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France’s Carré Magique of Platini, Giresse, Fernández and Tigana

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France’s Carré Magique of Platini, Giresse, Fernández and Tigana

https://thesefootballtimes.co/2016/06/10/france-carre-magique-1984-platini-giresse-fernandez-tigana/

The tortuous heat within Guadalajara’s Estadio Jalisco was at furnace like levels. The date was June 21, 1986, and France’s Luis Fernández had just confidently, and not without a degree of force, placed the decisive kick of the ball to the right of Brazil’s Carlos Roberto Gallo, ending the two nations’ remarkable quarter-final clash at the World Cup finals. Almost 30 years later, it still doesn’t seem right that such an iconic battle should have been decided by a penalty shoot-out.

With that one swing of Fernández’s right foot, the World Cup careers of Sócrates and Zico came to an abrupt end, while simultaneously anything now seemed possible for Les Bleus. It was, however, to prove a supernova moment for France, for Fernández and for the midfield quartet for whom he had emerged to be the final piece of the jigsaw.

France’s Carré Magique would not go on to lift the Jules Rimet trophy. It would not even reach the final of Mexico 86. The Spanish-born Fernández was cursed by his winning penalty against Brazil. Many people struggle to see past that penalty when it comes to the career of Luis Fernández and his wider role within France’s Magic Square.

Fernández’s international career didn’t end with that penalty kick, it would go on to carry him through the dark days of France’s sharp decline, a dip in fortunes which saw them fail to qualify for Euro 88 and Italia 90. Fernández eventually played a part in the early green shoots of recovery when they convincingly qualified for Euro 92.

 He was the last member of the legendary Carré Magique to take to the field for his adopted country.

Carré Magique was a source of national identity through the medium of football and the reinvention of the concept of the narrow midfield. As a quartet they came together for the first time in February 1984 at the Parc des Princes in a friendly against Bobby Robson’s England. They last shared a football pitch back at the Jalisco four days after the win against Brazil, in a game where the script demanded French retribution. The demons of Seville four years earlier were about to be exorcised. West Germany had ideas all of their own and when Alain Giresse was withdrawn from the semi-final re-match in the 72nd minute, the dream more or less ended there and then.

For many people, the indelible image of the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain is that of Marco Tardelli, fists clenched, open-mouthed, head shaking almost in disbelief, running, just running and running after scoring that wonderful goal for Italy in the final against West Germany.

When Giresse put France 3-1 up against the very same opponents in that Seville semi-final he celebrated his goal in a strikingly similar fashion.

Fists clenched,open-mouthed, head shaking almost in disbelief, running, just running and running. Alain Giresse is a man whose finest moments always seemed to end up being trumped by the last turn of someone else card, when it appeared he had the hand all but won.

Giresse at a diminutive five feet four inches tall was a figurative rather than literal giant on the pitch. It’s still striking now when you see footage of Spain 82, Euro 84 or Mexico 86 not just by how short he looks, but by how slender he also seems – as if he could be blown away by the warm summer breeze as much as he might be brushed off the ball by opposing players. Those looks were deceiving, not only to foes but also to supposed friends. Despite being the long-standing heartbeat of the Bordeaux side and a scorer of high numbers of goals from midfield, Giresse was regularly overlooked for the national side for extended periods of time.

Giresse made his first appearance for Les Bleus in late 1974. It would be eight years before he kicked a ball in the finals of a major international tournament. France’s failure to qualify for the European Championship finals of 1976 and 1980, combined with him missing the cut for Michel Hidalgo’s squad at the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina, meant Giresse was a latecomer to the biggest of football’s stages.

In fact he was fast approaching the age of 30 by the time Spain 82 kicked off.

Giresse’s despair at missing out on the squad for Argentina 78 was the driving force behind his belated run to eventual prominence within Hidalgo’s Carré Magique. Competition for places in the France midfield was fierce, yet at times there was a history of the best individuals being selected, rather than the right components to create a cohesive unit. It was this concept that held Giresse back as long as it did. Even throughout the qualifiers for Spain 82 the formation and personnel of France’s midfield was changed perpetually.

