Monday, 30 May 2016

1984 - European Championships

The seventh European Championships were held in France.  Seven countries qualified to join the hosts.  They were split into two groups, and in a change from the 1980 tournament, there would then be a Semi-Final stage.

Group A  :  France, Belgium, Denmark, Yugoslavia
Group B  :  West Germany, Spain, Portugal, Romania

As with the World Cup two years later in Mexico, the tournament was dominated by one man.  Although there is little doubt Diego Marandona won the World Cup for Argentina, hauling a very average side to glory, Michel Platini was surrounded by quality players.  He was at the pinnacle of his game and had just been part of a Juventus side which had won Serie A.  The French had assembled a very classy side, unlucky not to reach the World Cup Final in 1982, but two years later they weren’t to be denied.


12 June 1984, Parc des Princes, 47,570
FRANCE   (0)   1   (Platini 78)
DENMARK   (0)   0

FRANCE: Bats; Amoros, Le Roux (Domergue), Bossis, Battiston; Fernandez, Platini, Giresse, Tigana; Lacombe, Bellone
DENMARK: Qvist; Busk, M Olsen, Nielsen; Arnesen (J Olsen), Simonsen (Lauridsen), Bertelsen, Lerby; Berggreen, Laudrup, Elkjaer

A virtual capacity crowd filled Parc des Princes in Paris to watch the hosts take on England’s victors, Denmark.  These were two of the most attractive sides of the 80’s.  France with their classy midfield of Platini, Tigana, Fernandez and Giresse.  Denmark with Simonsen, Arnesen, Lerby, Elkjaar and Michael Laudrup.  A feisty game was settled by a goal from Platini with just over ten minutes to go.  There was a hint of luck about the goal, which took a deflection past the keeper, but that seemed to typify the Frenchman’s luck at this present time.  Just before the end, French defender Amoros was sent-off for a head-butt on Jesper Olsen

13 June 1984, Stade Felix-Bollaert, Lens, 41,744
BELGIUM   (1)   2   (Vandenbergh 28, Grun 45)
YUGOSLAVIA   (0)   0

BELGIUM: Pfaff; Grun, Clijsters (Lambrichts), de Wolf; Vercauteren, Claesen, Scifo, de Greef, Vandereycken; Vandenbergh, Ceulemans
YUGOSLAVIA: Simovic; Zajec, Katanec, Gudelj, N Stojkovic; Bazdarevic (Cvetkovic), Susic, Sestic, Vujovic (D Stojkovic), Hadzibegic; Halilovic

Belgium, runners-up four years earlier, were up against Yugoslavia who hosted the 1976 finals.  Belgium were two goals up by half-time and the game was over.  Erwin Vandenburgh and Georges Grun scored the goals.  Vandenburgh’s was an impressive strike from just outside the area, and Grun was given the freedom of the Yugoslav box to convert a cross.

16 June 1984, Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes, 51,359
FRANCE   (3)   5   (Platini 4, 74 pen, 89, Giresse 33, Fernandez 43)
BELGIUM   (0)   0

FRANCE: Bats; Domergue, Bossis, Battiston; Fernandez, Platini, Giresse, Tigana, Genghini (Tusseau); Lacombe (Rocheteau), Six
BELGIUM: Pfaff; Grun, Lambrichts, de Wolf; Claesen, Scifo (Verheyen), de Greef, Vandereycken (Coeck), Vercauteren; Vandenbergh, Ceulemans
Four minutes in and the French had a free-kick about twenty five yards out.  Platini played the ball square to Fernandez whose shot rebounded off the crossbar.  Platini was first to it and fired the French in front.  The French just dominated the first half and played some lovely football.  Alain Giresse made it 2-0 and then just before half-time Luis Fernandez put them 3-0 up.

In the second half, Platini converted a penalty and completed the perfect hat-trick as he headed home for the fifth goal.  His first was with his left foot, second with his right and then the header.

