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The Unstoppable French Midfielder Michel Platini at Euro 1984

Michel Platini playing at the Euro 1984 final against Spain.

The 2024 Euros are on the minds of football lovers right now. But, forty years ago it was unstoppable French midfielder Michel Platini who was on everyone’s mind. His exploits not only enthralled a nation but a whole continent.

Euro 1984: An Unstoppable French Midfielder At His Peak

How Michel Platini Enthralled A Continent

In 1984 Michel Platini vied with Argentina’s Diego Maradona as to who was the greatest player in the world. By the end of the European Championship of 1984 France’s captain Platini had pretty much settled the argument – for two years at least.

Recovering From Semi-Final Heartbreak In Spain

Two years earlier, at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Michel Platini was the driving force of a France team that embodied the beautiful game. Reaching the semi-final, the French lost on penalties to West Germany after surrendering a 3-1 lead – the victims of Germany’s renowned resilience.

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It’s a game most remembered for West Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher’s horrific tackle on French defender Patrick Battiston. Though this incident, and the unfairness of France’s defeat (Schumacher had stayed on the field to save the last French penalty), stiffened French resolve. The 1984 Euros would be on home soil. It seemed a good time for France to win its first major international trophy.

A Goalscoring Machine – From Midfield

So, how good in 1984 was French midfielder Michel Platini? At the Euros he would be as prolific in front of goal as West Germany ace poacher Gerd Muller.

Such were Platini’s inspirational performances that arguably no one, before or since, has performed at such a level in Europe’s premier international tournament. It’s sad, though, that, after his playing career, Platini has been embroiled in so much controversy in his role as a football administrator.

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Even without Platini, France would have been an outstanding side in the 1984 Euros. Other midfielders Jean Tigana and Alain Giresse offered flair and verve, with Maxime Bossis a rock at the heart of Les Bleus’ defence. Battiston had a happier tournament as part of the victorious French side.

Platini scored an incredible nine goals from five games in the tournament – six more goals than any other player in the competition. Now a Juventus player, scored the only goal of the game in France’s first game against Denmark.

He then scored a hat-trick in the next two group games, a 5-0 win against Belgium (runners-up in the previous Euros) and a 3-2 win against Yugoslavia. The latter was a game on familiar turf for Platini at the stadium of his previous club, Saint-Étienne.

The Drama Of Marseille

As only eight teams participated at Euro 84, the knockout stage was semi-finals contested between each group’s top teams. France met Portugal in Marseille in one of the classic games in Euros history.

First, the home side led, then Portugal equalised. In extra time, the Portuguese went 2-1 ahead. The French fought back though and equalised through Jean-François Domergue’s second goal of the match.

In the last minute, almost inevitably, Michel Platini won the game for the hosts. He received a pass from Jean Tigana and blasted in from close range to secure a place in a major final for France for the first time. These days Les Bleus are nearly always among the favourites to win the big competitions.

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Destiny Awaits

Spain were France’s opponents on June 27th at the Parc des Princes in Paris. It seemed that nothing was going to get in the way of Michel Platini’s destiny. But, as was the case with Portugal, the Spanish were tough opponents and matched the French blow for blow in a goalless first half.

Luis Arconada was a world-class goalkeeper, and it seemed Platini and co. would have to come up with something special to beat him. However, though the breakthrough, predictably, came from Platini, it was an error by Arconada that gifted the French the lead.

A free kick taken by Platini should have been saved, but it eluded Arconada’s grasp. In the final seconds of the game, forward Bruno Bellone put France an unassailable two goals clear.

Platini had been incredible in the tournament, and the types of goals he scored confirmed his genius. Goals from free kicks, close range, long-range (one with his left foot, one with his right), headers, and just the one penalty.

Still One Of France’s Greatest-Ever Players

The 1984 Euros win confirmed Michel Platini as a French legend. While it’s still open to debate as to who the greatest French player of all time is, Platini is in that conversation. Along with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Kylian Mbappé, Thierry Henry, Raymond Kopa, and Just Fontaine.


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