Politics On The Pitch #7: Groups Of Death Part 4 – 1990-99

Finally, after nearly an exact year since Groups of Death Part 1 in Politics On The Pitch, we come to the final chapter of this epic mini-series looking at politically and militarily uncomfortable match-ups (and many resulting withdrawals) in world football throughout the 20th century. Although it took a while to get going, as you’ll see, we now finish with the fascinating 1990s, which despite the slow starts culminates in probably the most politically fascinating group of all time.

World Cup 94 Qualifiers

With the conclusion of the Gulf War in 1991, a period of relative world peace and prosperity began on many parts of earth (ahem) meaning there are vast swathes of the 90s with nothing much to report on… Reflecting this, Euro 92 qualifiers had featured a reunited Germany, a soon to dissolve Soviet Union, and an Ireland-England pairing that, although still juicy, had been done many times by now.

Sure, the break-up of Yugoslavia the following year led to significant violence, and there was still tension in Northern Ireland, but no other powers were yet involving themselves in the Balkans and the North’s Good Friday agreement would soon be signed in 1994. While Yugoslavia’s situation removed them from world football, Ireland and Northern Ireland were again drawn together in World Cup 94 qualifying leading to an infamously tense final game in Windsor Park, with only a few brave souls from the Republic venturing up to see their side qualify amid safety concerns for away fans in the British loyalist stronghold.


Northern Ireland fans sending provocative gestures in the general direction of the Republic of Ireland, World Cup 94 qualifier, 17/11/1993.

One situation that raised eyebrows elsewhere was in Asia’s AFC Zone, where the possibility of certain countries qualifying for USA 94 rather than specific match-ups was the issue. From 6 preliminary groups, the winners who made it through to the final group round consisted of three US allies in Japan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, and three countries with US economic sanctions against them – Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

As each team would play the other four once in Doha, Qatar, throughout October 1993, with the top two advancing to the finals, it also meant a meeting between North Korea and South Korea. This too, however, was a match that had already taken place as many as seven times since 1978, but after the Doha game – a 3-0 win for South Korea – the fixture would not return until a heartwarming 2005 friendly to celebrate 60 years since all of Korea’s independence from Japan.

In the end, the United States had nothing to worry about when it came to letting in their economic enemies. Iraq, Iran and North Korea finished 4th, 5th and 6th in the group, while 1st and 2nd placed Saudi Arabia and South Korea could look forward to a rousing welcome from Uncle Sam the following Summer.


South Korea's third goal in a 3-0 win over their Northern cousins in Doha, Qatar, World Cup 94 qualifier, 28/10/1993.

Meanwhile in Africa, withdrawals from the opening group stage were as rife as they had been in the past, signaling the poverty and conflict still experienced across the continent while the western economies prepared to boom. Out of the nine groups, ten teams withdrew without kicking a ball: Uganda, Sierre Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sudan, Malawi, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Gambia, and Mali.

Two other African nations would also end qualification early for off the field reasons, as sanctions relating to both serious international incidents and internal problems (to put it mildly) again effected those who just wanted/were lucky enough to play a game for a living. Group D’s Libya, originally scheduled as have all matches away from home, left in protest in March 1992 after UN air and arms embargoes were placed on the country’s regime for not handing over suspects of the 1989 Lockerbie Bombing, and in Group B Liberia withdrew after two games in November 1992 as it’s civil war (1989-96) degraded into one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world.

Euro 96 Qualifiers

The qualifiers for the Euro 96 were momentous as many newly independent nations – formerly within the socialist unions of Czechoslovakia, USSR, and Yugoslavia – were taking part in their first campaign of any kind (plus Lichtenstein). Israel, having competed for World Cup qualification through UEFA many times as we have previously discussed, also competed for the chance to make it to a Euros for the first time, with a precedent already set through Eurovision Song Contest entries since 1973.

This all pumped the number of teams from 33 in the 1992 qualifiers to a whopping 47 for 1996, and that was still without the excluded Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s rump state, later to become simply Serbia and Montenegro). It also created interesting religious dynamics such as in Group 1, where Azerbaijan (99% Muslim), France (50% Christian; 39% non-religious) Israel (74% Jewish) Poland (87% Catholic) and Romania (81% Orthodox Christian) all battled it out for supremacy.

In Group 4, Italy found themselves in the interesting situation of being “surrounded” entirely by the debutante quintet of Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Ukraine (although the Baltic states had achieved independence early enough to have made it into World Cup 94 qualifying, along with Russia taking the Soviet Union’s place). With one new competitor at England 96 therefore all but guaranteed (the worst group runners-up would still have to meet in a play-off) the Croats displayed that the Balkan tradition of football excellence would live on without the Yugoslavian banner, as they pipped the Italians for top-spot by goal-difference.