16 June 1984, Stade de Gerland, Lyon, 24,736
DENMARK   (2)   5   (Arnesen 8, 69 pen, Berggreen 16, Elkjaer 82, Lauridsen 84)
YUGOSLAVIA   (0)   0

DENMARK: Qvist; Nielsen, M Olsen, Busk, Rasmussen (Sivebaek); Arnesen (Lauridsen), Bertelsen, Lerby; Berggreen, Laudrup, Elkjaer
YUGOSLAVIA: Ivkovic; Radanovic, Zajec, Katanec (Halilovic), N Stojkovic, Miljus; Susic, Bazdarevic (D Stojkovic), Gudelj, Vujovic; Cvetkovic

After France took Belgium apart, Denmark followed this with their own demolition of Yugoslavia.  Frank Arnesen put the Danes in front in the opening ten minutes as the Slav keeper turned Arnesen’s cross into his own net.  Ten minutes later, Berggreen scrambled the ball over the line to double the lead.  In the second half, Arnesen converted a penalty after Elkjaer was pushed over in the area, and then as the game moved into the final ten minutes it became the Preben Elkjaer show.  They ran riot as Elkjaer made it 4-0 and then substitute Martin Lauridsen completed the scoring with the fifth.

19 June 1984, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, St. Etienne, 47,589
FRANCE   (0)   3   (Platini, 59, 62, 77)
YUGOSLAVIA   (1)   2   (Sestic 32, D Stojkovic 84 pen)

FRANCE: Bats; Domergue, Bossis, Battiston, Fernandez; Ferreri (Bravo), Platini, Tigana, Giresse; Rocheteau (Tusseau), Six
YUGOSLAVIA: Simovic; Radanovic, Zajec, Gudelj, N Stojkovic, Miljus;, Bazdarevic (Katanec), Susic, D Stojkovic; Vujovic (Deveric)

France had secured qualification to the Semis, they just needed to try and win the group.  After the debacle of West Germany and Austria in Spain ’82, UEFA made sure that both final group matches kicked off at the same time.  France met Yugoslavia in St. Etienne, but surprisingly went behind when Sestic opened the scoring after thirty-two minutes.  The Yugoslavs were leading at half-time, and held that the hour when France equalised.  Inevitably, it was Platini who got it with his fifth goal of the tournament.  Three minutes later, he put the home side in front.  With thirteen minutes left, Platini completed his second successive hat-trick and the game was won.  Stojkovic later converted a penalty, but it was merely a consolation as France were looking increasingly impressive.

19 June 1984, Stade de la Meinau, Strasbourg, 36,911
DENMARK   (1)   3   (Arnesen 41 pen, Brylle 60, Elkjaer 84)
BELGIUM   (2)   2   (Ceulemans 26, Vercauteren 39)

DENMARK Qvist; Nielsen, M Olsen, Busk, Rasmussen (Brylle); Arnesen (Sivebaek), Bertelsen, Lerby; Berggreen, Laudrup, Elkjaer
BELGIUM: Pfaff; Grun, de Wolf, Clijsters; Claesen (Coeck), Vandereycken, Scifo, de Greef, Vercauteren (Voordeckers); Vandenbergh, Ceulemans
Denmark’s demolition of Yugoslavia was an excellent recovery from losing to France.  This was likely to be the shoot-out for second place, although goal difference would see Denmark go through with a draw.

Jan Ceulemans gave Belgium the lead midway through the first half.  Then as the break was barely five minutes away, they doubled that lead as Frankie Vercauteren put them 2-0 up.  The Danes replied soon after when Frank Arnesen converted a penalty.  Belgium lead 2-1 at the break, but then the game was levelled on the hour when Kenneth Brylle equalised.  Into the last five minutes and the game was still level, but then Preben Elkjaer grabbed a winner for Denmark and they’d made certain of qualification for the Semi-Finals


14 June 1984, Stade de la Meinau, Strasbourg, 44,707
WEST GERMANY   (0)   0
PORTUGAL   (0)   0

WEST GERMANY: Schumacher; B Forster, KH Forster, Stielike, Briegel; Rolff (Matthaus), Buchwald (Bommer), Rummenigge, Brehme; Voller, Allofs
PORTUGAL: Bento; Joao Pinto, Pereira, Eurico Gomes, Magalhaes; Carlos Manuel, Pacheco, Frasco (Veloso), Sousa; Chalana, Jordao (Fernando Gomes)

The holders, West Germany failed to win their opening game for the third tournament in the last four.  Portugal had not qualified for a major tournament since England in 1966, but had put together an attractive side and they had high hopes for this competition.  A 0-0 draw in Strasbourg probably suited them more than it did the Germans

