Host nation: France
It was the first tournament to feature the entire 33 UEFA members and the groups commenced as four groups of five and three groups of four.
England were to suffer a disastrous campaign as the Danes beat them at Wembley and nudged them out by one point.
At the time this seemed like a disaster but considering this was the golden Denmark generation of Michael Laudrup, Allan Simonsen and Preben Elkjaer Larsen, hindsight would paint it in a different light. And the Danes would light up the finals.
Portugal edged out the Soviet Union, the Welsh fell just short of Yugoslavia while Romania saw off the Swedes. All these groups were settled by one point while Northern Ireland lost out to West Germany on goal difference.
The final qualifier was decided by the same means but in highly controversial circumstances as Spain needed to win by 11 clear goals to edge out the Dutch. Amazingly, a 12-1 win saw the Spanish home and the Dutch would remain suspicious for all time.
Once the finals tournament got underway the French were into their stride with a 1-0 win over the Danes, who were hampered by Simonsen breaking his leg. Michel Platini, part of a fabled midfield with Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse and Luiz Fernandez scored the goal. It wasn't to be his last.
The Belgians, one of Europe's best sides, were swept aside 5-0 with Platini, grabbing a hat-trick and Giresse and Fernandez both getting on the scoresheet.
Next were the Yugoslavs, already eliminated, but full of fight. They were seen off by yet another Platini treble. The Danes had beaten the Yugoslavs with a 5-0 win which belied the effort of the losing team and required a late goal from Elkjaer against Belgium to gain second place in the group.
West Germany's love affair with the championships turned sour in France. A dull opening draw with Portugal, a luckyish win over Romania with two goals from Rudi Voeller and a last-minute loss to the Spanish saw them finish behind the Portugese and Spanish.
After a dull Spanish draw with the Romanians and a draw with the Portugese, both Iberians qualified after when a Nené goal was enough for Portugal to beat the Romanians too.
Spain's uneasy progress continued in the semi-final with Denmark. An early goal from Soren Lerby was cancelled out by a 67th minute Maceda shot. Extra-time was a damp squib and penalties went to the wire. Elkjaer, one of the stars of the tournament, was forced to suffer the poisoned chalice of missing the fatal penalty.
The other semi-final would go down as a stone classic. France took an early lead with a Jean-François Domergue free-kick and dominated proceedings right up until Fernando Chalana chipped in a cross for Jordao to head home.
The French pushed for a winner but time and the heroics of Manuel Bento took the game into extra-time. There the Portugese stole into the lead when Chalana and Jordao again combined.
But France weren't done. Platini's quick-thinking won time for Domergue to score his second. Now Portugal were on the rack and it looked as if penalties would be their salvation.
But Tigana's engine kept ticking to win a tackle and cross in. Bento's luck ran out as he palmed the ball to Platini. The Frenchman wasn't going to miss from there. A nation rejoiced as Platini peeled away.
All that joy would have been tempered had the home nation lost in the final. But they were fortunate in that the Spanish team was riddled with injury and suspension. They were doubly fortunate when Spain's goalkeeper and captain Luis Arconada fumbled a Platini free-kick and was unable to stop it dribbling over the goal-line.
It was his ninth goal in a tournament he had dominated. But Tigana had perhaps equalled his playing prowess and his redoubtable energies saw him engineer a golden opportunity for Bruno Bellone to score a last minute settler of a game that had never been in doubt despite the sending off of Yvon Le Roux.
France, the country that had brought the tournament into fruition, could at last celebrate a major championship. And they had won in glittering Gallic style.