Belgium came into the Euro 1980 with just two international wins and went all the way to the final where they lost to West Germany.
The continental championships are often seen as a platform where the minnows would topple the superpowers. UEFA Euro 1980 was one such tournament. Belgium, who had won just two international matches prior to the championship, went all the way to the final. Although they lost to West Germany in the penultimate match, tt was the start of Belgium’s best phase in world football. The competition in Italy was an introduction to a new look tournament as the number of participants was doubled from the initial four.
Belgium qualified for the tournament after topping a group that included Portugal and came into the competition as underdogs.
Guy Thys’ side were placed in the Group comprising hosts Italy, England and Spain. Legendary goalkeeper Dino Zoff’s Italy and a star-studded England were the heavyweights.
However, in their first match against England on June 12, they held the Three Lions to a 1-1 draw. Midfielder Jan Ceuleman canceled out a rare first half goal from Ray Wilkins. The draw gave them confidence going into the remaining group matches against Spain and Italy.
Belgium beat Spain 2-1 and Italy defeated England 1-0 in the second round of group fixtures. This meant that one of the finalists will be decided at Rome when the Azzurris take on Belgium.
According to the new format, the group winners would go to the final and the runner-ups would play in the third-place play off match.
Nobody expected Belgium to get this far and their defensive game plan was giving them unexpected results. The Red Devils needed only a point in their final group fixture to sneak past Italy on goals scored.
They successfully held Italy to a goalless draw to book a place in the final against West Germany.
Everyone expected the final to be a one-sided match with West Germany dominating the first time finalist. However, that wasn’t the case, as the Germans had to dig deep to win the trophy.
Vandereycken converted the penalty in the 77th minute to cancel out Horst Hrubesch’s first half opener.
The equalizer swung the momentum in Belgium’s favour but they couldn’t capitalise on that and Hrubesch got his second of the night for Germany in the 88th minute to break the Belgium hearts.
Despite losing in the final the Red Devils announced their arrival into the elite group in world football.
Moreover it was just the beginning of a golden run as they topped the group comprising Maradona’s Argentina in the 1982 FIFA World Cup and reached the semi-finals of the 1986 Mexico World Cup.
As the Euro 2020 begins on June 11, unlike the Belgium team of 1980, this time around they go in as favourites.
The Red Devils are on top of the world ranking since 2018 and are boasted by a number of world class players. This generation of Belgium team is one of the strongest on paper and can go all the way.