14 June 1984, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, St Etienne, 16,972
ROMANIA   (1)   1   (Boloni 35)
SPAIN   (1)   1   (Carrasco 22 pen)

ROMANIA: Lung; Rednic, Iorgulescu, Ungureanu, Stefanescu; Coras, Dragnea (Ticleanu), Boloni, Klein; Gabor (Hagi), Camataru
SPAIN: Arconada; Urquiaga, Goicoechea, Maceda, Camacho; Senor, Gordillo, Munoz, Gallego (Julio Alberto); Carrasco, Santillana

In St. Etienne, the two outsiders in the group played out another draw.  Spain, who had disappointed in their own World Cup two years earlier, took the lead when Barcelona’s Francisco Carrasco scored from the penalty spot.  But ten minutes before half-time, Laszlo Boloni equalised for the Romanians.  Neither side could break the other down during the second half and so after the opening games of this group, all four sides were unseparated.

17 June 1984, Stade Felix-Bollaert, Lens, 31,787
WEST GERMANY   (1)   2   (Voller 25, 66)
ROMANIA   (0)   1   (Coras 46)

WEST GERMANY: Schumacher; B Forster, KH Forster (Buchwald), Stielike, Briegel; Meier (Littbarski), Matthaus, Rummenigge, Brehme; Allofs, Voller
ROMANIA: Lung; Rednic, Stefanescu, Andone, Ungureanu; Dragnea (Ticleanu), Boloni, Klein; Coras, Camataru, Hagi (Zare)

In Lens, the Germans finally made an impression on the tournament.  Rudi Voller gave them a first half lead.  But a minute into the second period and Marcel Coras equalised for the Romanians.  Voller then scored his second in the 66th minute and that proved to be the winner.  After both opening matches were drawn, any country winning their next game would be in control of the group.  Typically, the Germans had done just enough.

17 June 1984, Stade Velodrome, Marseille, 24,364
PORTUGAL   (0)   1   (Sousa 52)
SPAIN   (0)   1   (Santillana 73)

PORTUGAL: Bento; Joao Pinto, Pereira, Eurico Gomes, Magalhaes; Carlos Manuel, Frasco, Pacheco, Sousa; Chalana, Jordao
SPAIN: Arconada; Urquiaga (Senor), Goicoechea, Maceda, Camacho; Julio Alberto (Sarabia), Munoz, Gordillo, Gallego; Carrasco, Santillana

After the Germans win in Lens in the afternoon, this ‘local derby’ became vitally important for both sides, and Romania too.  After a goalless first half, the deadlock was finally broken by Antonio Sousa put the Portuguese in front within ten minutes of the re-start.  They held that lead until the game was heading towards the final quarter-of-an-hour when Carlos Santillana equalised for the Spanish.  Both teams seemed to settle for the point, which meant the Romanians could breathe a sigh of relief.

20 June 1984, Parc des Princes, Paris, 47,691
WEST GERMANY   (0)   0
SPAIN   (0)   1   (Maceda 90)

WEST GERMANY: Schumacher; B Forster, KH Forster, Stielike, Briegel; Meier (Littbarski), Matthaus, Rummenigge, Brehme (Rolff); Allofs, Voller
SPAIN: Arconada; Senor, Goicoechea (Salva), Maceda, Camacho; Julio Alberto (Francisco), Gordillo, Munoz, Gallego; Carrasco, Santillana

West Germany had beaten Spain in a deciding second phase match in the ’82 World Cup.  This time at the Parc des Princes, a draw would probably be enough for the Germans.  A tight game, saw the Germans have the better of the chances.  They hit the woodwork twice and Luis Arconada pulled off a string of fantastic saves in the Spanish goal.  The game looked to be heading for a 0-0 draw, which could well have been enough for both countries, when in the 90th minute Senor crossed and Maceda was unmarked in the area and he headed past Schumacher.  Spain had pulled off a dramatic win and the Germans were left sweating on the result in Nantes

20 June 1984, Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes, 24,464
PORTUGAL   (0)   1   (Nene 81)
ROMANIA   (0)   0

PORTUGAL: Bento; Joao Pinto, Pereira, Eurico Gomes, Magalhaes; Carlos Manuel (Nene), Fraso, Sousa; Chalana (Diamantino), Fernando Gomes, Jordao
ROMANIA: Moraru; Negrila, Stefanescu, Iorgulescu, Ungureanu; Irimescu (Gabor), Rednic, Boloni, Klein; Camataru (Augustin), Coras

Romania’s loss to Germany meant they needed to win this game.  Portugal could’ve progressed with a draw, although they were still dependent on Spain’s progress against West Germany.  This was a tense match which was still goalless heading into the final ten minutes, when Benfica striker, Nene, scored for Portugal and that proved the only goal of the game.  Portugal had won the group, and Spain’s last minute winner saw them go through too.  This meant elimination for the holders, West Germany in the most dramatic of circumstances.


