With so much at stake and against such wholehearted opponents, France were never going to have things all their own way in the 1984 UEFA European Championship showpiece.
Indeed, Spain got into their stride more quickly, Santiago Urquiaga causing problems with his crosses. Yet Michel Platini had captivated the continent as he had opposition defences all tournament, and the moment he notched up goal No9 at the Parc des Princes (no other side struck as many at the finals, let alone player) there was little doubt about the winner. Bruno Bellone made sure late on.
Spain were on the back foot almost from the off, with Ricardo Gallego and Francisco Carrasco booked in quick succession as they attempted to stem the tide. Yet for all their intent the hosts failed to create a single clear-cut chance in the first half; at the other end Santillana, fantastic in the air for a man who was no giant, had a header cleared off the line by Patrick Battiston then shot just wide.
There was little improvement at the start of the second period when Salva was penalised for fouling Bernard Lacombe just outside the penalty area. Platini's free-kick was not one of his best, sweeping low round the wall but almost into Luis Arconada's hands.
The goalkeeper had been saving better shots all fortnight, redeeming himself after a nervous FIFA World Cup effort at home in 1982. But as he dropped to collect the shot and pulled it in to his body, he somehow let it creep out and over the line as he tried to claw it back. One captain's gift to the other, it sapped the spirit which had sustained Spain throughout the tournament.
Despite Santillana's continued aerial defiance, there was no way back, Yvon Le Roux's sending off five minutes from time coming too late. Instead Jean Tigana, the player of the tournament despite Platini's goals, sent Bellone through to chip Arconada for the only one of France's 14 goals to have been scored by a striker, a statistic the new champions could live with.
France were fortunate to have been playing at home, but it was good to see that generation of players win something in between their two FIFA World Cup semi-finals. No one seriously disputed their right to be called the best in Europe: they played 12 matches in that calendar year, winning them all.
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