Two weeks of scintillating football made the 1984 UEFA European Championship the best yet, and a large percentage of the talent on display belonged to the flamboyant hosts.
France had sparkled en route to the 1982 FIFA World Cup semi-finals and two years on Michel Hidalgo's team looked even better prepared. New goalkeeper Joël Bats added world-class ability between the posts while Luis Fernandez weighed in with the tackles in midfield, joining creative trio Michel Platini, Alain Giresse and Jean Tigana to form "Le Carré Magique" – the magic square.
There cannot have been a more gifted midfield quartet in world football at the time and Platini, in particular, was a rare gem. Elegant, intelligent, cheeky and a lover of the big occasion, the Juventus star also boasted an incredible scoring record. He entered the tournament as top-scorer in Serie A over the past two seasons and his strikes would prove vital in a side that had failed to produce a regular goalscorer since Just Fontaine.
Platini contributed the only goal in France's opening day 1-0 win over Denmark and he followed up with hat-tricks against Belgium and Yugoslavia as Les Bleus ran out 5-0 and 3-2 winners to top Group 1. Behind them, Denmark finished second, and with the semi-finals back on the agenda after their brief absence in 1980, an accomplished squad featuring players such as Preben Elkjær and Morten and Jesper Olsen could look forward to a last-four showdown in Lyon.
There they would take on Group 2 winners Spain, who recorded 1-1 draws with Romania and Portugal before Antonio Maceda Frances gave them a last-gasp victory over West Germany. That sent the Germans tumbling out and allowed Portugal to grab second place and a daunting last-four meeting with the hosts in Marseille.
Spain progressed to the final by overcoming Denmark on penalties, but the tournament belonged to France and Platini. In an epic semi-final, Jordão forced extra time for Portugal and sensationally gave them a 2-1 lead after 98 minutes. Les Bleus, however, refused to countenance defeat and levelled through Jean-François Domergue before Tigana teed up Platini to strike a memorable winner a minute from time.
If the expectations of a nation seemed to cripple the French in the first-half of the final at the new Parc des Princes, they were gifted a breakthrough when Platini's 57th-minute free-kick squirmed beneath Spain goalkeeper Luis Arconada for his ninth goal in five games. France then had Yvon Le Roux sent off, but they completed their task when Bruno Bellone scored late on to complete a 2-0 victory and claim a first major trophy.
"It was an overwhelming joy to become champions," explained Platini. "To do that in front of our own fans was the icing on the cake."
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