23 June 1984, Stade Velodrome, Marseille, 54,848
FRANCE   (1)   3   (Domergue 24, 114, Platini 119)
PORTUGAL   (0)   2   (Jordao 74, 98)

FRANCE: Bats; Domergue, Bossis, Le Roux, Battiston; Fernandez, Platini, Tigana, Giresse; Lacombe (Ferreri), Six (Bellone)
PORTUGAL: Bento; Joao Pinto, Pereira, Eurico Gomes, Magalhaes; Frasco, Sousa (Nene), Jaime Pacheco; Chalana, Diamantino (Fernando Gomes), Rui Jordao

The Semi-Final matches in this competition were two of the most exciting you could ever see.  First up were the French.  They’d been irresistible during the group stage as Platini had scored seven of their nine goals.  Portugal had also been good to watch and this would’ve been many people’s choice for the Final.

France took twenty-four minutes to break down the Portguese as they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area.  Jean-Francois Domergue spotted a gap in the end of the wall and expertly took advantage to put the ball beyond Bento.  France pushed for a second goal to make sure, but Portugal battled like demons.  Bento pulled off several good saves, but French keeper, Bats, was also kept busy.  Thirteen minutes from time, Chalana crossed for Rui Jordao to loop his header over Bats and into the French goal.  This took the game into extra time.

If the French felt robbed by the late equaliser, they were well and truly stunned when Jordao scored his second goal just eight minutes into extra time.  Chalana was again involved as Jordao scuffed his shot into the ground and the ball bounced over Bats and into the net.  Portugal had taken an unlikely 2-1 lead.

In the space of twenty minutes the French had gone from the brink of a Final appearance they craved, to struggling to live with the weight of expectation.  With six minutes to play, Le Roux’s shot was charged down and the ball fell to Platini.  He was hauled to the ground before he could get his shot in, but Domergue was first to the loose ball and fired it into the roof of the net.  The Marseille crowd erupted.  With barely ninety seconds remaining, Jean Tigana took the ball wide on the right, got to the bye-line and crossed into the area.  To the joy of the French supporters, it fell to Platini, who calmly controlled the ball and then fired it past Bento.  Dramatically, the French had managed to get to a major tournament Final for the first time.  You felt a bit sorry for the Portuguese but it was probably the better team who won.

24 June 1984, Stade de Gerland, Lyon, 47,843
SPAIN   (0)   1   (Maceda 67)
DENMARK   (1)   1   (Lerby 7)

SPAIN: Arconada; Senor, Salva (Urquiaga), Maceda, Camacho; Julio Alberto (Sarabia), Gordillo, Munoz, Gallego; Carrasco, Santillana
DENMARK: Qvist; Sivebaek, M Olsen (Brylle), Busk, Nielsen; Arnesen (J Olsen), Bertelsen, Lerby; Berggreen, Laudrup, Elkjaer

Penalties: SPAIN: Santillana, Senor, Urquiaga, Munoz, Sarabia
DENMARK: Brylle, J Olsen, Laudrup, Lerby, Elkjaer

In Lyon, Denmark took an early lead when Soren Lerby scored after seven minutes.  Denmark were expected to win from here as they had been as attractive to watch as the French and many were looking forward to a classic Final.  Midway through the second half, it was Maceda again who saved the Spanish as he equalised.  The game went into extra time but there was still no winner, so penalties were required.

Santillana was up first for Spain and he scored.  Brylle did likewise for Denmark.  Senor then put Spain 2-1 up before Jesper Olsen levelled for the Danes.  Urquiaga then continued the conversion rate but Laudrup again brought Denmark level.  Victor Munoz made it 4-3 to Spain and then Soren Lerby, under pressure, levelled again.  Sarabia took the fifth penalty for Spain and he also scored.  This meant Denmark’s top striker, Elkjaer needed to score to take the shootout into ‘sudden death’.  He didn’t, and so Spain had got to the Final of a tournament they seemed to have done little to deserve, although knocking out West Germany and Denmark could been considered good enough.


