History of the European Championship Part II: The 1980s
History of the European Championship Part II: The 1980s

The 1980s brought about a change in the format of the European Championship finals, with eight teams now taking part in the tournament and the addition of a group stage for the first time in 1980. 

That 1980 tournament saw West Germany become the first team to win multiple titles, after their previous success in 1972. In doing so, they remain the youngest side to win a European Championship final with their side that night having a starting XI with an average age of just 25 years & 136 days. 

Youngest winning teams European Championship history

There were 385 shots at Euro 80 in total and it was the final shot of the tournament that won the trophy. Horst Hrubesch’s header with 85 seconds of ‘normal’ time left was the match-winner, after his 10th minute opener was cancelled out with 18 minutes remaining by Belgium’s Rene Vandereycken. The Golden Goal rule wasn’t in place in the European Championships until 1996, but Hrubesch’s winner effectively did that job for West Germany. 

His teammate Klaus Allofs scored the second hat trick in European Championship history during West Germany’s Group Stage victory over the Netherlands. Of the seven different players to net a hat trick in the history of the tournament, only Allofs and Sérgio Conceição (in 2000 for Portugal versus Germany) scored all their European Championship career goals in a single game. 

European Championship Hat Tricks:

Date Player Team Opponent Goals
June 17, 1976Dieter MüllerGermanyYugoslavia3
June 14, 1980Klaus AllofsGermanyNetherlands3
June 16, 1984Michel PlatiniFranceBelgium3
June 19, 1984Michel PlatiniFranceYugoslavia3
June 15, 1988Marco van BastenNetherlandsEngland3
June 20, 2000Sérgio ConceiçãoPortugalGermany3
June 25, 2000Patrick KluivertNetherlandsYugoslavia3
June 10, 2008David VillaSpainRussia3

Michel Platini scored two hat tricks in the 1984 edition of the European Championships, just four days apart – the second of which remains the shortest time between scoring the first and last goal of a treble, at just 18 minutes. 

Those six goals contributed towards an astonishing campaign in which the French playmaker scored nine times overall and in every one of France’s five games in the tournament – both records for a single player at a European Championships. Unfortunately for Platini, he was never able to add to this tally as he retired in April 1987 and France failed to qualify for Euro 1988.

Most Goals in single european championship edition

In winning Euro 84 on their home turf, France became the fourth and last host nation to win the European Championships – a feat that none of the subsequent 11 hosts have managed to replicate across eight tournaments and definitely won’t be replicated in the next edition. 

England put in their worst-ever tournament appearance four years later, in 1988. In 24 World Cup and European Championship finals combined, the Three Lions have never performed worse than their three defeats in three games at Euro 88.  

One player who capped a miserable tournament for England fans that year was Dutch striker Marco Van Basten, as he scored a hat trick for the Netherlands in their 3-1 Group Stage victory over Bobby Robson’s side.  

Marco van Basten Euro 1988 shot map

Van Basten – appearing in his first-ever senior tournament – would go on to finish as the top scorer at the finals with five goals. He saved his best for last, with a memorable dipping volley from a ridiculous angle in the final win against the USSR. Unfortunately for Van Basten and the Dutch national side, he was to never score again in an international tournament – despite eight appearances over the 1990 FIFA World Cup and the 1992 edition of the European Championships. 

Euro 1988 was the only one of the 10 European Championship finals since 1980 not to see a single goalless draw, nor did it see any game go to extra time or penalties. No red cards were given by referees in the 15 games at the tournament and 32 yellow cards were dished out overall. 

The 1980s started with the lowest scoring European Championship finals of the ‘modern’ era of the tournament – with just 1.93 goals per game in 1980 – but 1984 and 1988’s more expansive and exciting brand of football meant that the decade is remembered fondly in the memories of football fans.  

Percentage shots scored in Euro history

1984 saw the highest shots per 90 ratio of any tournament since it expanded to eight teams in 1980 (30), while the 8.8% shot conversion rate four years later in 1988 is only bettered by Euro 2000’s 9.5% in the ‘modern’ era of the Championships. 

The 1990s would see the abolition of the back-pass rule in football and the introduction of the Golden Goal, to change the way that the game was played. It also saw the expansion of the European Championships to 16 teams halfway through the decade – a change that would give more nations a chance to prove themselves on the greatest stage of European football. 

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