Friday, 15 July 2016
444 The European Championship 1980
First viewed : 12 June 1980
It's interesting to be writing about this less than a week after the latest tournament concluded.
In 1980 the European Championship was much less of a deal than it is now. In fact the Finals had only just been extended from four to eight teams ; the 1976 tournament had completely passed me by. What made this one important is that it was the first major Finals England had qualified for in a decade ( even further back if you don't count qualification as hosts or holders ) . Ron Greenwood had managed it without too much drama as England had come through a relatively easy group unscathed. The squad was fairly settled with many players ( Shilton, Clemence, Corrigan, Neal, Mills, Cherry, Watson , Hughes ,Wilkins, Brooking , Keegan , Coppell ) involved right from the beginning of Greenwood's reign in 1977. Liverpool's dominance of the domestic game was reflected in the addition of Thompson, Johnson, McDermott and Ray Kennedy ( taking Peter Barnes' place on the left ) to the squad while Nottingham Forest had Garry Birtles, Viv Anderson and their former striker ( now with Cologne ) Tony Woodcock keeping Shilton company.
England were in a group with hosts Italy, Spain and Belgium who hadn't qualified for the 1978 World Cup. The winners would go straight to the Final, the runners-up to the Third Place Play Off . England's first game was against Belgium and was a tepid 1-1 draw with a rare goal by ultra-cautious midfielder Ray Wilkins opening the scoring. Belgium equalised shortly afterwards through Jan Ceulemans. Unfortunately the game is better remembered for a section of England supporters starting a brawl on the terraces and the game being held up while police dispersed them with tear gas . Some of the gas drifted onto the pitch and affected Ray Clemence who received treatment for it.
Italy's game with Spain was goalless. Belgium won their next game against Spain so England needed at least a draw in their game against Italy to stay in contention.
They didn't get it. The Italians playing their usual cynical defensive game typified by the inappropriately named defender Claudio Gentile shut England out and then got a goal on the break. To rub salt in the wound the goal was scored by their man-marking specialist Marco Tardelli. I remember Mick Channon once saying he thought Tardelli was going to join him on the toilet. I had assumed the bloke couldn't actually do anything else so it was a shock to see him leave Keegan's side and poke the ball home past Shilton. Greenwood was still doing what he is most often criticised for, refusing to make a judgement call between Clemence and Shilton and playing them in alternate games.
No possible result between Belgium and Italy in the final group game would allow England or Spain to make the Final so the game between them was essentially meaningless. Goals from Brooking and Woodcock gave England a 2-1 win. Belgium held off Italy for a 0-0 to go through to the Final on goal difference and keep England out of the Third Place play off.
It had been a disappointing showing. Ray Kennedy, perhaps getting the first intimation of the Parkinson's Disease which has subsequently blighted his life, announced his retirement from international football as the squad flew home.
West Germany saw off holders Czechoslovakia, Holland and surprise qualifiers Greece to top their Group and then defeated Belgium 2-1 in the Final.
Not all the matches were shown live and the England v Spain game was on while I was still at school. I think I may have only seen the first two England games and perhaps some highlights from the others.