27 June 1984, Parc des Princes, Paris, 47,368
FRANCE   (0)   2   (Platini 57, Bellone 90)
SPAIN   (0)   0

FRANCE: Bats; Battiston, Le Roux, Bossis, Battiston; Fernandez, Giresse, Platini, Tigana; Lacombe, Bellone
SPAIN: Arconada; Urquiaga, Salva (Roberto), Gallego, Camacho; Senor, Julio Alberto (Sarabia), Francisco, Munoz; Carrasco, Santillana

Over 47, 000 packed into the Parc des Princes and the vociferous home crowd were desperate for a French win.  They had waited so many years for a Final appearance in a major competition that the weight of expectation was almost too much.  Spain had done remarkably well to get to the Final too.  Don’t forget they almost didn’t qualify for the final stages and needed to beat Malta 12-1 to secure a place.  The game was a disappointment.  Spain did their best to spoil any French attack and the game was goalless at half-time.

As the game reached the hour mark, France were awarded a penalty on the edge of the Spanish area.  Platini stepped up, bent it round the wall, but Arconada was there to smother the ball low down by his left-hand post.  Arconada was possibly one of the best keepers in Europe at the time, but inexplicably he let the ball roll under him and he turned to see it crawl over the line.  This was Platini’s ninth goal of the competition in only his fifth game, and there was a collective sigh of relief around the stadium.

France were then reduced to ten men as Le Roux was sent-off, but the French were much more relaxed by this time.  Spain used the offside trap time after time and the French just couldn’t spring it, but as we headed towards time added on, Bellone managed to beat the offside trap as he ran onto a through ball and as Arconada came out, he delicately chipped the ball over him and into the net.  The French had done it, they won the European Championships and had played some of the most exciting, attractive football to do it too.  Few could argue the best team had won.


This tournament had several notable absentees such as England, Italy and Netherlands.  But it was also notable for a lack of crowd trouble too.  France were the best team throughout, although many would’ve hoped for another France/Denmark final as they had proved to be the most entertaining to watch.  West Germany were disappointing in their defence of their title and Spain were fortunate throughout.  The Spanish were nineties minutes from missing out on qualification, needing to beat Malta by eleven clear goals to get there.  In the finals, their failure to beat either Romania or Portugal had them on the verge of going out in the group stage as well, before Maceda’s winner against the Germans in the final minute.  Then there was the drama of a shootout in the Semi-Finals against Denmark.

There’s no doubt the tournament was better for the addition of a Semi-Final stage after the groups, but with the Final being contested by both group winners, one could argue this was only for the watching public rather than the football.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

1984 - European Championships - Qualifying

UEFA decided the expanded format of eight teams for the final stages was a success after 1980.  But this time they also decided to restore the Semi-Final stage, rather than just two group winners contesting the Final.  France was given the tournament to host.  The first time they had hosted a tournament since 1938 when they hosted the 3rd World Cup Finals.


For the qualification stage, thirty-two teams were put into seven groups, four of five teams, and three of four teams.

GROUP ONE: Belgium, East Germany, Scotland, Switzerland
GROUP TWO: Finland, Poland, Portugal, USSR
GROUP THREE: Denmark, England, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg
GROUP FOUR: Bulgaria, Norway, Wales, Yugoslavia
GROUP FIVE: Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Romania, Sweden
GROUP SIX: Albania, Austria, Northern Ireland, Turkey, West Germany
GROUP SEVEN: Iceland, Malta, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland

Group 1 saw Scotland come up against the 1980 losing finalists, Belgium.  Both countries had competed in the 1982 World Cup in Spain, which Belgium had advanced to the 2nd phase, beating Argentina, the holders, in their opening match.  The other two teams were East Germany and Switzerland.  Scotland began well with a 2-0 win over East Germany at Hampden Park.   They then suffered defeat in Berne against Switzerland and then two Kenny Dalglish goals saw them lead 2-1 in Belgium, only to eventually lose, 2-3.   Switzerland then arrived in Glasgow and came away with a 2-2 draw. With Belgium winning every game so far, and only the group winners to qualify, it was all over for the Scots.  They were the first team to take points off the Belgians when a Charlie Nicholas goal levelled things at Hampden.  Belgium then lost to Switzerland, but they’d already won the group.  Scotland’s disappointing campaign finished with a poor 1-2 defeat to East Germany, and they finished bottom of the group.

