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Spain at Euro 1980 | El Centrocampista
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El Centrocampista

EURO 1980: Spain’s darkest hour marks a watershed

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It’s hard to believe right now, but Spain weren’t always the dominant force in international football and this was no more apparent than in 1980 where Spain were dumped out in the group stages.

Although Spain’s passage to the tournament was fairly comfortable suffering just one defeat, Laszlo Kubala’s side were handed a tough group that included hosts Italy, Belgium and England. The squad contained current Spain manager Vincent Del Bosque, who was a defender for Real Madrid at the time!

First up for Spain, who included current boss Vicente del Bosque among their ranks, with a game against Italy at Milan’s San Siro.  The Spanish dominated possession yet failed to break down a well-organised and stoic Italian defence and the game finished in a fairly uninspiring goal less stalemate. Belgium had earlier played out a 1-1 draw with England in Group B’s other game, leaving the teams level going into the second round of games.

Three days later, Spain faced the Belgians in what would prove to be the group defining game. Unfortunately for Kubala it ended badly for la Roja  as Belgium took the points with goals from current-Morocco manager Eric Gerets and midfielder Julien Cools. Although legendary Sporting Gijon striker Quini had a goal sandwiched in between the two Belgium strikes, the Spanish were unable to impose themselves any further on the match.

Spain were rooted to the foot of Group B as they went into their final game against England, and knew they needed a win against Ron Greenwood’s side to stand any chance of a place in the final.

In front of a poor crowd at Napoli’s Stadio San Paulo, Spain once again fell behind early on as Trevor Brooking netted for the English. Athletic Club striker Dani then levelled from the penalty spot minutes in to the second half but a goal from Tony Woodcock eventually sent Spain to a demoralising 2-1 defeat.

Kubala’s side finished bottom of Group B and proved to be the former Barcelona legend’s last game at the helm as he returned to the Camp Nou for a short stint in the hot seat.

The 1980 European Championships proved something of a crossroads in Spain’s footballing history, and the country’s infrastructure saw massive development ahead of 1982 World Cup with stadiums renovated and facilities significantly improved.

The tournament in Italy was Spain’s first since being crowned Champions in 1964 and confidence was high going into the competition. However, it proved to be the country’s worst performance at a major finals and left many questioning the way football was being run in a post-Franco Spain.

Improvements were made and Spain went on to finish as runners-up in the 1984 European Championships before two decades of anti-climax ended in the glory of the 2008 tournament victory in Austria and Switzerland.




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