Day: May 14, 2008

The European Championships – 1988

So, Euro 88. That was the one that the Dutch won at a canter, all crowned by Marco Van Basten’s magnificent volley against the USSR in the final, right? Well, yes and no. The Netherlands were, in their pomp, an extraordinary team to watch when in full flow. However, they were beaten by the USSR, flattered by a 3-1 win over England (a match in which England hit the woodwork twice) and required a late winner against Ireland in the group stages, needed two late goals to beat the host nation, West Germany in the semi-final, and might have had a tense end to the final had not Hans Van Breukelen saved a penalty for the USSR in the final. After their failure to get to the finals, England had made it this time, and the Republic of Ireland were there for the first time. Other than that, it was business as usual, although the holders, France, had carelessly failed to qualify, and Italy were in something of a transitional stage with a team that was expected to peak for the World Cup in 1990. Again, the nations were divided into two groups of four, with West Germany, Italy, Spain and Denmark in Group A, and the Netherlands, England, Ireland and the USSR in Group B. The top two from each group would qualify for the semi-finals. Group A...

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The European Championships – 1984

After a fairly disastrous opening tournament, the European Championships were given a lick of paint for the 1984 finals, with rules being changed to prevent a repeat of the torpid affair that had taken place four years prior. It was still an eight team tournament, but this time there would be no pointless third/fourth place play-off, and the top two from each group would play in semi-final matches. After the infamous World Cup finals match between West Germany and Austria in Gijon, when the two sides walked around for ninety minutes to ensure the 1-0 victory that saw them both through to the next round, the final group matches would be played simultaneously, and seven venues would be used rather than the four used in Italy. This format would remain unchanged until UEFA doubled the number of entrants in 1996. The tournament would come to be defined by one man and one man alone – Michel Platini, would go on to score an astonishing nine goals in five matches for France. The French started nervously, requiring a late goal from Platini to beat Denmark 1-0 in Paris. From here on, Platinni would make the tournament his own, scoring two successive hat-tricks. The first came in a 5-0 demolition of Belgium. The second, with France already effectively through to the semi-finals, came in the space of eighteen second half minutes...

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