Group 2 included Poland, who finished 3rd in the 1982 World Cup and USSR, who reached the 2nd phase in Spain, losing to Poland.  Portugal and Finland made up the group.  Poland started off away to Finland and were 3-0 up before two late goals gave them a scare.  Portugal then also turned up in Finland and came away with a victory.  Portugal hadn’t qualified for a major tournament since they finished 3rd in 1966.  They pulled off a surprise by beating Poland, 2-1.  Poland then dropped points at home to Finland, and with USSR beating both Finland and Portugal, it looked tough for the Poles.

USSR then drew in Poland and won in Finland, and then completed the Poles misery by winning in Moscow.  With two matches remaining, Portugal travelled to Poland needing to win.  Carlos Manuel got the only goal of the game and Portugal won, 1-0, leaving things finely poised for the final game of the group in Lisbon, between Portugal and USSR.  A draw and USSR were through.  One minute before half-time and Rui Jordao converted the penalty for the only goal of the game.  Portugal had dramatically won the group.

Group 3 saw England drawn against Denmark, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg.  England had a new manager, Bobby Robson and he shook things up by refusing to include England's talisman of the past eight years, Kevin Keegan.  They started nervously with a 2-2 draw in Copenhagen.  Trevor Francis two goals looked to have won it, until Jesper Olsen grabbed a late equaliser.   
Luxembourg were the whipping boys as both Greece and Denmark beat them, before England’s tricky visit to Greece.  Goals from Tony Woodock (2) and Sammy Lee gave England an impressive, 3-0 win.   They followed this with a thumping of Luxembourg, 9-0 when Luther Blissett scored a hat-trick on his debut.   Hungary, who England had met in the qualifying group for the 1982 World Cup, then beat Luxembourg, 6-2 both at home and away.  In between this, England dropped crucial points as Greece came to Wembley and walked off with a 0-0 draw.   England then beat Hungary, 2-0 at Wembley.   When Greece won in Hungary and then Denmark beat them too, it all came down to the match at Wembley between England and Denmark.  England were wasteful and Allan Simonsen converted a penalty that proved to be the only goal.  Denmark had beaten England for the first time and now held control of the group.

England’s hopes were raised when Denmark lost, 0-1 in Hungary, but they needed Greece to beat them too.  Goals from Preben Elkjaer and Simonsen gave Denmark a 2-0 win and they’d won the group.  Not even a 4-0 win for England in Luxembourg was enough and having qualified for the last two major international tournaments, England would again have a summer off.  Denmark had qualified, for only their 2nd major tournament, having finished 4th in the Euros in 1964.

Group 4 contained Wales who were drawn against Bulgaria, Norway and Yugoslavia.  They began with an Ian Rush goal winning the game at home to Norway.  Norway then beat Yugoslavia, and drew in Bulgaria.  Yugoslavia then won in Bulgaria before hosting the Welsh.  A cracking game saw Brian Flynn put Wales in front early on, but then 2 goals in 3 minutes saw the Yugoslavs lead 2-1.  When Niko Kranjcar’s Dad extended the lead just before half-time the Welsh had cause to be concerned.  But then Ian Rush got a goal back almost immediately, and they trailed 2-3 at the break.  Jesic then added a 4th for the Yugoslavs, before Joey Jones and Robbie James levelled things for Wales.  The game ended 4-4, one to be remembered for a long time.   Jeremy Charles scored the only goal to be Bulgaria and then Wales gained a good 0-0 draw in Oslo. 

At this point, Wales were top of the group, 2pts clear of Norway and 3pts clear of Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.  Yugoslavia then beat Norway to move into 2nd.  Wales then travelled to Sofia, knowing victory would go a long way to qualifying them.  Unfortunately, Rusi Gochev got the only goal and Wales suffered their first and only defeat of the campaign.  They could redeem themselves if they beat Yugoslavia at Cardiff.   Robbie James gave them a first-half lead, and they held it until the last 10 minutes when Bazdarevic grabbed a late equaliser and Wales had missed another opportunity.  The final game in the group was in Split as Yugoslavia took on Bulgaria.  The Yugoslavs had to win as their goal difference was inferior to Wales and so a draw would see the Welsh go through.

