Phil Thompson talks tear gas, Marco Tardelli and Euro 1980

Thompson: "We went there with a great chance of winning that tournament – we felt we were an emerging squad. We had beaten Argentina who were the World Cup champions at Wembley just before and we felt confident."

Thompson reflects on his 1980 Euros experiences in Italy.
Image: Phil Thompson reflects on his 1980 Euros experiences in Italy

Italy, Spain, Belgium. In 2020, these three countries are seen as absolute powerhouses of international football, but rewind 40 years ago, it was a very different story.

Back then, the Euros was made up of two groups of four with the winner of each group going straight to the final - and England would find themselves drawn with Spain, Belgium and hosts Italy.

These days, you would classify that as a 'group of death' but, evidently, they were not the sides that boast their reputation of today. England themselves had rising and current stars with the likes of Kevin Keegan and Glenn Hoddle in their ranks.

There were high hopes for Kevin Keegan to lead the line at the 1980 Euros.
Image: There were high hopes for Kevin Keegan to lead the line at the 1980 Euros

As former England defender Phil Thompson recounts the events of that tournament, after featuring in every group game, there is a small twinge of regret that it was a missed tournament for England.

"If you look at it now, you had a tough group with Belgium, Italy and Spain but back then they weren't the forces they are now," Thompson explained.

Thompson believed England had a better chance at the 1982 World Cup than the Euros in 1980.
Image: Thompson believed England had a better chance at the 1982 World Cup than the Euros in 1980

"We went there with a great chance of winning that tournament - we felt we were an emerging squad. We had beaten Argentina who were the World Cup champions at Wembley just before and we felt confident."

With England raring to go in Italy, their first group game would put them up against Belgium - but unfortunately football would not be the central focus that day.

Also See:

"The first game against Belgium we should've won but we drew 1-1, but everyone remembers that game for the tear gas attack by the police on England fans," Thompson said.

"There were only 20,000 fans in the stadium but the smoke came onto the pitch and it really affected Ray Clemence in goal as it was on his side of the pitch in that game."

With a draw in the first game, England desperately needed a win in their next match to qualify for the final and, with Spain and Belgium drawing elsewhere in the group, a win versus the hosts would be vital if they were to qualify for the final.

"Italy in Italy was always going to be a difficult game. There was 60,000 in that stadium, it was a proper attendance. We played really well and we played better than them on the day but Italians defend very, very well," Thompson said.

"It was settled with one goal, cross from the left-hand side and Marco Tardelli came diving in and scored, the scenes were incredible."

England would go on to beat Spain in their final match but even Thompson recognised it as a "nothing game", as the Three Lions would end up going home as they finished third in the group.

Despite not being able to have the fairytale ending, Thompson still has fond memories of that trip to Italy, but what does he remember most?

"The drug tests! I had to spend four hours to give a urine sample after playing in the heat of Italy which was absolutely incredible," Thompson said.

The heat in Italy caused more issues than the side thought as Thompson tells all.
Image: The heat in Italy caused more issues than the side thought as Thompson tells all

"You're dehydrated and it took me four hours and the team left me behind!

"The lads had a good giggle at me, all my team-mates at Liverpool all had a good laugh but then Ray Clemence got done next time and he couldn't quite produce either, which was wonderful!"

Euro 2020 may not be taking place this summer, but Sky Sports will be bringing you exclusive interviews in our Euro Memories series throughout the month. Next up on Tuesday, Darius Vassell talking about 'that' penalty in 2004…

Domestic Super 6 IS BACK!

Domestic Super 6 IS BACK!

Do not miss your chance to land the £250,000 jackpot on Saturday. Play for free, entries by 12:30pm.

Around Sky