Giresse was joined in the Carré Magique by his Bordeaux teammate Jean Tigana. Like Giresse, momentum at international level took some time in coming for Tigana. He celebrated his 27th birthday during España 82 and benefitted from the near collective ostracisation from the squad of Jean-François Larios over his heavily publicised fall-out with the Carré Magique’s rapier point, Michel Platini.

Tigana offered a different on-pitch product to that of Larios. Whereas Larios had an almost laconic presence, one that provided a near rival to Platini for ultimate prominence, Tigana proved to be the perfect foil to not just Platini, but also Fernández. Added to his club understanding with Giresse, Tigana acted as the anchor for the others to strike forth. While Tigana covered much of the defensive duties, he wasn’t an unfamiliar sight going forward and shuttled box-to-box with consummate ease.

It was the selfless nature of both Tigana and Fernández, coupled with the determination of Giresse to rise above his rivals and win his place in the side, which ultimately gave Platini the same type of freedom of expression that Johan Cruyff previously enjoyed in the days of Totaalvoetbal and the Dutch rhapsody in orange. It was Hidalgo’s move from a collection of individual performers, to a cohesive and symbiotic collective in his engine room that succeeded in reaping such outstanding rewards at Euro 84. Only after individuals such as Larios, Dominique Bathenay, Dominique Rocheteau and Didier Six were removed did France evolve from a set of players elbowing one another in the ribs in a bid for greater prominence, to the advent of the Carré Magique.

The peak of the Carré Magique’s powers came early. From their first coming together against England in Paris at the end of February 1984 they would go on to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy just four months later. Five perfect games included a remarkable nine goals for Platini, as he found the net in each and every game and was the scorer of two hat-tricks along the way. There was beauty to behold, yet it was built upon an almost invisible undercurrent of discipline. Giresse and the interchangeable Tigana and Fernández tucked in to what could almost be described as inverted inside right and left positions, while the spare man dropped.

It was a system that proved hypnotic. This was a midfield that was so all-encompassing that today people struggle to recall the names of France’s nominal strikers at that tournament. It had nothing to do with their strikers; it instead had everything to do with the Carré Magique.

 

 

The Euros of 1984 was the epicentre. 1982 was too soon, 1986 was too late, but 1984 was an oasis of perfection for French football. No matter what new highs have passed for France since Euro 84, nothing has quite matched the fluidity of that remarkable summer for them.

It’s no coincidence that each and every member of the Carré Magique has gone on to careers in coaching. While Platini may have cashed his coaching aspirations in early to undertake a controversial political football career instead, he was the man at the helm of the national team as they returned to the major international stage at Euro 92 after the desolation of failing to reach either Euro 88 or Italia 90. They were the first steps on a path that led to World Cup and further European glory in under a decade.

Giresse has spent a decade on an international coaching odyssey, mainly in Africa after leaving a second spell in charge of Toulouse. Fernández enjoyed success both domestically and in Europe with Paris Saint-Germain, also coaching in La Liga with Athletic Club, Espanyol and Real Betis, leading Bilbao to a runners-up spot behind Barcelona in the late 1990s. Fernández, like Giresse also coached at international levels, while Tigana is mostly remembered in the UK for his at times volatile spell at Fulham, yet led AS Monaco to the title prior to arriving in London. Tigana subsequently returned to Bordeaux for an unsuccessful period, after taking the coaching post at Beşiktaş.

Each member of the Carré Magique has remained in the spotlight. As Platini deals with the devastating blows to his career, Giresse, Tigana and Fernández continue to dip in and out of coaching roles in various outposts around the world, occasionally pausing to offer sometimes controversial opinions about the merits of the current guardians of the French national side. Indeed, Patrice Evra has locked horns with Fernández just recently.

