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Magical night when Platini made time stand still

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, July 3 (Reuters) One of the defining moments in the glittering career of former France captain Michel Platini came in Marseille late on the night of June 23 1984 when he appeared, for a moment, to make time stand still.

There were only seconds of extra time remaining and the first semi-final of Euro'84 appeared to be heading for penalties with France and Portugal drawing 2-2 after a classic match.

Jean-Francois Domergue had put France ahead after 24 minutes, but Jordao equalised for Portugal 16 minutes from time -- then put them 2-1 up eight minutes into extra time.

With the hosts seemingly on their way out of the tournament, Domergue struck his second to make it 2-2 with only six minutes to play.

The clock was running down and penalties seemed inevitable.

France still had painful memories of their World Cup defeat to West Germany on penalties in Seville two years earlier, and no French player wanted a repeat of that nightmare scenario.

It was then that Platini delivered one of the greatest goals in his career, jinking his way into space in the Portuguese penalty area, appearing to mesmerise the defenders into pillars of stone.

There was a moment when the ground seemed hushed, the Portuguese players immobile, with only Platini on the move, switching the ball from one foot to the other before lashing home an unstoppable shot past goalkeeper Manuel Bento to win the match 3-2 and send France into their first major final.

Platini scored again in the 2-0 win over Spain a few days later and France were European champions.

LONG WAIT Portugal provided the semi-final opposition again when France won the European title for the second time in 2000.

The build-up suggested this re-match could provide just as memorable night as the game in 1984. France were world champions while Portugal had played some dazzling football on the way to the last four of Euro 2000.

But that match is remembered today mainly for the dramatic, chaotic way it ended with Portugal's players losing all their self-control after a controversial handball led to Zinedine Zidane scoring a golden-goal penalty winner late in extra time to give France a 2-1 win.

The pre-match talk had focused on the midfield duel between Zidane and Portugal's Luis Figo and also on nostalgic memories of 1984.

But at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels a niggly, gritty battle degenerated into ugly scenes at the end.

Practically the only thing the match in 2000 had in common with the Marseille game 16 years earlier was a French win with a late extra-time goal.

Nuno Gomes had scored an excellent goal to give Portugal the lead after 19 minutes and Thierry Henry equalised for France after 51.

There were no further goals, and as in 1984, a shootout seemed inevitable.

But three minutes from the end of extra time Abel Xavier was judged to have handled in the penalty area -- and Portugal's players went crazy, attacking Slovakian linesman Igor Sramka and Austrian referee Guenter Benko for awarding the penalty.

Portugal's scorer Nuno Gomes was sent off for pushing and shoving the referee and coach Humberto Coelho resigned after the game.

In the protest before the penalty was finally taken, Figo, disgusted at the decision by Benko, took his shirt off and appeared to be walking off the pitch.

Desolate Portuguese players fell to their knees when Zidane sealed their fate with the last kick of the match.

Reuters PDS RN2243

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