Video of the Day: France vs Portugal, June 1984
It’s a reasonably well-established fact that the last time the European Championships were played in France, the city of Marseille played host to one of the greatest matches in the history of the entire tournament – a thrilling semi-final between France and Portugal. Now, I’ve written about this match before in some detail, but I’ve not selected it tonight on the strength of it as a football exhibition. I’ve selected it primarily as a commentary masterclass and a demonstration of how atmosphere can, under the right circumstances, flow through a television screen into your living room.
Full disclosure: I’m not ordinarily a fan of John Motson. I wasn’t when he was in his prime and I’m still not now, given that he seems to have been encouraged by the Match of the Day production team to turn his shriek-o-meter up to eleven at any given opportunity. On this evening thirty-two years ago, however, he put in a shift, from the breathless shout of “GOAL!” as the winning goal, deep into injury time, hit the back of the net, to the subsequent, post-coital, “I’ve not seen a match like this in years.” If you’ve ever wondered what sex with John Motson might sound like – and it takes diff’rent strokes to move the world, so I’m not going to judge you – well, this might be it.
The parochial attitude of British broadcasters was well on display during the 1984 European Championships. This epic match was not shown live on the BBC. With no British teams having qualified, only two matches, the final and a group match between Spain and West Germany were the only matches shown live on the TV and ITV dropped coverage of the tournament altogether. But on this balmy evening in the South of France, the broadcasters missed a huge trick. With the sound of the crowd roaring to the point at which Motson was almost having to shout just to get himself heard, they missed a classic. The insularity of the BBC and ITV denied UK television audiences one of the greatest football matches ever played in front of television cameras.
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