Thursday, February 25, 2010

Greatest World Cup matches: Brazil-France (1986)

Brazil’s squad for Mexico in 1986 included players from one of the most gifted generations of Brazilian football, that had nevertheless been humbled by Paolo Rossi and Italy in the 1982 World Cup. Among these players were Torino’s Junior, one of the best fullbacks in Brazilian football; Flamengo’s Zico, one of the best Brazilians of all-time; Flamengos’ legendary and charismatic midfielder Sócrates, as well as the ageing Falcão, who was finishing his career in São Paulo.
The 1986 World Cup in Mexico was the last chance for this golden generation to lift the trophy. The squad was nevertheless also supplemented by some good young players, among them the outstanding defenders Branco from Fluminense and Julio Cesar from Guaraní, as well as the dangerous São Paulo striker Careca.
The Brazilians had started the tournament well with three consecutive victories in the first round against Spain, Algeria and Northern Ireland. In the last-16 they had defeated an ageing Polish side 4-0, but the true test of their strength would come against the European champions of France in the quarterfinals.
France, who had reached the semifinals of the 1982 World Cup arguably had one of the best teams in the world. In 1984, at home, they had been awesome in taking the European championship, where the Juventus star and three-time European player of the year (1983, 84 and 85) Michel Platini had been absolutely outstanding.
Platini was nevertheless not alone, as he presided over what was dubbed “the magic square” (Carré Magique) on the French midfield, composed of Platini himself, the superb Alain Giresse from Bordeaux, and the defensive midfielders Jean Tigana, also from Bordeaux, and Luis Fernandez from Paris Saint-Germain. In defence the French had one of the best defenders of his age, Monaco’s Manuel Amoros, as well as the veteran Nantes’ player Maxime Bossis.
The French had not been that strong in their first matches though, where they had only managed a 1-0 victory against Canada on a late goal by the young Jean-Pierre Papin, then tied 1-1 with the strong USSR and defeated the poor Hungarians 3-0. In the last-16 the French had been faced with the defending world champions of Italy, whom they had defeated 2-0, and were now to face Brazil in one of the most anticipated quarterfinals of the tournament: Brazil and France were two of the best teams in the world in 1986, both playing exhilarating and entertaining football.
The match was no disappointment, and although it perhaps lacked goals, it was one of the best displays of technical skill, attacking football and pace in World Cup history.
The match started at a fast pace, and only after a few minutes Manuel Amoros had an excellent shot from outside. Manuel Amoros would in fact be at the center of the action, playing an outstanding match in defence as the Brazilians attacked again and again. After 17 minutes, following quick combinations between Muller and Junior, the latter found Careca alone at the edge of the area, and the São Paulo striker made no mistake in bringing Brazil ahead.
Brazil continued attacking, and the French defenders fought well, although also with some luck, as when Muller hit the woodwork. However, France patiently worked themselves into the match, and after 41 minutes Dominique Rocheteau centered from the right side. The ball was slightly deflected by a defender, as Yannck Stopyra crashed into the Brazilian goalkeeper Carlos trying to get a header, but with both missing the ball. On the far post, Michel Platini had no problem pushing the ball into an empty goal, as Carlos and Stopyra lay in the center.
The score was 1-1 at halftime.
Both teams opened up more in the second half, and seeking goals, both teams had good chances, although Brazil came closest, with Careca hitting the post on an excellent header. But as the match advanced and nothing happened, the Brazilian coach Tele Santana decided to change Muller for the legendary Zico, who had started the match as a substitute. And after only five minutes the ageing Brazilian took center stage: a perfect through-ball to Branco forced the Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Joel Bats to make a penalty. The experienced Zico was to take it, but shot poorly against the experienced Bats (who is still considered one of the best French goalkeepers of all time), who saved.
Brazil had seen victory within their reach, but the match ended 1-1, and went into extra time.
Although the players were tired after 90 minutes in the hot Guadalajara sun, both teams still sought victory, with the best chance coming to France’s striker Bruno Bellone, who had come on as a substitute for Rocheteau. Alone with Carlos, the French goalkeeper clearly went for Bellone, who out of balance from Carlos foul missed his chance.
Scandalously, the Romanian referee Igna didn’t do anything against this clear foul.
Thus, the extraordinary match would have to be decided by a nerve-wrecking penalty shootout.
One of the greatest stars, Zico, had missed a penalty. Now, Brazil’s captain, Sócrates, was to shoot the first penalty for Brazil, and his shot was also spectacularly saved by Bats. All the advantages were now with France. At the score 3-3, Michel Platini had to shoot for France to bring them ahead; with his experience and technique, it was a surprise when he shot over goal, levelling the shoot-out to the relief of the Brazilians.
All the super-stars seemed to be missing penalties!
It was then the turn of the defender Julio Cesar, who at the time was playing in the French club Stade Brestois 29, to shoot. His hard shot hit the post, and the score was levelled again before the last player went to shoot: Luis Fernandez, the experienced Paris Saint-Germain midfielder made no mistake in scoring the winning penalty for France on a low shot to the right of Carlos.
Zico and Sócrates would never be world champions, this being their last World Cup. In the meantime, the French had proven strongest against the toughest opposition, and emerged from this match as favorites for the world cup title together with Argentina. However, in the semifinal France was to face their eternal nightmare, West Germany. And just as had happened in 1982, West Germany proved to be too clever for the French, who had to return to France with bronze medals.
France and Brazil in 1986 were two of the best teams ever never to win a world championship, but still gave the world a wonderful match in their quarterfinal. All men on that pitch that day went far beyond being athletes, but became artists.
I was not old, but remember watching this match and being in awe at the speed, quality and intensity. It was true football beauty all the way through, and I think I still remember the match as the best I have ever watched.

