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When the French squad travelled over the Pyrenees for the Espana 82 World Cup, they did so with a suprisingly poor record at both the World Cup and European Championships. Apart from grabbing 3rd place at the  1958, thanks to Just Fontaine’s incredible 13 goal haul, and fourth place at the inaugural 4-team European Championship that they hosted in 1960, they’d really struggled, either not qualifying or not getting beyond the first group stage. Indeed, since that inaugural 1960 Euros they’d never qualified since, although France hosting the 1984 meant they appear again for the first time in 24 years. They went into the tournament with a new found confidence though having been one of the surprise packages at the 1982 World Cup, coming agonisingly close to reaching the final in an epic semi final against West Germany      They’d not qualified for another Euros since 1960, they were hosting 1984 so got a place as host Michel Hidalgo was still in charge, but it was going to be the final month of his eight year reign. There were several differences in the Euro 20 man squad to the 22 men who’d gone to Spain two years previous. Dominique Baratelli had stepped down as keeper after 1982 and been replaced in goals by Auxerre’s Joël Bats. Toulouse keeper Philippe Bergeroo and Sochaux’s Albert Rust were the other two back-up keepers, replacing Saint-Étienne’s Jean Castaneda and Monaco long-standing Jean-Luc Ettori. Defence was differnt, mainstay’s from 82, Gérard Janvion and the great Marius Trésor had both finished playing for the National team, but Manuel Amoros, Maxime Bossis and Patrick Battiston were still there, the latter having recovered from being kicked in the teeth by Schumacher. They were joined by  Jean-François Domergue Yvon Le Roux and Thierry Tusseau In midfield, the midfield four from Espana 82, Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Bernard Genghini and Jean Tigana were all still in place but another key midfielder had also emerged, PSG’s Luis Fernández. He’d impressed since making his debut against Holland in the Autumn of 1982, his ball-winning, energy and all-round play impressing Hidalgo. A couple of youngsters made up the midfield section of the squad, Monaco’s Daniel Bravo and Auxerre’s Jean-Marc Ferreri, an exciting prospect who was considered a long term candidate to replace Platini in the attacking midfield role. The squad’s attacking options were also similar to 1982, with four players retaining their places - Dominique Rocheteau, Didier Six, Bernard Lacombe and Bruno Bellone. All four were fine players but only Lacombe was an out and out forward, the other three had often operated primarily as wingers. Same problem as 82 goal scoring would rely on Platini  The focal point of the team was Platini Incredibly magic square only brought together in February  Incredibly the bbc and itv both effectively ignored the tournament as no home nation had qualified- only two matches were shown live, the final, and, somewhat randomly, the West Germany v Spain group match. France were drawn in Group 1 with Belgium, Denmark and Yugoslavia. On paper it looked better than Group 2, which featured reigning champions West Germany, Spain, Portugal and Romania. However, Belgium had some fine established players and had reached the final at Europa 80, Denmark were an emerging force, knocking out England in qualification and were at the start of their Danish Dynamite journey As hosts, France featured in the opening match of the tournament, against Denmark. It was the first time the Danes had qualified for an international tournament since the 1964 European Nations’ Cup and they were clearly a football side on the up with an exciting brand of football and some fine players.  Danish manager Sepp Piontek had a plan, asking Pisa midfielder Klaus Berggreen to man-mark Platini. Hidalgo would start the opening match with the Carre Magique in place, the now fabled midfield formation that translated as the Magic Square. It consisted of Fernández, Tigana, Giresse and Platini. The four had actually only started for the first time in February in a two-nil victory over England and then again in the tournament warm-up match against Scotland at the start of June. Hidalgo has seen enough to know that the system worked well, and the four lines up against the Danes at the Parc des Princes. With Berggreen shadowing Platini’s every move, the game had almost reached half-time with France still struggling to break the Danes down when the Dane’s game plan was struck a blow in the most severe manner - legendary attacker Allan Simonsen having his shin broken in a challenge with Yvon Le Roux. With the game entering the last it’s final stages it looked like it might end up goalless but on 78 minutes Tigana won the ball back magnificently in midfield and a swift, slick move ended with Platini finding the net. The drama wasn’t over there though, with 3 minutes left Manuel Amoros, who’d so impressed at the 1982 World Cup, was brought down by Jesper Olsen. In a fit of range, the defender picked the ball up and hurled it at the Ajax winger. Whether he was then even more frustrated that the ball flew over Olsen’s head is unclear, as he didn’t miss the target a second time, planting a head-butt straight into the Dane’s face. Out came the red card and France were down to ten men, with Amoros getting a three game suspension that would effectively rule him out of the remainder of the tournament. Next up for France was a match against the Belgians, four days later at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes. Belgium had comfortably seen off Yugoslavia 2:0 in their opener, and had a fine mix of experienced campaigners such as Jan Ceulemans, Erwin Vandenbergh, René Vandereycken and Franky Vercauteren alongside talented youngsters such as Nico Clausen and an eighteen year old called Enzo Scifo. On paper it looked like it would be a close one, but France went for it from the off , and with Belgium’s defence missing the like of Eric Gerets and Walter Meeuws because they were suspended because of the Standard Liege Waterschei scandal With Amoros unavailable he shuffled his pack, bringing in Jean-François Domergue to