Croatians en route to a great 1-2 victory away to Italy in only their third ever competitive match, Euro 96 qualifier, 16/11/1994.

Group 4 also demonstrated the numerous possibilities of states, who had previously been united under old regimes, now facing off against each other. In World Cup 94 qualifying, Lithuania had already been drawn against neighbours Latvia and this time it was Estonia, as well fellow-former Soviet Republic Ukraine, while Croatia and Slovenia had both been part of the old Yugoslavia.

In all of these cases, the teams involved were representing states that had effectively been on the same side in their independence movements. But particularly with the break-up of Yugoslavia, which was still on-going as the Bosnian War lasted until December 1995, future nasty “dream matches” between sworn enemies once again became inevitable in world football.

World Cup 98 Qualifiers

In Europe all remained calm for the 98 qualifiers – up to 50 teams from 36 last time – with the only semi-notable situations arising in the likes of Group 1, where three former Yugoslav republics were placed together for the first time (debuting Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia); Group 6 for the return of the Yugoslavia name itself, along with the former-Czechoslovak derby for the first time in a competitive setting; and the pairing of Latvia and Estonia in Group 4, meaning the three Baltic sides had now met. In Central and North America’s CONCACAF zone, economic sanctions again effected matters as embargoed Cuba played their first round home game against Cayman Islands, second round 1ss and 2nd-legs against Haiti, and third round home fixtures against El Salvador, Honduras and Panama either on neutral soil or in the opponent’s ground.

Even in Africa things improved as the only sides to withdraw were Mali and Niger, while Liberia also returned, however Libya were still absent, In final round Group 5, Sierra Leone’s game away in Gabon was also postponed and later cancelled, as the team were unable to leave Freetown due to events arising from the country’s long civil war (1991-2002), but they returned to defeat Ghana 0-2 in an inconsequential match at the end of the group (ending ahead of the Ghanaians despite playing one less game).

World Cup 1998

Group F

Germany
Iran
United States
FR Yugoslavia 

While the US did not have to confront the issue of allowing “rogue nations” in at World Cup 94, their participation at the following edition in France threw up a whole group for them filled with political undercurrents. Joining the Americans in Group F were their former World War enemies/current militarily base ally Germany; a country with whom relations had been fraught since the 1979 “Islamic Revolution”, Iran; and a state that would soon feel the wrath of US-backed military might, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Of course with WW2 a distant memory, the first game against the Germans held little significance to most, although their inclusion in this group of American “enemies” can’t have been lost on some. After a 2-0 win for the Europeans, a more current affair was up next for USA with what FIFA themselves call the most politically charged match in World Cup history.

The US had previously supported the old Iranian government following a CIA-backed coup in the 1950s, until the aforementioned Islamic Revolution in 1979 removed the Shah and installed the Ayatollah’s Islamic Republic, breaking relations. Later that year the Iranian hostage situation at the American embassy in Tehran, followed by retaliatory sanctions, an American backing of Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War 1980-88, and American strikes on Iranian targets in 1988 including a commercial airliner, all contributed to the bad-will between the two countries.

Ahead of the game against Iran in Lyon on the Summer solstice, June 21st, 1998, there were concerns for both the safety of the American team from extremist attacks and for the possibility of dissident Iranians using the high profile occasion to protest against the own government. There was also a disagreement on the night before the match on who would walk towards who to shake hands before kick-off (approaching the other side with a sign of submission was out of the question for the Iranian authorities), with a compromise reached for a presentation of flowers instead and a joint team line-up to symbolise the uniting power of sport over nearly every other human division.


The US and Iranian teams join forces for peace ahead of their World Cup 98 first round match, 21/06/1998.

Not long into the game, rumours of protests became a reality as a whole section of Iranians unfurled political banners and flags against the regime, prompting clashes with some of their fellow supporters. Riot police moved in to surround the group and prevent them from invading the pitch, on which their team would go on to record a famous 2-1 victory over the Westerners.


Iranian political protestors make their presence felt during the World Cup 98 first round clash against USA, 21/06/1998.

A hat-trick of poor performances for the Americans was completed four days later against Yugoslavia, as another 0-1 defeat left them eliminated at the bottom of the group. This will have been particularly satisfying for the winners as, although US-led sanctions against the Yugoslavs during the Balkan conflicts had been lifted in October 1996 following the peace accords of 95, the sanctions had just been reinstated mere months before the match at the outbreak of the Kosovo War in March 1998.

Euro 2000 Qualifiers

Group 8

Croatia
Republic of Ireland
FYR Macedonia
Malta
FR Yugoslavia 

Finally, and staying with the Balkan theme, Euro 2000 qualifying Group 8 produced what was definitely the ultimate grudge match of the of the decade: Croatia vs Yugoslavia, featuring the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (aka Forgotten Yugoslav Republic) thrown in for good measure. With the aforementioned Kosovo conflict in full flow also, the bewildered Irish and Maltese each had three separate trips to the war torn region to come over the next 13 months in what was one of the most politically tense groups of all time.

