Euro 1984: The Greatest Tournament You Never Saw by Aidan Williams – Review

Euro 84 The Greatest Tournament You Never Saw by Aidan Williams Review (1)

By Karl Hornsey

Having focused in his last book on the greatest teams to miss out on World Cup glory, Aidan Williams this time turns his attention to one of the greatest to actually win something. With the 2024 European Championship in Germany just around the corner, Williams casts his gaze back 40 years, when the tournament was held in very different, and much less heralded, circumstances, and the Michel Platini-inspired France prevailed.

The byline to the title is extremely fitting. Despite being a child of the ‘80s and obsessed with the 1982 World Cup, my knowledge of the next major tournament to follow is sketchy at best. And, having read this excellent account of Euro 84, I realise it was even sketchier than I thought. I love the fact that I’ve learnt so much from reading this book, but so many others will too, given that UK coverage of the tournament bordered on the non-existent. With none of the British teams qualifying, the major broadcasters largely shunned the event, with just one group match and the final broadcast live. Despite that, there is still one piece of iconic commentary that has survived, as an excitable John Motson described the semi-final between France and Portugal, which remained one of his all-time favourite matches.

Euro 84 The Greatest Tournament You Never Saw by Aidan Williams Review (2)“Just eight teams involved”

While the tournament itself is covered in extensive detail, my favourite section of this book is the qualifying campaign, which Williams delves into in depth, and which set up the finals with a series of remarkable results and near misses. The astonishing turnabout that saw Spain squeeze through to the finals, the first failure of Bobby Robson’s tenure as England boss, the ability of Wales and Scotland to shoot themselves in the feet once again, and the struggles of the giants of West Germany to progress are all well covered here. Many people remember major finals, but those finals are made up of so many ‘what ifs’ that football history could have been turned on its head merely with one or two matches ending differently.

With the present-day European Championships featuring so many more teams and operating in the glaring spotlight of analysis, analysis and yet more analysis, it’s worth bearing in mind that the tournament 40 years ago was one that helped to keep the concept of the Euros alive, following on as they did from the terrible tournament in 1980 that was overshadowed by hooliganism and poor football. With just eight teams involved, each of them actually mattered and can be covered extensively here, as opposed to now, when few would have a clue which teams have made it through to next month’s finals. Williams has done a huge load of research to make this a must-read for anyone with an interest in tournament football from a different era, or anyone who wants to know more about some of the greatest international outfits to grace the game.

‘Euro 84: The Greatest Tournament You Never Saw’ by Aidan Williams is published by Pitch Publishing


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