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Michel Hidalgo dies: The man who masterminded France's 'Carre Magique'

By Dom Farrell

Paris, March 27: Tributes flowed on Thursday following news that former France coach Michel Hidalgo had died of natural causes, aged 87.

Hidalgo led France between 1976 to 1984 – hauling Les Bleus out of the international wilderness and to the glory of a maiden major honour at the 1984 European Championship.

France's run to the semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup established Hidalgo's swashbuckling side as a favourite of many neutrals, but he still needed a couple of tweaks to get the balance just right before expectant support on home soil two years later.

Ultimately he did just that, with a midfield quartet of Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Jean Tigana and Luis Fernandez sweeping all before them.

Here, we take a closer look at the Hidalgo's foursome that is affectionately remembered as France's Carre Magique – Magic Square.

LUIS FERNANDEZ

The final piece in the puzzle and an invaluable presence at the base of Hidalgo's sparkling midfield diamond, Spanish-born Fernandez did not make his France debut until after the 1982 World Cup run. After that, he only lined up as part of the famous quartet when England visited Paris for a friendly in February 1984. A Platini brace saw off Bobby Robson's men and Fernandez' superb positional sense and tough tackling instantly laid a foundation for flourishes such as Giresse's mazy run to set up the opening goal.

The Paris Saint-Germain maestro also passed with smooth precision, not to be outdone by the more celebrated creatives before him. The youngest corner of the square, Fernandez was 24 at the European Championship and is perhaps best remembered for dispatching the decisive penalty two years later that saw France progress to the World Cup semi-finals once more at Brazil's expense.

He was also around for the denouement and the ignominy of failing to qualify for major tournaments in 1988 and 1990, before being granted a swansong of sorts as part of the Platini-coached France squad at Euro 92.

ALAIN GIRESSE

By contrast to Fernandez, Giresse was an international veteran of 12 years when France's moment of truth arrived. A diminutive gem of a footballer, his goal had France on the brink of semi-final glory against West Germany in 1982 – establishing a 3-1 lead in extra-time before a heart-breaking collapse to penalty shoot-out defeat.

Giresse arrived at the European Championships in prime form, having just collected a Ligue 1 crown with Bordeaux that was retained the following season. He made 592 appearances for the Girondins before joining Marseille in 1986.

Platini's relentless foil, living up to his nickname of 'Moteur', Giresse got on the scoresheet alongside Fernandez in the 5-0 group-stage hammering of Belgium – with Platini netting a hat-trick.

In retirement, a nomadic coaching career has seen Giresse lead the national teams of Georgia, Gabon, Mali, Senegal and Tunisia.

JEAN TIGANA

Giresse was not alone in underpinning lavish talent with a phenomenal work-rate. Any opponent of Tigana knew they had been in a game – not least the bedraggled Portugal backline as his slaloming run set up Platini's last-gasp winner in extra time of the semi-final. The goal stands as arguably the defining moment of France's victory march.

His long-time alliance with Giresse at Bordeaux was a gift to Hidalgo in plotting his celebrated configuration and Tigana would make the same move to Marseille in 1989, adding two more Ligue 1 titles to the three he collected on the Garonne River.

A future coach of Monaco and Fulham, Tigana was indisputably among the best in the world and finished second in the 1984 Ballon d'Or voting. There was, of course, only one winner.

MICHEL PLATINI

The true beauty of the Carre Magique was how the winning blend of technique and tenacity allowed Platini to enjoy the fullest realisation of his incredible talents. Few players have stamped their mark so irresistibly over a major tournament as France's main man did in 1984, making light of with weightiest expectations.

His preposterous final numbers read nine goals in five appearances, after scoring in each game of the competition. Having settled opening nerves 12 minutes from time in a 1-0 win over Denmark, the Juventus superstar made merry by claiming the matchball in consecutive outings against Belgium and Yugoslavia. He stood tallest in his country's moment of need in the semi-final before an error from Luis Arconada allowed his free-kick to squirm home in the showpiece.

From poached efforts, to delicate chips, via thumping drives and diving headers, no type of goal was beyond Platini, who won three consecutive Ballons d'Or between 1983 and 1985. He was a phenomenon, rightly celebrated and deserving of icon status now somewhat at odds with his discredited post-career in football administration chicanery.

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Story first published: Friday, March 27, 2020, 3:00 [IST]
Other articles published on Mar 27, 2020
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