Since the initial break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic, the Serbian-dominated Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was determined to block any attempts at secession from the semi-autonomous region of Kosovo – inhabited by a majority of ethnic Albanians but with a sizable Serbian minority – prompting the Yugoslavian army to enter the territory in March 1998. With the situation degrading, the Irish went to a tense Belgrade in November for the first of their eastern journeys and were defeated 1-0 by the Yugoslavs.


Celebrations in Red Star Stadium as the home side take the lead, Yugoslavia vs Ireland, 18/11/1998.

As atrocities were committed in Kosovo under the guise of suppressing rebel forces – namely the Kosovo Liberation Army, or KLA – and international intervention loomed, on March 2nd, 1999, Red Star Belgrade agreed to move their remaining Champions League fixtures to Sofia, Bulgaria. It would only be the start of the turmoil that, in football terms, mostly happened to revolve around Group 8.

On March 23rd, NATO began it’s strategic bombing of targets in Belgrade. The next day, UEFA postponed three upcoming fixtures in the group that were set to take place in the Balkan area: Macedonia vs Ireland and Yugoslavia vs Croatia, both originally scheduled for March 27th, and Yugoslavia vs Macedonia on March 31st.

Proving that sport and politics definitely do mix, star defender Siniša Mihajlović pledged his support for president Slobodan Milošević while leaving the country on March 24th, before the Yugoslav football federation urged any players at clubs in NATO countries to boycott their employers. Real Madrid’s Predrag Mijatović, draped in the Yugoslav flag, and three others proceeded to protest outside Spain’s US embassy on March 27th/28th, while Crystal Palace’s Sasa Curcic picketed outside 10 Downing St in London – they were among 40 Yugoslav pros to strike around Europe.

On the 25th UEFA also postponed the imminent visit of Scotland to Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group 9, as flights to the area could not be guaranteed safety. On the same day, the Irish demonstrated their desire to take advantage of the tragic situation by outlining intentions to ask the governing body to have their defeat in Belgrade the previous November annulled and replayed on a neutral ground, should other countries fixtures away to the Yugoslavs also be moved out of the conflict zone.

As NATO’s operation intensified, UEFA were forced on March 28th to suspend more upcoming qualifiers in the area – Malta’s visit to Croatia, and Slovenia vs Albania from Group 2 – before on March 29th the saga continued to rock the world of football when Metz’ Serbian forward Vladan Lukić vowed to down tools for three months in protest against the strikes (which surely had NATO bosses shaking in their boots). And on April 1st, the Yugoslavs’ own league was suspended for the duration of the war.

Over the coming weeks, developments included Real Madrid issuing a £23,000 fine to Mijatović for his absence from the team, and Albania’s Group 2 qualifier with Latvia being moved from Tirana to the Latvian capital of Riga. The next area of contention would be far away from eastern Europe, however, as peaceful Dublin unexpectedly became the focus ahead of Ireland vs Yugoslavia on June 5th.

Adding an extra element to the fixture, in May the Irish government accepted more than 1000 Kosovar refugees from the 80,000 forced to flea the area (who were lucky compared to nearly 9000 Kosovo Albanians killed or declared missing during the 16 month disaster). Although Ireland wasn’t a member of NATO, the government held grave concerns about the situation in Kosovo and refused to grant visas to the Yugoslav squad for their upcoming visit (citing overwhelming public outcry in support of cancelling the match, which wasn’t exactly the case).

UEFA threatened Ireland with football sanctions of it’s own – including possible expulsion from the competition at worst – should the match not go ahead, while the Football Association of Ireland plead it’s helplessness in the face of the government’s decision (with one FAI official coyly commenting on how few international fixtures would be left if every state’s human rights records were held to account). Calls from Geneva (UEFA’s base) reiterated that sports and politics should not meet in their domain and hence there was no reason for the match to be cancelled, but some in the Irish media argued that accepting the Yugoslavs as guests would legitimise their regime’s war crimes.

Although on June 3rd Milošević accepted terms of a peace plan, it was too late and the match that weekend did not go ahead. But on June 8th, the Yugoslav players would be accepted into Greece for their game against Malta on the neutral soil of PAOK’s Toumba Stadium in Thessaloniki. With the War officially coming to an end a few days later on June 11th, Yugoslavia’s trip to Dublin was finally rescheduled for September 1st, as a light fine and reimbursement of the Yugoslavs’ original travel costs turned out to be UEFA’s only punishments for the Irish.


FR Yugoslavia vs Malta on neutral soil gets underway in PAOK's Toumba Stadium, Greece, Euro 2000 qualifier, 08/06/1999.

