FC Barcelona at the European Championship (Part 1: 1964 to 1992)

Ronald Koeman was part of the Dutch squad in 1988 and 1992 / FCB ARCHIVE
Who said history lessons are dull? In the first of a two-part series we prepare for Euro 2016 by looking back at how our players have fared at the competition over the years

Eight current Barça players will be appearing at Euro 2016, which kicks off in France this weekend: four for Spain (Iniesta, Sergio, Piqué and Jordi Alba, as well as the departed Marc Bartra) and one each for Germany (Ter Stegen), Croatia (Rakitic), Turkey (Arda Turan) and Belgium (Vermaelen). In this two-part series, we take a trip down memory lane to see how Barça players have fared at the tournament in its 56 year history.

1960: Spanish withdrawal

There are 24 teams in the finals in 2016, a far cry from the first ever edition, which France also hosted in 1960 and used a ‘final four’ format. Barça had a large contingent in the Spanish squad, but they missed out on the finals when they were drawn against the USSR in the quarter finals and General Franco refused to allow the team to travel to the communist country.

1964: Spain win on home soil

Spain hosted in 1964, and the Camp Nou was the venue for one of the semi-finals, where the USSR beat Denmark 3-0. In other semi, the hosts, with Barça’s Ferran Olivella, Josep Maria Fusté, Jesús María Pereda, Salvador Sadurní and Pedro Zaballa all in the squad, defeated Hungary at the Bernabéu.

It meant Spain would meet the Soviets in the final, and this time they played. Pereda, captaining the team, put Spain ahead after just six minutes, but the USSR levelled straight from the restart. Then with just six minutes left on the clock, Marcelino’s headed goal won Spain its only major international honour of the 20th century.

1976: Cruyff and Neeskens see red

Twelve years would pass before Barça was represented at the Euros again, when Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens went to Yugoslavia in 1976 with the wonderful Dutch team that had lost the World Cup Final two years earlier. But there was more disappointment for Holland, who lost 3-1 to Czechoslovakia in the semi-final. Both Cruyff and Neeskens were sent off in that game and would have missed the final even if their team had qualified.

1980: Spain disappoint

The 1980 finals in Italy were the first to feature a group stage with eight teams, and Spain was one of them, with five current Barça players in the squad (Migueli, Juan Manuel Asensi, Francisco ‘Lobo’ Carrasco, Antonio Olmo and Pedro María Artola). But it was a lacklustre tournament for the side coached by Barça legend Ladislao Kubala. Spain drew 0-0 with hosts Italy and then lost 2-1 to Belgium and England to finish bottom of their group with just one point.

1984: Spain reach second final

1984 in France was a far more successful campaign for Spain. Víctor Muñoz, Carrasco, Julio Alberto Moreno and Marcos Alonso were in the squad that went all the way to the final. After 1-1 draws with Portugal and Romania, Maceda’s dramatic goal in the final minute against West Germany meant Spain were into the last four.

In the semi-finals they won on penalties against the fantastic Denmark team featuring future Barça maestro Michael Laudrup (but not former star Allan Simonsen who had broken a leg in the group stage). But Euro 1984 belonged to Michel Platini and France, who ended up collecting the trophy with a 2-0 defeat of Spain in the final at the Parc des Princes.

Barça midfielder Víctor Muñoz played for Spain in the 1984 final

1988: More misery for Barça players

The Barça contingent in the 1988 squad that went to West Germany consisted of Andoni Zubizarreta, Ramón Calderé and Víctor Muñoz, but the names of Julio Salinas, Eusebio, José Mari Bakero and Txiki Begiristain would soon be familiar at the Camp Nou too. An impressive 3-2 defeat of Laudrup’s Denmark in the opening game boded well, but Spain followed that with dismal defeats to Italy and West Germany and bowed out in the group stage.

It was an even more miserable tournament for another Barça player, Gary Lineker, top scorer at the 1986 World Cup but unable to find the goal once this time. Coached by future Barça boss Bobby Robson, they lost to Ireland in their first game and were on the receiving end of a Marco Van Basten hat trick for Holland in the next before the USSR rubbed salt into the wounds in their final fixture.

The Dutch went on to win the tournament, with both a future Barça player and manager in the team: Ronald Koeman and Frank Rijkaard.

1992: Koeman on his own

Koeman went to Euro 1992 in Sweden just weeks after scoring the winner for Barça at the European Cup Final, and was the club’s sole representative at the tournament. Holland came top of their first round group ahead of Scotland, the recently reunified Germany and the post-Soviet CIS.

But they were beaten on penalties in the semis by a team that only found out they were playing in the competition ten days before it started. The post-Laudrup Denmark, who were late replacements for war-torn Yugoslavia, went on to win the title.