Alain Giresse in blue... and white and red!
A legend for France too
In parallel to his illustrious career with the Girondins, Alain Giresse was a loyal and much-loved feature of the national team.
Along with his friend Michel Platini, Giresse was one of the stars of the national team in the Michel Hidalgo era (1976-1984). With France, Giresse usually switched from his preferred central role to one of the wings, only taking the number 10 position in Platini's absence. His best years for France came at the same time as his career peaked at Bordeaux, as Gigi engineered major victories for both teams...
False winger, real asset!
In his very first professional game (a friendly against Limoges ahead of the 1969-1970 season), Giresse was singled out by a local journalist as a "little gem," so precocious was his talent. He represented France as a schoolboy, and worked his way up to the first side. In fact, circumstances conspired to hand Giresse a start on his first ever call-up to the national squad, for a game against Sweden. It all happened very quickly, with a string of injuries meaning Gigi had to be called up the day before the game! No time to mess about, it was time for Alain's international adventures to begin...
The "little one," as he was dubbed, had a point to prove. Earlier in his career his diminutive size had robbed him of certain opportunities, and now it was payback time. In Scandinavia he met Dominique Dropsy, who would go on to be a team-mate for France and the Girondins. It was to be the start of an epic adventure.
Although he eventually racked up 47 caps (a huge number for the period) and 6 goals over a 12-year period (1974-1986), the 1970s were not all smooth sailing for Giresse. He occasionally fell out of favour, earning most of his caps for friendly matches. But he never gave up hope, and never stopped working. He earned his first competitive cap on 7th September 1974, against Poland in Wroclaw. But at this stage, France coach Ştefan Kovács did not consider Giresse a priority in his midfield strategy. Alain's moment of glory would come, but for now he would have to wait…
His performances at club level drew considerable attention, but there were many other talented players competing for those coveted midfield sports. Things changed with the appointment of Michel Hidalgo as Kovács' deputy. It was Hidalgo who recommended Giresse when Serge Chiesa (a key player for Les Bleus and Olympique Lyonnais) put an end to his international career. Hidalgo lived near Bordeaux at the time, and often watched Giresse in action. He was called into the squad to face one of Europe's best teams, and France won the game 2-0. As well as Marius Trésor and François Bracci (Olympique de Marseille, but soon to be Bordeaux players), that team also featured Jean-Marc Guillou, "the boss," at the centre of a "prudent" 4-4-2 with Giresse playing as a false right winger!
His next crack at international glory came three years later in Switzerland, a 4-0 victory engineered by Tusseau, Sahnoun and Platini (their first appearance together, and the start of a great footballing partnership). And on the losing side, his Bordeaux team-mate Daniel Jeandupeux! With Michel Hidalgo now promoted to head coach, Giresse was back in the thick of things. He would go far with the national side, but not as far as Argentina for the World Cup in 1978! The preceding season had seen Giresse sidelined with injury, and Bordeaux's lacklustre performances didn't give him much of a chance to shine.
But in 1979 Claude Bez was appointed manager of the Girondins – the renaissance was underway and Gigi was hitting his peak. It was time for the legend to take form. As captain, linchpin and crucial goalscorer for Bordeaux, he also reached new heights for France at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. He scored three goals (plus one which was unfairly disallowed against Kuwait, and a penalty), including two against Northern Ireland (4-1, including that famous header from Giresse). Gigi was hitting his stride, and with the help of Bordeaux team-mates Marius Trésor, Patrick Battiston, Jean-Amadou Tigana, René Girard, Gérard Soler and Bernard Lacombe, he was ready to take on the world.
Giresse scored a memorable goal in the semi-final with West Germany, banging the ball in off the post from the edge of the box. His wild, joyous celebrations showed just how much the game meant to him, and made a lasting impression on a generation of French football fans. That semi-final was a classic game which continues to resonate thirty-five years on, despite the unfair result (France went on to lose the game on penalties)...
Football fans all over the world were gripped by the exploits of their idols: Platini, Zico, Maradona and… Giresse! He even earned an award for "most combative' player of the tournament…
France finished fourth in that tournament, and Giresse was runner up for the Ballon d’Or later that year. Two years later, France were crowned Euro 1984 champions with a 2-0 victory over Spain in the final. The tournament was held in France, but unfortunately none of Les Bleus' games took them to Giresse's beloved home city of Bordeaux. At Euro 1984 Giresse was at the peak of his powers, playing some remarkable football, scoring once and earning a place in the team of the tournament. After winning the Intercontinental Cup in 1985 (beating Uruguay 2-0 in the final), Giresse was part of the France squad for World Cup 1986 in Mexico. Hampered by a persistent injury, Gigi could not lead the team to victory and Les Bleus finished third. Nevertheless, in their game against the legendary Brazil side featuring Zico, Sócrates and Careca, the "magic diamond" of Giresse, Tigana, Platini and Fernandez*** produced one of the most technically-accomplished displays in the history of French (and world) football.
Perhaps the greatest performance ever by Henri Michel's side, followed up by another heart-breaking semi-final defeat to a West Germany side who were less exhausted and more pragmatic. That was to be Giresse's last competitive game for France. His 47 caps were all won during his time with Bordeaux, a long period in which he never stopped making decisive passes, scoring goals and raising the bar for his team-mates. He played for his country with great pride, and it showed in the performances he inspired. Not to mention the trophies he won…
*** Bernard Genghini also featured in this "magic diamond"
A distinguished record with Les Bleus
Winners of Euro 1984