The spirit and the fight still burns brightly for the Carré Magique and they are sure to have much to say when Russia 2018 draws into view. Despite their outspoken nature since retiring, fans of French football and the game in the 1980s will remember the brilliance of the Magic Square as one of the best midfield quartets the game has ever seen.

By Steven Scragg  @Scraggy_74

 

 

The era-defining game between France and West Germany in 1986

 

 

 

     

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https://thesefootballtimes.co/2020/06/16/france-5-0-belgium-at-euro-84-the-footballing-masterclass-of-michel-platini/

France 5-0 Belgium at Euro 84: the footballing masterclass of Michel Platini

 

France 5-0 Belgium at Euro 84: the footballing masterclass of Michel Platini

France 5-0 Belgium at Euro 84: the footballing masterclass of Michel Platini

16/06/2020 by These Football Times
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Now the party can truly get started. Michel Platini, France’s elegant and masterful playmaker, stamped his authority on this tournament with a hat-trick in Les Bleus’ magnificent performance against Belgium at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes. 

Platini, the runaway winner of the European Footballer of the Year award, may have stolen the headlines but this was a splendid team performance. France moved effortlessly up through the gears after their nervy opener against Denmark four days ago to emphatically serve notice of their tournament credentials.

Belgium, the runners-up in 1980, were simply overwhelmed, struggling to cope with the carré magique French midfield who utterly dominated the proceedings. In fact, it was a slightly adjusted five-man midfield on this occasion for France, with the absence of the suspended Manuel Amoros causing a rejig in the French ranks, but it was no less an effective unit.

Far from being weakened, however, their midfield dominance was the platform form which the French attack was unleashed with devastating consequences.

Platini was the main instigator against Belgium, having already scored rather fortuitously in the 1-0 win over Denmark despite having been effectively shackled throughout by defender Klaus Berggreen. He drifted from one wing to the other, seeking the ball and causing a panic wherever he went, leaving his opponents disorientated and unable to cope. Alain Giresse, that diminutive dynamo in the centre of the field, was a never-ending bundle of energy and his tireless efforts helped pull the strings, complementing Platini’s headline act perfectly.

France, playing in white on this occasion, took the lead as early as the fourth minute, when a rocket free-kick from Patrick Battiston thudded against the woodwork, rebounded through a crowded defence for Platini. He sidestepped a couple of befuddled defenders before calmly sending a fierce shot of his own into the corner of Jean-Marie Pfaff’s goal. 

Even before this, France could have grabbed the lead with the Belgian defence scrambling to clear a cross from Didier Six, with Platini posed to head home. After the attacking difficulties of their opening match, this goal seemed to relieve the pressure on the hosts.  The pent-up energy and vibrance was released; the cork freed, and the bubbles of joy simply overflowed.

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When Giresse added a fine second after 33 minutes, a one-two with Jean Tigana setting him up to neatly chip Jean-Marie Pfaff in the Belgian goal, it was no less than the French deserved.

There was time for another goal before the interval too as Giresse turned creator, picking up an overhit Luis Fernández cross and centring it back to the now unmarked Fernández to head home, amidst a euphoric atmosphere in the stands. France only eased off marginally in the second half, but two goals in the last quarter of an hour gave their captain his hat-trick and gave France an astonishing 5-0 victory. 

First, Platini scored from nonchalantly from the penalty spot after Six had been brought down following a fine interchange between him and Bernard Genghini, before Platini added the fifth near the end, leaping high to head in Giresse’s lofted cross.

Belgium had briefly threatened, notably when Michel De Wolf hit a post with the score only at 1-0, and Erwin Vandenbergh later squandering a very presentable headed opportunity. Jan Ceulemans also forced Joel Bats in the French goal into action, but the threat was always kept at arm’s length. Belgium will need to regroup and go again in what may turn out to be a straight knock-out match with Denmark for a place in the semi-finals alongside France.

