Denmark and Belgium, tied on two points each, had a virtual eliminator in Strasbourg while Saint-Etienne’s Stade Geoffroy-Guichard watched France, already through, face Yugoslavia, already out.
Perhaps that clichéd release from pressure helped Yugoslavia take the lead. They weren’t nearly as bad as that 5–0 shellacking suggested and proved it after 32 minutes by scoring their first goal of the tournament.
Milos Sestic, a 5ft 6in Red Star Belgrade forward, had been around the Yugoslav national team since the late 70s but had yet to score an international goal. He broke his duck in some style, tucking side Tigana and playing a one-two with PSG playmaker Safet Susic before larruping a 20-yarder into Joel Bats’ top corner.
Giresse responded with a lovely 20-yard volley onto Zoran Simovic’s crossbar but France’s real reply came after half-time, through their increasingly iconic captain. Platini had already scored four times in two games and the Gallic go-to guy was at it again in the second half.
Platini strikes back
Sure of touch and wide of vision, Platini had just helped Juventus to the Serie A and European Cup Winners’ Cup; two days before his 29th birthday, he was in the form of his life. It helped that the Magic Square gave him licence to roam, usually behind a single spearhead (generally Bernard Lacombe), in effectively what would become known as the ‘second striker’ position.
France coach Michel Hidalgo was well aware of his star man’s ability and encouraged his forward runs — as you would. The only squad member based outside France, Platini rewarded him with goals.
Just before the hour, Jean-Marc Ferreri drifted in from the right and played a diagonal over the defence. Simovic hared off his line but Platini was there first, accepting the clattering because he’d already stroked the ball home left-footed.
Three minutes later, Tigana’s energy and Giresse’s vision gave Patrick Battiston — himself the victim of a much more sinister goalkeeper crunching, in the 1982 World Cup semi-final against West Germany — the room to cross. Platini flew at it head-first, twisting his body in mid-air and directing a diving header home from 12 yards.
Platini completed the perfect hat-trick — left foot, header, right foot — within 15 minutes with a free-kick from 21 yards. Standing over it with hands on hip, he didn’t even bother with a run-up, nonchalantly lifting it into the top corner and turning away, arm held aloft.
Yugoslavia halved the arrears through an 84th-minute penalty from Dragan Stojkovic, controversially retaken after Bats was adjudged to have moved before saving the first attempt. Barely 19 years old, playmaker Stojkovic was destined for great things, and he would no doubt have been drinking in Platini’s performance.
What happened next
Platini’s hat-trick had taken him onto seven goals from three games; he ended up with a Euro 84 total of nine. For comparison, despite the expansion from eight teams to 16 from 1996 and 24 from 2016, nobody has scored more than five goals at the Euros since.
France also won their next match 3–2 — the semi-final against Portugal, decided in the 119th minute by you-know-who. He scored again in the final victory against Spain, and led France to the Mexico 86 semi-final; his 1987 retirement was followed by French failure to qualify for Euro 88 or Italia 90.
Yugoslavia didn’t make it to Mexico 86 or Euro 88, their Italia 90 quarter-final followed by war and partition. Stojkovic impressed at Red Star and joined Marseille in 1990 for a whacking great £5.5m; brought on late in extra time of the 1991 European Cup Final against his old club, the spot-kick specialist refused to take part in the shootout.
Red Star won that shootout, and to this day no team from France — the nation whose sons suggested both the Euros and the European Cup — have won the continent’s top club competition. But France won the Euros in 1984, largely down to the genius of Michel Platini.
Originally published at FourFourTwo on June 18, 2016.