Bulgaria scored first, but then Safet Susic grabbed an equaliser immediately.  Susic scored again early in the second half but then Georgi Dimitrov equalised.  The 90 minutes were up and Wales were getting ready to celebrate, but then Radanovic headed a very late winner and Yugoslavia had pipped the Welsh for qualification.

Group 5 contained the World Champions, Italy, along with Czechoslovakia, Romania, Sweden and Cyprus.  Italy were expected to cruise through as only the Czechs had competed in the ’82 World Cup and the ’80 Euros.  Romania got off to a great start beating Cyprus and Sweden.  Czechoslovakia and Sweden played out a 2-2 as Sweden scored 2 goals in the last 3 minutes to gain a point.  Italy’s first outing was in Milan against the Czechs, but they were disappointing in a 2-2 draw.  Italy were at home again, in Florence when Romania were the opponents, but were again disappointing in a 0-0 draw.  In February 1983, Italy travelled to Cyprus to gain their first victory of the campaign.  It didn’t turn out that way as they needed an equaliser from Graziani to gain a point.  Three games, three draws for the World Champions.  Cyprus then took points off the Czechs as well and the group was wide open.  In the return, Czechoslovakia thumped Cyprus, 6-0.  On the same day, Italy travelled to Bucharest, but Boloni scored the only goal of the game and Romania won, 1-0.  Italy were still winless from 4 matches, and 4pts behind the leaders, Romania.

The Czechs then swung things their way by beating Romania in Bucharest.  At the end of May 1983, Italy were in Stockholm to try and get their campaign going.  Eriksson and Corneliusson scored for the home side and Italy had lost again.  They would now need to win their last three matches, and that still might not be enough.  The group continued to ebb and flow as Romania beat Sweden, who then beat Czechoslovakia.  Sweden topped the group from Romania on goal difference, with Czechoslovakia 2pts behind.  Both Romania and the Czechs had a game in hand.

Sweden’s final match was in Naples.  Italy needed to win, and overturn a goal difference of -9.  After 20 minutes Glenn Stromberg put the visitors in front, and when he doubled the lead 7 minutes later the home fans were distraught.  Italy would now need a miracle.  It didn’t happen and Sunesson gave Sweden a famous 3-0 win.   Italy, the World Champions, were eliminated.  They had not won in their six matches.  Romania then won in Cyprus to move level on points with Sweden.  The Czechs, who would need to win their last 2 matches, then met Italy in Prague.  Petr Rada scored twice to heap more embarrassment on Italy as they won, 2-0.  The game between Romania and Czechoslovakia would decide the group.  The Czechs needed to win, the Romanians just needed a draw.  Geolgau gave Romania the lead, eight minutes from the end, Luhovy equalised but it wasn’t enough for the home side and Romania had won the group.  Italy finally picked up a win when they beat Cyprus, 3-1, but this was one of their worst ever qualification campaigns.

Group 6 had Northern Ireland up against European Champions, West Germany, along with Austria, Albania and Turkey.  Northern Ireland had reached the 2nd phase in Spain ’82, as had Austria.  West Germany were losing finalists in Spain.  The Austrians flew out of the blocks with wins over Albania (5-0) and Turkey (4-0).  They also beat the Irish, 2-0 in Vienna with two goals from Walter Schachner.  In November 1982, West Germany arrived at Windsor Park.  18 minutes in and Ian Stewart scored, and this proved to be the only goal of the game.   A famous win and Northern Ireland’s bid was now back on track.  All that good work was then ruined when they couldn’t beat Albania in Tirana (0-0). 

