Exceptional beauty met unerring efficiency in Seville 30 years ago to this Sunday. An emerging, adventurous France side headlined by Michel Platini, and also comprising Manuel Amoros, Marius Tresor, Jean Tigana and Alain Giresse, was up against an established, organised West Germany XI including Uli Stielike, Karlheinz Forster, Paul Breitner, Felix Magath, Pierre Littbarski and Klaus Fischer. The prize was a place in the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™ Final, and the race for it began at a frightening pace.
A Breitner gallop through the midfield helped set up the opener, a swerving Littbarski strike from the edge of the box, but after Dominique Rocheteau was felled in the area, Platini stepped up to equalise.
The latter almost helped to grab the French a second goal in the second half. Indeed, a defence-parting Platini pass sent Patrick Battiston clean through on goal. However, before the France No3’s shot had trickled narrowly wide of the goal, its occupier, Harald Schumacher, had viciously clattered into him and left him unconscious.
Schmacher continued to frustrate Les Bleus with his cat-like reflexes. And when the Cologne goalkeeper was unable to repel shots, the woodwork came to his rescue - not once, but twice. Schmacher’s opposite number, Jean-Luc Ettori, also earnt his crust with two brilliant late saves from Breitner and Forster to ensure extra time would be needed to separate the teams.
Eight minutes into the first of the additional quarter-hours, they appeared separated, with a Tresor volley and a pinpoint Giresse strike having given France a 3-1 lead. But “you can never write off the Germans”, as Platini reflected post-match, and substitute Karl-Heinz Rummenigge pulled one back with a goal that epitomised their never-say-die attitude, starting a move on the halfway line and somehow sliding home a ball that he had no right to win.
If West Germany recovering a two-goal deficit within extra time to take the contest into penalties seemed highly unlikely, the fact that centre-back Fischer completed the job with a bicycle kick was even unlikelier!
France nevertheless regained the ascendency when Ettori’s save from Stielike left them 3-2 up in the shoot-out. However, Didier Six’s attempt was then repelled by Schumacher and when the West Germany No1 denied Maxime Bossis, the 1954 world champions just needed to net their final spot-kick to book a Final date with Italy. Substitute Horst Hrubesch did just that to ensure that one of the most exhilarating exhibitions in FIFA World Cup history ended in West German cheers and French tears.