But before that, there was the small matter of the rescheduled first ever meeting between Yugoslavia and Croatia on August 18th, 1999, in Belgrade. The Croats’ victorious but brutal War of Independence against the Serbs had concluded less than four years previous, with the final months running concurrent to the national team’s own successful Euro 96 qualification campaign.

The country’s star debut at the Euros, followed by third place at World Cup 98, had put it on the footballing map ahead of their former federal partners, as Yugoslavia’s return to tournament was less inspired (one can’t help but wonder at far they might have gone had the original SFR Yugoslavia remained united, which was never going to happen of course). While on-the-pitch superiority mattered some, the approx. 15,000 dead or missing Croats between 91 and 95 (compared to less than 7000 Serbs) made the the two games to come in Group 8 as charged as any in football history.

If the crowd in Windsor Park in 1993 had been 99.9% home supporters, 100% of the nearly 50,000 in Red Star Stadium were there hoping to see Yugoslavia win. Of course, for their own safety, no away fans were permitted, as evident by the overwhelmingly booed Croatian national anthem. Despite the away side hitting the woodwork more than once, a 0-0 draw was played out in the hostile atmosphere.


The players line-up ahead of the history FR Yugoslavia v Croatia match in Red Star Stadium, with a flag hanging in the Serbian national colours visible on the left, Euro 2000 qualifier, 18/08/1999.

Croatian players sing their national anthem as boos reign down from the home Yugoslavian fans in Red Star Stadium, Belgrade, World Cup qualifier, 18/08/1999.

Over the coming weeks, an Irish win over Yugoslavia in Dublin, a Croatian win over Ireland in Zagreb, and back to back Yugoslavian defeats of the Macedonians (with all sides picking up maximum points against Malta along the way) meant that everything was to play for going into the last series of games. While a win for either side in the upcoming Croatia-Yugoslavia match on October 9th would guarantee at least a play-off place, with a draw favouring Yugoslavia, the Irish could top the group if they were victorious in Macedonia at the same time – a location where they had already infamously been defeated in April 1997.

Before the hot game in Zagreb, locals concluded that it was wise for no away supporters to be allowed at the stadium as their presence may have resulted in the use real weapons such as grenades and machine guns, rather that mere football hooliganism. Around the city anti-Serb graffiti was common sight, accompanied by the colours of Dinamo Zagreb, with the match set to take place in the very same Stadion Maksimir where the infamous riot in 1990 between home fans/players and Yugoslav police at a domestic game against Red Star had been credited by some as a pre-cursor to the war.


Anti-Serb and Dinamo Zagreb's Bad Blue Boys graffiti in Zagreb ahead of the Croatia vs Yugoslavia Euro 2000 qualifier, 09/10/1999.

On the evening of the match, the Maksimir filled up hours ahead of kick-off, with banners and songs celebrating the war plentiful. Particularly highlighted was Vukovar, the city that had been destroyed and taken by the Serbs in 1991 after a 87 day siege, before finally being handed back in 1998 as part of the Croatians’ 1995 Erdut Agreement with ethnic Serb leaders in the east of the country (working under instruction from Belgrade).


A huge Croatian flag commemorating the battle and siege of Vukovar in the war of independence against the Serbs, Croatia vs Yugoslavia, 09/10/1999.

The atmosphere builds inside the Maksimir Stadium ahead of the Croats vs Yugoslavia Euro 2000 qualifier, 09/10/1999.

When the teams emerged and lined-up for the anthems, the negative noise that greeted the Yugoslav’s ‘Hej, Slaveni’ (Hey, Slavs), which several of  the Croatian players had once stood for while representing Yugoslavia pre-1992, was even louder and more vitriolic than that heard at Red Star Stadium. Somewhat surprisingly, only Serbian patriot Mihajlović and captain Dragan Stojković sang their country’s song in the face of the torrent of abuse.


The Yugoslavian national anthem is played and sung in Zagreb ahead of Croatia vs Yugoslavia, Euro 2000 qualifier, 09/10/1999.

With the contest at last underway, the home side took the lead after 20 minutes thanks to a goal from Alen Bokšić, one of those who had been selected for Yugoslavia – at World Cup 90 no less – but never actually been capped for them. Besides a shared love of football, something that actually united Croats and Serbs was also a love for pyro, of which there was in abundance from the jubilant home fans.


Pyro on the pitch during Croatia vs Yugoslavia, Euro 2000 qualifier, 09/10/1999.

But only five minutes later, and again in six further minutes, the away team stunned Zagreb into silence twice with near identical goals: in-swinging Mihajlović free-kicks from the right met by glancing headers from Mijatović and Dejan Stanković, the latter of which agonisingly slipped through the hands of Croatia’s Dražen Ladić in goal. Mario Stanić equalised shortly after half-time to give his country hope, but 2-2 it remained until the end.


