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.            

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