The 1984 tournament may well have had a new format, but it was a familiar nation which emerged victorious.
It was the first time in the history of the finals that the tournament proper contained eight teams, seven of which qualified, with Italy gaining entry by virtue of playing host; another first.
England had an almost perfect qualification record,only dropping points away in Ireland, while Scotland finished a lowly fourth, behind Austria, Portugal and group winners Belgium.
Spain and the Netherlands also made the finals, with Czechoslovakia and West Germany continuing to show their might. Greece were the major surprise, qualifying for the first time at the expense of Hungary, Finland and the Soviet Union.
The expanded tournament meant that there was no need to a knockout qualification round, as the introduction of two groups of four paved the way for the first round we are familiar with today.
West Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands and Greece were drawn in Group A, with England, Belgium, Spain and hosts Italy together in Group B. The winners of each group would face each other in the final, with the second placed teams facing off for third place.
The opening match was a rerun of the 1976 final, with Czechoslovakia going down to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of West Germany. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge scored the only goal of the match. The Netherlands may not have been the all-conquering masters of previous years, but they started well; Kees Kist scoring in a 1-0 win over Greece.
West Germany and the Netherlands met three days later in what was seen as the group decider. The Germans took a 3-0 lead after a Klaus Allofs hat-trick, and survived a late rally from the Dutch to win 3-2. Czechoslovakia’s 3-1 win against Greece meant that West Germany were through to the final with a game to spare. In the final games West Germany drew 0-0 with Greece and the Czechs and Dutch drew 1-1.
In Group B there was a surprise result in the very first match, with England and Belgium drawing 1-1. Spain and Italy also drew in a goalless opener.
There was an indication of just how good the Belgians were when they faced Spain. Eric Gerets and Julien Cools scored either side of a Quini goal, as Belgium’s attacking prowess caused numerous problems for the Spanish side. England were defeated 1-0 by Italy, which meant the Belgians needed just a single point from their final game to reach the final.
England condemned Spain to the bottom of the group table, while Belgium were obstinate and stodgy in a 0-0 draw with Italy. The result meant that it would be Italy and 1976 winners Czechoslovakia playing for third place, with Belgium and ubiquitous finalists West Germany playing for the title.
For large parts of the game, the Czech goalkeeper Jaroslav Netolicka was the only barrier to the Italians running out comfortable winners. However, Ladislav Jurkamik thrashed a long-range shot past Dino Zoff to give Czechoslovakia the lead. Italy rallied, and equalised through Francesco Graziani. There was no further goalscoring and so the match went to penalties.
Both teams scored their first eight kicks, before Milan’s Fulvio Collovati missed his kick. Jozef Barmos scored the following penalty, giving Czechoslovakia third place. Italy would have to be consolidated by the fact they had won hearts and minds in their own country. If only they could keep this team together, how far could they go…?
In the final Horst Hrubesch gave West Germany the lead after just 10 minutes. In a perfect example of how the game has evolved, Belgium equalised after 75 minutes when Rene Vandereycken converted a penalty.
It was controversial for two reasons. The West Germans debated whether the Belgian was in the box at the time of the infringement, while there can be no doubt that in the modern game Uli Stielike would have been sent off for the cynical prevention of a goalscoring opportunity.
The debate was immaterial moments later, when Hrubesch headed the winner with seconds remaining. West Germany were the winners for the second time in three attempts.
- The 1976 European Championships: Dominant powers forced to pay penalty
- The 1972 European Championships: The dawning of a new era in Europe
- The 1968 European Championships: Italy triumph in a tournament of firsts
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