Disaster for Croatia as Stanković's header and Stanić's slip-up, as well as Macedonia's draw with Ireland, ultimately send Yugoslavia to Euro 2000, 09/10/1999.

Meanwhile down the road in Skopje, Ireland played out a living nightmare in the Gradski Stadium for the second time in successive campaigns by conceded a last minute equalisier against FYR Macedonia, dropping them into the play-off position. For Croatia this meant that not only had their mortal enemies knocked them out of the Euros, but a fellow-former Yugoslav republic – who also even had the word “Yugoslav” in it’s title – had contributed to Yugoslavia in fact topping the group by sheer luck on Croatian soil.

As Yugoslavia’s stars celebrated a ticket to the low-countries for the following summer on Maksimir’s cold pitch that night, Croatians could only wallow at being struck by an unexpected ghost of the break-up of the region years earlier. But it would turn out to be the last time that the fixture would take place in this form, as well as ‘Yugoslavia”s last ever qualification, as FR Yugoslavia morphed into Serbia and Montenegro in 2003 followed by an independent Serbia in 2006.


Yugoslavia's players celebrate Euro 2000 qualification, while Croatia's fans come to terms with the harsh reality that they won't be there, 09/10/1999.

With even Kosovo officially declaring independence from the Serbs in 2008, Croatia finally met this new streamlined Serbia in 2013 via World Cup 2014 qualifying, signaling the start of a new era. And with the renaming of FYR Macedonia to North Macedonia in 2019 (the reasons behind which we don’t have time to get in to even here), the last trace elements of Yugoslavia disappeared from the map, footballing or otherwise.

*

YouTube Links:

Northern Ireland vs Ireland, 1993
North Korea vs South Korea, 1993
Italy vs Croatia, 1994
USA vs Iran, 1998
USA vs Iran, 1998
Yugoslavia vs Ireland, 1998
Yugoslavia vs Malta, 1999
Yugoslavia vs Croatia, 1999
Croatia vs Yugoslavia, 1999
Croatia vs Yugoslavia, 1999
Croatia vs Yugoslavia, 1999

*****

 

Football Special Report #7: Euro 84

Our previous Football Special Report was the first to deviate from the original format of highlighting a specific interesting match and what it entailed (but that is currently a fanzine exclusive installment). Now, having continued to peer quizzically around the retro footballing world, we cast our gaze upon the Euros of 1984.

Background:

The 1980 European Championships in Italy had been the first to feature eight teams in the competition, rather than the four that had been involved since the inaugural 1960 edition. But, uniquely for an eight team format, 80 would only see the top placed team in each group progress, with the two runners-up granted the “honour” of a third place play-off.

West Germany defeated Belgium in the final in Rome to take their second championship in the last three Euros, after the Soviet Union, Spain, Italy and Czechoslovakia had also picked up continental wins in the 60s and 70s. The latest West German triumph, following their second World Cup victory in 1974 (with further runner-up spots at both a Euros and World Cup to their name), had consolidated their status as Europe’s top team, and the nation’s footballing administrators hoped to be rewarded by bringing the tournament to their country in 1984.


The West German squad celebrate on the pitch after winning the Euro 80 final against Belgium, 22/06/1980.

The only other nation to contest the bidding process was France, who had hosted the original competition in 1960. The 74 West German World Cup was perhaps too fresh in the memory of the UEFA Executive Committee, who unanimously voted for the French to hold the next European Championships in a December 1981 meeting (although Germany would not have too long to wait for their turn).

With the ball for Euro 84 now rolling, the next step was the qualifying draw in Paris in January 1982. France of course entered automatically as hosts, leaving 32 other European nations to make up seven groups of four and five where the top placed finishers would progress.

Played out between May 1982 and December 1983, the only group that proved particularly clearly cut for the eventual victors was Belgium’s Group 1. Entering a third European Championships, the Belgians had comfortably seen off Switzerland, East Germany and a poor last placed Scotland, with their only group loss coming to the Swiss after qualification had already be secured.


Belgium vs Scotland in the yet-to-be-infamous Heysel Stadium, 15/12/1982.

Group 2, conversely, came down to a last day decider between Portugal and the USSR in Lisbon. With Poland and Finland already out of the running, the Portuguese claimed a 1-0 win to leapfrog the Soviets into first, and in doing so made their first major finals since World Cup 66.

Group 3 started with a smoky affair in Copenhagen between Denmark and England where the points were shared. A further blip occurred for the the English when they drew 0-0 at home to Greece in March 83, before the Danes astonishingly took “all two points” (still awarded for a win instead of three at this time) in Wembley in September. 9-0 and 0-4 defeats of Luxembourg, as well as home and away victories over Hungary, were not enough for the unconvincing English, as a 0-2 win over Greece in November 83 sealed an exciting Denmark team’s qualification by a single point.

