04/07/1982 Madrid France 1-4 Gerry Armstrong
Pat Jennings, Jimmy Nicholl, Mal Donaghy, Chris Nicholl, John McClelland, David McCreery (John O’Neill), Norman Whiteside, Martin O’Neill, Billy Hamilton, Gerry Armstrong, Sammy McIlroy
Northern Ireland had to win to go through to the Semi-finals and, mid-way through the 1st half, Martin O’Neill had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside after playing a one-two with Armstrong on the edge of the box. France – who only a required a draw – took the lead on 33 after brilliant work by Platini who made his way to the right byline before pulling the ball back for Alan Giresse to stab home. The 2nd French goal came just after half-time on 46 when an Irish attack broke down and the ball was played to Dominique Rocheteau who turned well and set off on a long run, finishing with an angled drive. Next, a surprise short free-kick wide on the left on 68 was laid off to Rocheteau who danced through two challenges in the box before sliding the ball into the back of the net for 3-0. Gerry Armstrong pulled one back on 75 after a nice build up which saw the ball sprayed out to Whiteside on the left who’s cross was parried into the path of Armstrong who finished from the far corner of the 6 yard box, but France had the last word on 80 – Tigana crossing first-time from the right for Giresse to head in for 4-1.
Billy Bingham summed up; “I think for a country of our size, it was a tremendous achievement to get within one match of the semi-finals, I am proud of every one of them.” Ironically it was France who had knocked out Northern Ireland in the QF’s when the Irish had last made an appearance in the World Cup finals in 1958.
Group D Final Table
1. France +4 4
2. Austria -1 1
3. N.Ireland -3 1
Obviously, those matches in Spain will always be remembered. These games produced what must have been the greatest team performances ever by a Northern Ireland squad considering the amount of pressure on it. The continuity of the team was stronger than in Sweden 1958, although that side has superior individual stars. Collectively in ’82 we were better and more organised.”