As the Tricolore flags waved in celebration in the stands, France have truly served notice here of their ambitions in this tournament. With majestic form like this they will prove difficult to stop, and in Platini they have the potential star of the tournament. His casual, languid elegance, dictating the play with a swagger, is France’s inspiration, but there is talent aplenty alongside their majestic genius which may yet push France towards the glory they so cruelly missed out on in the World Cup semi-final of 1982. 

Platini’s four goals in two games so far have easily propelled him to the top of the scoring charts, and with such a stellar supporting cast, there is little to doubt that the chances will keep on coming that could carry Les Bleus all the way to their first international trophy in two weeks’ time.

By Aidan Williams @yad_williams

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https://thesefootballtimes.co/2020/01/10/jean-francois-domergue-the-nine-cap-hero-of-frances-euro-84-glory/

Jean-François Domergue: the nine-cap hero of France’s Euro 84 glory

Jean-François Domergue: the nine-cap hero of France’s Euro 84 glory

10/01/2020 by Aidan Williams

“I became an unlikely hero,” was the rather understated way that Jean-François Domergue described the biggest day of his football career. Domergue’s stint in France’s national team may have been brief, but it was certainly significant.

He may have only played nine times for Les Bleus but when his fleeting opportunity arose during the summer of 1984, he grasped it with both hands and wrote his name into French footballing folklore.

France were hosts and favourites for the 1984 European Championship, a team of supreme talent led by one of the best of his generation, the elegant and prolific Michel Platini. It was a side that had come within a whisker of the World Cup final two years previously, delighting fans and neutrals alike with their flair and panache.

With the majestic midfield of Platini, Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse and Luis Fernández, this was a team about to reach their pinnacle, aiming to seize their destiny in their home tournament.

Domergue was one of the more unheralded members of the squad. He was the back-up left-back, the understudy to the vastly experienced Manuel Amoros, but he would play a decisive role in the tournament and France’s ultimate success that summer.

Without Domergue, for all the goals plundered by Platini, the star of the tournament, France would not have achieved their crowning glory. His contribution was as unlikely as it was decisive, while even his inclusion in the squad for the tournament seemed improbable.

Domergue was an elegant, foraging left-back known for his dynamic runs. His career began with his hometown team Bordeaux, where he worked his way through the youth ranks and into the first-team by the mid-1970s. In an era when this prominent French club was in the midst of a tumultuous downturn in their fortunes, Domergue made his first steps in the professional game in a side generally stuck in the lower reaches of Ligue 1.

While their fortunes oscillated between average and mediocre, clinging on to their top-flight status by the skin of their teeth on occasion, for Domergue it was the ideal grounding for his career. He would play alongside the diminutive dynamo that was Giresse in Bordeaux, who was the pivot around which the whole team operated.

While Giresse remained at Bordeaux for the majority of his career, Domergue moved elsewhere. As Bordeaux’s fortunes rose, so Domergue’s opportunities diminished as new arrivals came in, leaving him shuffled out of the side. He moved on to Lille and then Lyon, where he began to really make his mark.

It was another struggling team but Domergue was one of their few bright sparks in the 1982/83 season. His form earned him a more prestigious transfer to Toulouse in the summer of 1983, a move which pushed him to further prominence.

International recognition had seemed an unlikely aim prior to that stint in Toulouse, but as the French squad took shape ahead of the Euros, Domergue earned a place in the pre-tournament gatherings. His debut came in the second half of a friendly match with West Germany in Strasbourg in April 1984, just a matter of weeks before the final squad would be named.

This appearance may have been Domergue’s only taste of international action, but in looking assured in defence up against a strong German forward line, it was enough to earn him a place in the squad for the Euros as a backup. His versatility was key to his inclusion, having the ability to play as part of a three-man central defence or as a marauding full-back.

This adaptability earned Domergue a place on the five-man bench for France’s opening match of the tournament against Denmark in the Parc des Princes.

With the match very much in the balance between two talented sides, Domergue came on around the hour mark for the injured Yvon Le Roux.