Into 1983 and the Irish beat Turkey, 2-1, and Albania, 1-0 at home.  The Germans had recovered their form against the same opponents, but then were held to a 0-0 draw in Vienna.  Northern Ireland then welcomed group leaders, Austria to Windsor Park.  Goals from Billy Hamilton, Norman Whiteside and Martin O’Neill, gave them a 3-1 win.  Austria still lead the group, but only on goal difference from the Irish.  Austria were then beaten in Germany too.  Northern Ireland then missed their chance to take a real hold on the group as they lost 0-1 in Turkey.  Two goals each from Rudi Voller and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge helped the Germans see off Turkey, 5-1.  That win took the Germans to the top of the group for the first time, with 3 teams on 9pts.  16th November 1983 was a significant day for the group.  Austria were in Turkey and Northern Ireland travelled to Hamburg.  In Istanbul, Turkey put paid to Austria’s chances with a 3-1 win.  Norman Whiteside scored the only goal in Hamburg and the Irish had beaten West Germany, 1-0 to pull off a famous double.  The group all hinged on the final game as West Germany were at home to Albania.  The Germans just needed to win, as their goal difference was far superior to Northern Ireland’s.  Remarkably, Tomori gave Albania the lead in the first half, but within a minute, Rummenigge had scored his 7th goal of the campaign.  Things stayed like that going into the final 10 minutes as the Irish hoped and prayed for no more goals.  Gerhard Strack broke Irish hearts with a late winner for the Germans.  It proved to be his only international goal, and West Germany won 2-1 to win the group on goal difference.

Group 7 contained Spain, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Iceland and Malta.  Spain had disappointed in the ’82 World Cup, and none of the other countries qualified.  The Dutch were surprisingly held to a draw in Iceland.  They then got their campaign underway by beating the Irish, 2-1.  Both Ireland and Spain beat Iceland, before the two met in Dublin.  Ashley Grimes put the Irish in front after just 2 minutes, but by the hour Spain were 3-1 up.  Frank Stapleton then scored twice and Ireland had gained an impressive draw.  After the Dutch thrashed Malta, 6-0 the big game of the group came in February 1983 in Seville as Spain took on Netherlands.  The only goal of the game came just before the break when Senor converted a penalty and the Spanish had the advantage.

Spain then beat Ireland at home and then won away at the two minnows of the group, Iceland and Malta.  Although, they only beat them by one goal each time and that could be significant if goal difference determines the winner.  To illustrate this, Netherlands then beat Iceland, 3-0.  In October in Dublin, the Dutch turned up and Ireland raced to a 2-0 lead in the first 35 minutes.  Gary Waddock and a Liam Brady penalty gave the Irish a dream start.  But in the second half, the Dutch came out a different side and two goals from Ruud Gullit and one from Marco Van Basten gave Netherlands a valuable 3-2 win.  Netherlands and Spain then met in Rotterdam.  After this game both countries had Malta to play, so a win for Spain would ensure their qualification, but a win for Netherlands and they could win the group on goal difference.  Peter Houtman put the home side in front midway through the first half.  Carlos Santillana then equalised just before half-time.  Midway through the second half and Ruud Gullit scored, what proved to be, the winner.   Now it would be down to how many goals each side could score against Malta.  The Irish then beat Malta, 8-0 when Mark Lawrenson helped himself to 2 goals.  Netherlands were first up, beating Malta 5-0.  Frank Rijjkaard scored twice, with his 2nd coming in injury time and could prove significant.  Netherlands looked to have done more than enough to qualify, they had a goal difference of +16, scoring 24 goals.  Spain’s goal difference was just +5, so for Spain to overhaul them, they needed to win by 11 goals.  Only 25,000 turned up in Seville, a measure of how slim the Spanish public thought their chances were. 

Santillana scored after 16 minutes.  But then Degiorgio equalised for Malta and this spelt disaster.  Two minutes later, Santillana scored again and then completed his hat-trick inside the opening half-hour.  3-1 to Spain was the half-time score and qualification seemed a world away.  Poli Rincon then made it 4-1 early in the second half.  6 minutes later and Rincon scored again.  Then during a crazy three minutes, Maceda scored twice and Rincon completed his hat-trick.  25 minutes to go and Spain lead 8-1.  Into the last 15 minutes and Santillana popped up with his 4th goal of the night, which was matched 2 minutes later as Rincon scored his 4th.  10-1 and Spain still needed to score twice more.  Manuel Sarabia then scored with 10 minutes to go, and then Senor scored the magic 12th goal.  Spain had pulled off the unbelievable and won 12-1.  They had matched Netherlands goal difference but went through by virtue of having scored more goals.  

So qualification was complete.  France, Belgium, Portugal, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Romania, West Germany and Spain.

Would the finals be all that good, though, without World Champions, Italy, or Poland, who were 3rd in Spain?  Not to mention England or Netherlands?