Euro heroes - Alain Giresse
The European Championship was always the lesser sibling of the World Cup until France raised the bar to a new level in the 1984.
Alain Giresse was one of the stars of the 1984 French side and he is proud of his contribution to a nation that has emerged as Europe's footballing superpower in the last decade. 'It was wonderful to be part of the first French side to win a major international tournament,' he begins. 'We had the advantage of playing at home but we didn't have it easy at all. There was so many close games along the way, but the Final of Euro'84, against Spain, was something to cherish.
'The nation was gripped by football and we can see the result of that a few years later. It was a pleasure to play for France at this time. Our coach, Michel Hidalgo, had a romantic vision of the game. He always wanted us to play with style and flair.'
The tournament was dominated by the imposing figure of Michel Platini. A playmaker with few peers in world football, the French skipper was their goal scoring hero throughout the tournament and they needed him to be at his best as they scraped through a series of tight matches.
A late Platini winner against Denmark set them on their way and his back to back hat-tricks against Belgium and Yugoslavia secured 5-0 and 3-2 wins respectively. 'The only comfortable game we had in the finals was against Belgium,' reflects Giresse.
'In our other victories against Denmark and Yugoslavia, the semi-final with Portugal and the Final with Spain, we were pushed all the way. The 2-0 win in the Final was special but even more thrilling was the semi in Marseille when we came from 2-1 down deep into extra-time to eventually win 3-2. That game had everything, great technical ability, suspense, total commitment, goals and near-misses.'
Giresse is not wrong. The French triumphant French side of Euro'84 played a brand of football that was both pleasing on the eye and effective in seeing off a list of rivals. They always gave their opponents a chance, but won many new fans with their attacking style as a result.
Jean Tigana's prompting may have been equally significant to the triumph as that of Platini. Indeed, Tigana's performances helped him to finish a distant second to his compatriot in that particular vote, yet Giresse accepts the plaudits for the success will always go to the brilliant Juventus star, the player who was crowned as European Football of the Year in 1984.
'We had improved as a side since losing on penalties to West Germany in the semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup,' he continues. 'We had more experienced, more confidence in ourselves and new players like keeper Joel Bats and midfielder Luis Fernandez helped to make us more competitive. Tigana was also at his best and he was a special talent as well.
'What's more, in Michel Platini, we had a player at the height of his powers. It was very much his tournament, scoring nine goals, including two hat-tricks. The opposition did not know how to handle him and we knew that in every game we played. His game was complete both in a creative and finishing sense.'
The finale came against Spain in Parc des Princes when Platini was again on the mark in a comfortable win and the scenes of delirium that followed inspired France to make a bid for the 1998 World Cup Finals. 'To win the tournament in front of our own fans made it even more special,' he adds.
'Football may not have been the number one sport in France but after that summer, more people took notice. We went on to have the World Cup here and all that has followed from that. I'm honoured to have been a part of the side.'
Had Platini, Giresse and the like not performed their party piece in 1984, there may never have been French triumphs in 1998 and 2000. For that, the heroes of 20 years ago deserve their place in Gallic football folklore.