Match Stats:
  • 21st June 1986, Estadio Jalisco, Guadalajara
  • Attendance: 65,000
  • Referee: Ioan Igna (Romania)
Brazil-France 1-1 (After extra time)
Goals: 1-0 Careca (17), 1-1 Platini (40)

Penalty kicks:
Brazil-France 3-4
Socrates missed for Brazil
0-1 Stopyra
1-1 Alemão
1-2 Amoros
2-2 Zico
2-3 Bellone
3-3 Branco
Platini missed for France
Julio Cesar missed for Brazil
3-4 Fernandez

Brazil: Carlos, Edinho, Junior (Silas), Julio Cesar, Alemão, Branco, Socrates, Elzo, Muller (Zico), Josimar, Careca
France: Bats; Amoros, Battiston, Bossis, Tusseau, Fernandez, Platini, Giresse (Ferreri), Tigana, Rocheteau (Bellone), Stopyra


Anonymous said...

I cried when Zico missed that penalty


El Erik said...

Cool. I should do a post on top 10 matches to cry to.
I must admit that I just wanted this match to go on.
But really sad that Zico messed it up at one of the crucial moments in his life!

Anonymous said...

I shall never forget this game - one of the greatest, if not THE greatest I have ever seen.

Anonymous said...

If only Careca or Reinaldo hadn't been injured in '82, Brazil would have won that WC. Serginho was nowhere the same league.

Unknown said...

Great great game... Brazil should have won but the 1982 team were a better team than 1986.. They were just so over confident against italy and had the wretched serginho up front. He couldnt link up play he could barely control the ball and his finishing was abysmal. Why santana continued to stubbornly select him was a mystery. The real tragedy of brazil 82 was not the careless mistakes in defence but the lack of a top striker. With a decent forward brazil would have outscored any team and that is the irony. They were a team built to attack and score and they didnt have a striker to finish off the moves or create chances for the others..just think what reinaldo or careca could have done in that team against italy.. By 1986 it was a completely different team.. Socrates' fitness was in question falcao was injured as was zico.. Junior was still in great form but they missed eder and renato gaucho... Its a shame that generation of players never won a world cup. With the talent they had its possible they could have won 2 world cups in the 80s

Anonymous said...

I saw all the matches in 1986 on TV. I have seen most since. This match was a heart breaker, but to me it was without a question the greatest I ever saw. I was in a daze long after the match got over and I am not even Brazilian. Seems like I still have (after 28 years) traces of the daze.

Anonymous said...

I was 9 years old at the time we watched this at home, and it was probably the best game of that world cup.

But Giles Varley and the other posters above have summed it up correctly.

The game was good due to the sizzling heat and seeing the players absolutely knackered during extra time and so on, that by the time the penalties arrived they were all worn out, and the heat seemed so intense.

When I was 9, I could not remember the prior world cup at all really, only the names of the likes of Zico, Socrates and Junior and so on were legendary, as was that of Platini and Maradona.

But yes, it was evident that by '86 the Brazil squad was nothing like that of '82. In '86 Socrates, Junior and Zico were already Old Skool.

It also has to be said I think that even though many of us would have liked to have seen Brazil win, for mainly sentimental reasons I think linked to '82 and their mythical-like status, France deserved it. When you watch the Mexico '86 documentary Hero this view is clear. As really they were done-by the Ref who should have sent Carlos off for a literal repeat of what Schumacher did in '82 to Battiston, on Bellone.

Just a shame that France themselves did not beat West Germany in the '86 semi as a France V Argentina final would have been superb.

At least the '86 final was good, no like '90 which was terrible, the best game in '90 being probably England V Cameroon, or England V Germany.


Badhris said...

I was 10 at the time of WC 1986. On the eve of this game, someone near my home said,"Go watch this game, is one of the greatest games ever to be played".. Turned out to be true.. 2 of the greatest side showed up and played!!!

Salar Mohmand said...

Highlights France vs Netherlands
Highlights Netherlands vs France 2016

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Savvas Tzionhs said...

My non Soccer following friend made the very astute observation that there were virtually NO THROW IN'S! What a match

Unknown said...

Nativity said
I am a french fan and i must say they were superb. manuel amoros was my man of the match. both he and 'the wounded warrior' patrick battiston read the game so well and were in tandem. battiston displayed the role of sweeper with sublime skill.