defence and adding Bernard Genghini to the midfield, as the magic square became a pentagon. The French midfield completed dominated, Platini put them ahead after just 4 minutes,  Giresse and Fernandez made it three nil before half-time, and then a second half brace from Platini completed the rout. The victory booked France's place in the semi-final with a game to spare, but with Hidalgo naturally keen to keep up the momentum and top the group, he fielded a strong side for the final game against Yugoslavia in the green cauldron of Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, home of Saint-Étienne. Former Saint-Étienne favourite Dominique Rocheteau, now with PSG, was brought in alongside Didier Six up front, replacing Bernard Lacombe, whilst  Jean-Marc Ferreri got his first run out of the tournament, replacing Genghini on the left side of midfield. It was another fantastic match, the late evening kick off adding to a terrfic atmosphere. Despite losing both of their first two group matches, they still had some quality players in their ranks, with Paris Saint-Germain's brilliant playmaker Safet Sušic and Hajduk Split's Zlatko Vujovic providing danger up front, and a nineteen year old Dragan Stojkovic in midfield. Miloš Šestic shocked the French as he opened the scoring with a ferocious left foot strike. As the match approached the hour mark, and the Yugoslav's still leading, France needed some inspiration, and found it in the form of their captain, Michel Platini. A great ball from Ferreri found Platini  who scored with a left foot shot. Three minutes later Platini put Les Bleus ahead with an incredible diving header, somehow finding the angle to divert the ball into the very corner of the net. Platini completed the perfect hatrick (left foot, right foot, header), as he nonchalantly curled in a beautiful free kick with thirteen minutes to go. A twice taken Stojkovic penalty would reduce the deficit seven minutes later, but France would hold on and finish the group stages with a perfect record of three wins out of three. Group 2 had consisted of West Germany, Spain, Portugal and Romania. The Germans were expected to stroll through to the semi-finals. They were the existing holders of the trophy, had reached the final of the 1982 World Cup and had even added some more talent to the squad in the likes of Rudi Völler, Andy Brehme and Guido Buchwald. However, things didn't go as expected, and a last minute goal by Antonio Maceda in the final game against Spain sent the Germans back home, the Spanish topping the group and Portugal also squeezing through thanks to a late goal of their own, Nené the hero as they beat Romania. This meant that France would play Portugal in their semi-final, whilst Spain would play Denmark in the other. Hidalgo and his squad Stade Vélodrome at Marseille. An 8pm kick off on a Saturday night, in one of the country's most atmospheric grounds,    With Portugal struggling for goals in the group stage, and France now free-scoring, it looked on paper a great chance for France to reach the final. The Carre Magique was back in place, and Lacombe was restored to the attack alongside Didier Six. When Domergue opened the scoring after 24 inutes, it looked like the flood gates ight open again, but the longer the game went on the more Veteran keeper Manuel Bento stopped everything that came his way, the tension continued to grow.  What followed was one of the greatest games of football that the Europen Champions has ever seen. Domergue Goal 24', 114' Platini Goal 119' Jordão Goal 74', 98' The chief architect of the Portuguese comeback was Benfica winger Fernando Chalana. Everytime he got the ball on the right wing he looked like he'd create something, either with a jinking run or a dangerous cross. In the 74th minute Chalana crossed for Sporting striker Rui Jordão to head home an equaliser. The game then went from end to end, Platini and Six going desperately close to late winners. Midway through the first period of extra time, Chalana skipped past Domerge and crossed for Jordão, his slightly miss-hit volley bonced up off the ground and past Bats. Queue absoloute footballing pandemonium as France laid seige to the Portuguese goal in a desperate bid for an equaliser. Howevr, this left them open to counter-attacks, with Chalana looking incredibly dangerous.  With just six minutes left, it looked like Portugal just might prove the ultimate party-poopers, but up again stepped the games most unlikely of heroes, Domergue scoring his second goal to stab home from six yards and send the Velodrome into raptures. Having saved the game, now the French piled forward in a bid to win it and prevent penalties, the relentless energy of Jean Tigana was never more evident as in the last minute he surged forward, cut the ball bac and Platini fired home. If the Velodrom had a roof the noise would have taken it off, anyone dobting the drama only needs to listen to John Motson's brilliant commentary to get a feel for it!  France had done it, finally reaching a tournamnet final. A rematch with the Danes was expected, but their semi-final in Lyon had gone all the way to penalties after Antonio Maceda had scored another Spanish equaliser. Spain successfully despatched all of their five penalties, leaving heartbreak for Preben Elkjær, who up until that point had enjoyed a brilliant tournament, as he missed the final Danish penalty. That meant a France vs Spain final, at that point two perennial underachieving football nations given their size and history. France headed back to where they'd started the tournament - the Parc des Princes in Paris. Bruno Bellone got the nod for the final, up front with Lacombe. Platini after 57 minutes Captain Arconada had been in great form throughout the tournament but unfortunately chose the final to make his first mistake  Goal meant Platini had scored in every match and ended up with 9 goals, six more than the second highest scorer, Frank Arnesen Le Roux got a 2nd yellow card and sent off as free 85 mins Tigana put Bellone through to seal things One of the most deserved tournament victories, as we’d hilts Denmark had impressed us all it was France  who had been the dominant team throughout the two weeks  Bellone 90 mins