In Group 4, three-time tournament participants Yugoslavia proved too strong for the Welsh, Bulgarians and Norwegians, taking pole position with eight points to Wales’ seven. Similarly in Group 5, Romania impressively came out trumps over Sweden by a point, as supposed heavyweights Italy and Czechoslovakia disappointingly finishing third and fourth with Cyprus propping up the table.


The picturesque scene for Yugoslavia and Wales' Euro qualifier in Titograd (now Podgorica, capital of Montenegro) that would end in a 4-4 draw, 15/12/1982.

While Austria, Turkey and Albania made up the numbers, Northern Ireland looked set to qualify ahead of West Germany in Group 6 after a marvelous 0-1 upset in Hamburg in November, 1983, having already won on home soil in Belfast. The Germans still had to play Albania in Saarbrücken five days later, but the waiting North were on course to make it to their first ever Euros until the 79th minute when the home team finally went 2-1 up; both West Germany and Northern Ireland finished level on 11 points, but the former went through on goal difference.


Northern Ireland fans in Hamburg for their side's 0-1 Euro qualifier win away to West Germany, 16/11/1983.

The last group, Group 7, turned out to be a similar situation, as Netherlands and Spain emerged ahead of Ireland, Iceland, and group whipping boys Malta (although they did beat Iceland 2-1 in the first game of the group). But what was to come in the final round of fixtures proved the most intriguing situation in all the qualifiers.

Having lost only once (away to each other) in their games up to now, the Dutch and the Spanish went to into December 1983 level on eleven points, both with one last respective home game against Malta to come. It would effectively be a straight shoot out against the poor Maltese, to see who could amass the greater goal difference and advance.

First came the attempt of the Netherlands who ended up 5-0 winners in Rotterdam, delivering a final goal difference of +16. As Spain currently had +5, this meant an eleven goal victory was needed in Madrid five days later for the home side to qualify, but the Maltese goalkeeper brazenly and bizarrely claimed beforehand that the Spanish could not even score eleven goals past a team of children.

Spain missed a penalty minutes into the match, before going into the break only 3-1 up. To the delight of the crowd though, an amazing nine goals were scored after half time, with the last in the 84th minute making it 12-1 come the final whistle. The Spanish were through, but of course questions of bribery were instantly raised, along with sinister claims by two Maltese players of doping as “they (the Spanish players) had foam in their mouths and could not stop drinking water”.


The 12th goal in the 12-1 win over Malta that sent Spain to Euro 84, 21/12/1983.

Like the 78 World Cup final, the Dutch could perhaps feel hard done by and, after already missing out on Euro 80 and World Cup 82, they would have to wait another four years before they would finally return to the big time when they would at last win a trophy. Regardless, the eight finalists going to France had been decided, pleasingly with two debutante qualifiers (Portugal and Romania); two making their second appearance (Denmark and France); two making their third appearance (Belgium and Spain); and, you guessed it, two making their fourth appearance (Yugoslavia and West Germany).

The format for the upcoming tournament was again adapted, as the top two countries in each group would now thankfully progress to semi-finals before the final; equally thankfully, the rather useless third place play-off was dropped. The eight cities of Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Lens, Nantes, Strasbourg were to host the matches, and a trim squad of twenty was to be brought by each qualifying nation.

UEFA European Championships 1984

We cannot confirm, but presumably the final draw took place in Paris sometime between December 83 and January 84. The two groups created were:

Group 1

Belgium
Denmark
France
Yugoslavia

Group 2

Portugal
Romania
Spain
West Germany

One thing that jumps out about this tournament was some amazing synchronicity in scorelines between games played on the same day. Only one goal in each group would end up preventing identical scorelines in Group 1, and identical results in Group 2.

Another major feature was some of the revolutionary jerseys on show, with both France and Belgium in spectacular bespoke Adidas designs that were primed for retro-revivals in years to come. The Germans and Romanians used Adidas’s slightly more understated “Aberdeen” template, with Portugal and Yugoslavia rocking the mega-classy, diagonal pin-striped “Chelsea” variety. The only non-Adidas apparel was provided by recent converts Spain, now in Le Coq Sportif, along side the always welcome Hummel of Denmark.


France home, Belgium away, Portugal home.