Platini scored the first of his nine Euro 84 goals late in the day to edge France to a 1-0 win, but an even more dramatic event would have a significant impact on Domergue, and his fortunes in the tournament.

In the 87th minute Manuel Amoros, the classy French defender, fell foul to both a tough Jesper Olsen challenge and a rush of blood to the head.

Taking exception to Olsen’s challenge, Amoros hurled the ball at the Danish winger and then planted a head-butt on him. His red card was as deserved as it was certain, with a three-game suspension thrown in for good measure.

Amoros’ self-inflicted misfortune was Domergue’s gain. His suspension, combined with the knee injury to Le Roux, led to Domergue’s first international start for France in the next group match against Belgium; only his third international cap.

He took his place in what was now a three-man defence, with Maxime Bossis as the sweeper behind Domergue and Patrick Battiston. This was partly through necessity given their depleted defensive resources, but also to take better advantage of the wonderful array of attacking talent at France’s disposal.

It was a minor tactical tweak but it was an effective one. France beat Belgium 5-0 in their next match before coming from behind to trump Yugoslavia and secure top spot in the group.

Le Roux came back into the team for the semi-final with Portugal, but Domergue kept his place on the left-side as France reverted to four at the back for this crucial clash in Marseille’s Stade Velodrome. It would be a special day for Domergue.

It was his 27th birthday but, more importantly, in something of a foreshadowing of what would happen 14 years later in another French semi-final in the 1998 World Cup, he would emerge as an unlikely hero. In 1998 Lillian Thuram famously scored his only two international goals to secure victory and a passage to a major tournament final. In 1984, Domergue did precisely the same.

Midway through the first half of what would become one of the great international tournament matches, France were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Portugal penalty area. To most observers Platini, having scored seven goals in the tournament already, was expected to take it. Paulo Bento in the Portugal goal surely anticipated the same. “But I saw a little opening and asked Michel if I could hit it,” explained Domergue after the match. Platini gave his approval and Domergue stepped up to seize his moment. He hit a thumping shot with the outside of his left foot, bringing barely a reaction from the stunned Bento.

Domergue’s bursts down the left flank would be a recurring feature of the repeated Les Bleus efforts to enhance their lead. Despite the numerous chances created, though, France were unable to add to their slender advantage. Late in the game, Portugal drew level through Jordão, taking the match into extra-time. When the same player volleyed Portugal into the lead early in the additional period, France were on the ropes. Far from their earlier position of comfort, they were left clinging on as their dream of a maiden international trophy looked to be slipping away. “It was as if our whole world was falling in,” said Domergue to the Guardian. “But we sort of said to each other: ‘if we’re going to do anything, now is the time to do it.  And everyone just went for it.”

Domergue would again be the central character in the dramatically late French revival. Six minutes from the end of extra-time, advancing on the left once again, he crossed for Le Roux, who had also come forward from the back in those desperate last moments. Le Roux’s shot was blocked but the ball fell to Platini. Before he could pull the trigger, though, he was quickly challenged. As the ball ran loose, Domergue surged into the box and slammed it into the roof of the net. France were back level at 2-2, with both goals coming from their penetrative left-back.

Moments later, in the final minute of the match, Platini sealed a dramatic late victory, and with it their place in the final. Four days later, France beat Spain 2-0 to win the trophy in what Domergue recalled as a tough match in which Les Bleus were struggling under the burden of expectation.

This would be the peak for all of the France squad, not just for Domergue. But for him it was the culmination of a brief flirtation with the international game. For all his quality and his contribution in the victory, there would be no significant prolonged spell in the national set-up. He would only win four more caps after Euro 84, bringing his career total to just nine.

Domergue would never score again for his country. The two goals he did register, though, sit proudly amongst some of the most significant in French footballing history. Fortunate twists of fate had given him his brief opportunity and he seized it with relish, sealing his place as the unlikely hero of the European Championship winners of 1984.

By Aidan Williams @yad_williams

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