1980 was the year when the European championship changed structure. A final round of eight teams was introduced, to be preceded by a qualification. The eight teams would be divided into two groups where the winners would go directly to the final and the runner-ups would be playing for third place. Italy was selected as host, qualifying automatically as such.
After losing the 1976 final West Germany had undergone a generation shift from the World Cup side of 1974. Legends such as Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Berti Vogts or Uli Hoeness had retired, but had been replaced by another generation players. The side was much more varied in terms of clubs as Bayern Munich's and Borussia Monchengladbach's stars had faded, but the players were not less talented and would leave a mark on German football.
On goal was FC Cologne's Harald Schumacher, a hugely talented but controversial goalkeeper. The captain of the team was the MSV Duisburg defender Bernard Dietz, complemented by Real Madrid's Uli Stielike, VFB Stutgart's Karl-Heinz Forster, as wel as the Hamburg SV legend Manfred Kaltz. The soon to be FC Barcelona player Bernd Schuster played in midfield with Kaiserslautern's Hans Peter Briegel and Bayern Munich's Karl-Heinz Rummennigge, with FC Cologne's Klaus Allofs. Just before the tournament the bicycle-kick expert from Schalke 04 was injured and was replaced by Hamburg SV's Horst Hrubesch. Hrubesh, a sturdy attacker who had only made it to the national team at the age of 28 was not immediately seen as the best replacement for Fischer, but would go into the history books.
West Germany, runner-ups in 1976, were paired in group A with the defending champions of Czechoslovakia and in the opening match of the tournament the Germans got revenge for their defeat four years before by winning 1-0 on a goal by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who would go on to be the European player of the year of 1980 (ahead of his teammate Bernd Schuster). In their second match against the Netherlands West Germany won 3-2 with three goals by Klaus Allofs, and 0-0 in their last match against Greece was enough to take them to the final.
Belgium had not been a great footballing power in Europe, but by 1980 the team had developed one of its most talented generations under the most legendary of Belgian coaches, Guy Thys.
On goal was Beveren's Jean-Marie Pfaff, behind Standard Liege's Eric Gerets and Michel Renquin in defense. The team captain was Beerschot VAC's Julien Cools, complemented in midfield by Club Brugge's Rene Vandereycken and the K.Beringen veteran Wilfried Van Moer. Up front Anderlecht's Francois Van der Elst and Club Brugge's Jan Ceulemans formed the attacking duo. Belgium had qualified the tournament ahead of Austria, Portugal and Scotland, but were not considered as prime contenders in a group with England, Spain, and the home side of Italy. But after opening with 1-1 against England, Belgium defeated Spain 2-1, and a 0-0 in their last match against Italy was enough to put them in their first international final ever.
But there was no doubt that West Germany were the favourites against little Belgium, and when the game started the Germans were ready to take up their role as favourites, and put strong pressure on the Belgians. Bernd Schuster had a good attempt from long-range that was well saved by Pfaff, and in the 10th minute the Barcelona player lifted the ball above a Belgian defender to Horst Hrubesch at the edge of the Belgian area. Hrubesch, who had been criticized for his lack of goals in the tournament, in one movement took the ball down with his breast and hammered to the ball with his right foot, scoring a great opener for West Germany. Rummenigge, Schuster & Co continued pressuring for the remainder of the first half and should perhaps have been ahead by more than 1-0 by the time the second half started.
But it was then Belgium, who until then had been mere spectators, showed why they had made it to the final. Led by the veteran Van Moer, the Belgians fought themselves back into the match and neutralized the powerful German midfield. In the 75th minute they were rewarded: on an excellent pass by Jan Ceulemans Francois Van er Elst got through alone against Schumacher, but an onrushing Uli Stielike tackled and committed a clear penalty (today Stielike would undoubtedly have been given a red card). Rene Vandereycken converted the penalty and made it 1-1.
Most spectators, except the Germans, were now supporting the Belgians, who seemed to have the ipper hand. But in the 86th minute Karl-Heinz Rummennigge took a corner kick. It went to the central part of the Belgian area where Horst Hrubesch rose above a shaky-looking Jean-Marie Pfaff, and headed the ball into goal.
Horst Hrubesch, the substitute striker from Hamburg had become the hero of the day.
This was enough for West Germany, who after a few years of a bit of decline were back at the top of European football with a team that would remain at the top of world football during the 1980s.
Belgium, the major surprise of the tournament would also remain a powerful player in world football, culminating with a semi-final spot at the 1986 World Cup.
Rome, 22nd June 1980
Referee: Nicolae Rainea (Romania)
West Germany-Belgium 2-1
West Germany: Harald Schumacher; Uli Stielike, Manfred Kaltz, Bernard Dietz (c) , Karlheinz Förster, Bernd Schuster, Hans-Peter Briegel (Bernhard Cullmann, 55), Hansi Müller, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge , Horst Hrubesch, Klaus Allofs. Coach: Jupp Derwall
Belgium: Jean-Marie Pfaff; Eric Gerets, Luc Millecamps, Walter Meeuws, Michel Renquin, Julien Cools (c), René Vandereycken, Wilfried Van Moer, Raymond Mommens, François Van Der Elst, Jan Ceulemans. Coach: Guy Thys
1-0 Hrubesch (8)
1-1 Vandereycken (75) (pen)
2-1 Hrubesch (86)