Round 1:

The hosts kicked off the show taking on the Danes in a sold out Parc des Princes, Paris, on June 12th. The real talking point for us was the huge plume of smoke coming from outside the stadium at half time. Whether this was a controlled industrial blaze, or if something was seriously on fire is unknown (it was probably explained by the commentators but we don’t speak French):

A huge marching band also entertained the fans before the game and during the break:

As can be seen in the background, the visitors were well represented in the stands with some nice flags on show:

Not so nice, however, was the injury suffered by Danish striker Allan Simonsen, after a 50-50 challenge left him with a broken shin. Apparently the sound in the stadium was like “a branch breaking in a tree” as it occurred:

Despite a red-card for Frenchman Manual Amaros – for throwing the ball at/headbutting Jesper Olsen – a second half Platini goal gave the home side the win. The following day in the Lens’ intimdating Stade Félix-Bollaert, Belgium took on and beat Yugoslavia with a comfortable 2-0 win, as many fans with yellow hats looked on:

Group 2 was to commence on June 14th, first with the meeting of West Germany and Portugal in Strasbourg – a game notable as the scene for the only major hooligan disturbance during the final. Apparently a group of Germans were responsible for the incidents (we are unclear on what happened exactly), but were swiftly arrested and sent the short distance back across the border.

Of course when it came to hooligans, the main difference between Euro 80 and the other European Championships of the time (Euro 80, 88 and 92) was a lack of England, who’s presence would have almost certainly increased the rate of trouble by several hundred percent. The failure to qualify also meant that the ever-insular English decided against broadcasting most of the tournament live on TV, with only the Spanish-German match and final set to be shown in the UK as they happened.

In the match itself at Stade de la Meinau, the Portuguese managed to hold the cup holders to 0-0. As always, the Germans were well represented in the stands, as evident by their array of flags which included one banner in the German Empire colours:

The less political, but just as colourful, Portuguese savored their first summer back in action in nearly two decades, as well as celebrating a great result:

Later that evening in Saint-Étienne’s Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Romania began their first ever major finals. Like Portugal earlier, they will have been satisfied to take a 1-1 draw from their encounter with another former champion in Spain, especially having come from behind:

Back to Group 1 and June 16th would see the first regional derby of the Cup, with France taking on Belgium in Nantes’ Stade de la Beaujoire. The teams emerged to show that France – led by a Platini who looked dead inside – were debuting their stunning change kit (as they were the “away” team in the tie), while the Belgians strangely wore what looked like Argentinian-inspired anthem jackets:

Once the jackets came off, the traveling team’s own home jersey was revealed for the first time in tournament, which was another masterpiece:

A match-fixing scandal involving Belgian clubs Standard Liege and Waterschei a few years earlier had left the Belgium without several key defenders, who were suspended. This weakness, as well as the host’s strength, was evident as the French booked their place in the semis with an embarrassing 5-0 defeat for the visitors, as a now smiling Platini bagged a hat-trick (pictures of fans are more interesting though):

Stade de Gerland in Lyon was the scene a couple of hours later for Denmark vs Yugoslavia and amazingly it would be another 5-0 scoreline, this time with the Danes taking the points. The heavy loss was not what you would expect of the “Brazil of Europe” (as the Balkan superstate were known with regards only to football) and, reflecting this, their manager Todor Veselinović was admitted to hospital after the game for stress and exhaustion.

The next day, Lens hosted a now “hooligan-free” German contingent for their game against Romania. Although the team were under-performing, the German supporters on the terraces more than made up for it with their banners:

In this “battle of the Aberdeen shirts”, the Romanians in their red change kit will have been hopeful for a repeat of their earlier match, as the sides went into the break at 1-1. But Rudi Voller’s second of the game after the break secured West Germany’s first win of the competition:

That evening, Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome – the largest stadium in the Championships with 55,000 capacity – saw it’s first use for the Iberian derby between Spain and Portugal. Unfortunately, less than half the ground was filled as only 24,464 watched another 1-1 draw.

On June 19th, Group 1 would conclude with simultaneous games in Saint-Étienne and Strasbourg. The French continued their championship form with a 3-2 win over the hapless Yugoslavs (although they had gone 0-1 up), as Platini bagged his second consecutive hat-trick – seven goals in only three games overall:

But continuing on from the manager’s health scare following the Belgium game, there would be more darkness for Yugoslavia at full time as the team doctor of all people suffered a heart attack on the pitch and later died in hospital. The cause of death may indeed have been the sudden appearance of a nightmarish chicken-man:

After what must have seemed like a cursed tournament, Veselinović unsurprisingly resigned as Yugoslavia coach as short time later. The other match between Denmark and Belgium, meanwhile, was a more exciting affair to see who would take second place in the group:

The Belgians were 2-0 up after 40 minutes, but one pulled back before the break followed by two in the second half gave the delirious Danes a famous 3-2 victory. And, for the second time in two Group 1 days, five goals had been scored in both games:

Nantes and Paris played host to last group matches on June 20th, with Portugal taking on Romania in Stade de Beaujoir. The game saw both sides in their away kits, with guards conspicuously standing on front of the stands:

