#WorldCupAtHome: Match of the century goes France's way

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  • In this latest instalment we go back to Mexico 1986 and Brazil v France

Brazil’s quarter-final tie with France at the 1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico™ often comes up in discussions about the beautiful game. Looking on from the stands that day was Pele himself, who described what he saw as “the match of the century”.

The 1-1 scoreline did not do events justice. Despite the searing heat of Guadalajara and with no water breaks available to them, the two sides served up a feast of attacking, end-to-end football, showcasing their skill and indefatigable spirit.

The summary

Brazil 1-1 France (aet, France win 4-3 on penalties) 21 June 1986 Guadalajara (Mexico), Estadio Jalisco

⚽️ Brazil (Careca 17’) France (Michel Platini 40’)

Brazil: Carlos, Josimar, Julio Cesar, Edinho (c), Branco, Alemao, Elzo, Junior (Silas, 91’), Socrates, Muller (Zico, 72’), Careca France: Joel Bats, Manuel Amoros, Maxime Bossis, Patrick Battiston, Thierry Tusseau, Alain Giresse (Jean-Marc Ferreri, 84’), Jean Tigana, Luis Fernandez, Michel Platini (c), Yannick Stopyra, Dominique Rocheteau (Bruno Bellone, 99’)

The stakes

It was the seventh time the two countries had met and only their second world-finals encounter, after A Seleçao’s 5-2 win at Sweden 1958. Mexico 1986 was the last chance for two outstanding generations of players at the peak of their powers to win the World Cup.

On one side was a flamboyantly gifted Brazil side led by the likes of Socrates and Zico and harbouring dreams of lifting the Trophy for the first time in 16 years. And on the other were the reigning European champions and their famous carré magique ('magic square'), the quartet formed by Platini, Tigana, Giresse and Fernandez, one of the finest midfield units on the planet.

The Brazilians had been in imperious form in the group phase, winning all three of their games before crushing Poland 4-0 in the round of 16. The French had encountered few problems themselves en route to the last eight, dropping just the one point, in a 1-1 draw with the Soviet Union, and then easing past Italy in the last 16.

️The match

Brazil right at home: Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, and the Estadio Jalisco were very familiar surroundings for the Brazilians, who were on a nine-game winning streak there. Pele and Co won their first five matches of their epic 1970 campaign at the stadium and it was also the setting for the South Americans’ first four games in the 1986 tournament, which they had also won.

Staying in the game: Les Bleus barely saw the ball in the opening quarter of an hour, as the Brazilians dominated possession with their free-flowing “samba” football - their enterprising play rewarded when Careca fired home after a superb team move. Though clearly second best, the French stuck at their task and began to show they could play too, despite Brazil’s constant threat. They eventually pulled level as half-time approached, with Platini popping up at the far post to tuck away Dominique Rocheteau’s deflected cross.

Bats-man: After keeping France in the game in the first half, Joel Bats followed up by saving a penalty from Zico, who had just come on, with 20 minutes remaining. The Bleus keeper pulled off another flying stop from Brazil’s first spot-kick in the shootout, denying Socrates, and then saw the post keep out Julio Cesar’s effort. Though Platini had sent France’s fourth penalty high into the stands, Luis Fernandez kept his nerve with their fifth kick to send France into the semis.

1986 FIFA World Cup Mexico

Guadalajara, Mexico. 21st June, 1986.

France 1 v Brazil 1. (France win 4-3 on penalties).
France's Luis Fernandez celebrates after scoring the winning
penalty in the shoot to put his team through to the semi

The star

Platini turned 31 that day. The driving force behind France’s 1984 UEFA European Championship win, the playmaker went into Mexico 1986 struggling with a niggling groin injury. Though not fully fit, he kept his place in the team and got on the scoresheet, scoring the first and only goal that Brazil keeper Carlos conceded at Mexico 1986.

What they said

“At the time we didn’t realise that we’d just taken part in this amazing match. We’d been away for two months and we were far from our friends and what people were saying in Paris. We were away from all that: the media and the phones. We didn’t have French TV and there was no internet in those days. That match was a big thing but it wasn’t the end of the World Cup for us. We wanted to go on and win it. We’ll never forget the semi-final, which we lost. But that’s another story.” France midfielder Platini, speaking to Le Monde

“Platini is nothing short of a genius and it’s impossible to mark geniuses.” Brazil midfielder Socrates

“There was this huge sense of happiness in the dressing room afterwards and we sang a Brazilian song. We weren’t mocking our opponents; we just wanted to savour our achievement together. It was amazing. It’s a match that people always remember, more so than some finals, because both teams went and attacked. They didn’t play safe. They played entertaining football.” France goalkeeper Bats, speaking to Eurosport

What happened next?

France took on West Germany in the semi-finals for the second World Cup running, four years on from their traumatic defeat in Seville. This time there were no dramatic twists and turns and no extra time or penalties as Die Mannschaft ran out comfortable 2-0 winners in normal time.

The Germans went on to lose 3-2 to Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the Final, while Les Bleus gained some consolation in the play-off for third place, beating Belgium 4-2 after extra time.