Just about coming out on top both in the fashion stakes and on the pitch, the classy-kitted Portuguese were able to secure their place in the next stage with a 1-0 win:

But the big game was happening in the capital, as even the English watched on from home to see West Germany take on Spain. With the Spanish having only managed two points so far, the Germans looked set to progress until the 90th minute when goal scoring defender Antonio Maceda – who had found the net four times during qualifying – arrived in the box to head in a 1-0 winner:

Like the “miracle of Madrid” against Malta, once again the Spanish had somehow managed to progress, while the Germans would be following their hooligans with an early trip home:

Semi-finals:

On June 23rd, the Velodrome would at last be used to it’s potential as locals filled the stadium to capacity for the home nation’s semi against Portugal – ultimately the biggest crowd of the tournament. With the score at 1-1 after 90 minutes, extra-time was needed in which another two goals made it 2-2 with seconds to go:

Penalties looked assured, until that man Platini scored in the last minute of extra-time to deliver another 3-2 win. Absolute carnage of course ensues, and pyro:

The second semi-final in Lyon on the 24th proved an equally tight encounter between Denmark and Spain. The Danes went one-up early on through Bayern Munich’s Søren Lerby, but amazingly Maceda was again on hand to equalise in the 67th minute:

This time, after two hours of football, it did go all the way to a shoot-out. Unfortunately, Danmark’s star man Preben Elkjær was the only player to miss his spot-kick as the Spanish triumphed by five penalties to four, but his displays at the tournament earned him a transfer from Belgium club Lokeren to Italy’s Hellas Verona shortly afterwards.

Final:

Only 15 days after they had started the cup there, France returned to Paris for the final against Spain on June 27th. The media hyped an epic contest and of course all eyes were on Platini, who kicked off the game to a vintage cacophony of horns from the crowd:

Pockets of colourful Spanish also made themselves seen among the overwhelmingly home support:

The match turned out to be somewhat of an anti-climax for the neutral. At the break it was still 0-0, as we can see from the excellent graphics:

The French substitutes demonstrated some of the other beautiful gear that the team had, with an array of sweat-shirts based off the jersey (one not pictured was devoid of any insignia):

The home nation soon reveled as Platini did indeed fulfill his destiny of scoring in every game (9 overall, still a record) by giving France the lead on 57 minutes. Winger Bruno Bellone secured the trophy with a second goal on the 90th minute – the French had won their first ever piece of silverware at senior level:

With some exciting games, decent football, and a lack of major trouble, the tournament was deemed a resounding success. These would go on to be crucial factors in France’s bid to host the 98 World Cup, which would turn out to be scene as they next won a trophy in the exact same stadium – fittingly wearing a tribute shirt to the 84 design. But worryingly, unlike 1984, this time the English were coming.

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Helpful ‘1980s Sports Blog’ post on Euro 84
Video links:
West Germany vs Belgium, 1980
Belgium vs Scotland, 1982
Yugoslavia vs Wales, 1982
West Germany vs Northern Ireland, 1983
Spain vs Malta, 1983
France vs Denmark, 1984
Belgium vs Yugoslavia, 1984
Portugal vs West Germany, 1984
Spain vs Romania, 1984
Belgium vs France, 1984
Denmark vs Yugoslavia, 1984
West Germany vs Romania, 1984
France vs Yugoslavia, 1984
Denmark vs Belgium, 1984
Romania vs Portugal, 1984
Spain vs West Germany, 1984
France vs Portugal, 1984
Spain vs Denmark, 1984
France vs Spain, 1984
France vs Spain, 1984

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Heroic Hang Jobs (Gallery) #4

In this gallery series we take a look back at a somewhat random assortment of flags and banner collectives at both international and club level from the 80s and 90s (and maybe even the 70s some day), united through being made correctly and hung the way banners were supposed to be hung (that is, chaotically). The first three installments can be found by clicking here, here and here.

Luxembourg vs Hungary, World Cup 94 qualifier, 09/09/1992:

Malta vs Italy, World Cup 94 qualifier, 19/12/1992:

Vitesse vs Parma, UEFA Cup 94/95, 13/09/1994:

(Click here for our Supporter Snap Back episode on this match)

Bayern Munich vs AS Roma, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 06/03/1985:

Bayern Munich vs AS Roma, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 06/03/1985:
(Noteworthy: use of “Celtic cross” right-wing symbol)


(Click here for full image)

AS Roma vs Bayern Munich, Cup Winners Cup 84/85, 20/03/1985:

Athlone Town vs Derry City, League of Ireland 94/95 Premier Division, 22/04/1995:

Hajduk Split vs Partizan Belgrade, Yugoslav First League 89/90, 19/11/1989:


Netherlands vs Germany, European Championships 1992, 18/06/1992:

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