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Having first attracted the attention of national team selectors in the Coupe Gambardella tournament, Platini was selected for the French junior team, but injuries prevented him from playing. He made his first appearance for a French national selection playing for the French amateur side on September 26, 1973.

Platini began his military service in summer 1975. He was assigned to the Joinville battalion, as were all talented French sportspeople fulfilling their military obligations. His colleagues in the battalion included his Nancy team-mates Olivier Rouyer and Jean-Michel Moutier, as well as Maxime Bossis, soon to become a regular in the French national team along with Platini. Platini would turn out for the French military team, in addition to representing the French under-23s and the French Olympic team. He impressed in the Olympic team's 4-0 win over Romania in Brest, a result made even more impressive by the fact that Romania had fielded a full international side for the Olympic qualifier. Platini's performance made him a star in France. The away leg of the qualifying tie was a mere formality, France coming away with a 1-1 draw. Three days after the draw in Bucharest, Platini received his first call-up to the A national team for what was coach Michel Hidalgo's first game in charge, a friendly against Czechoslovakia in Paris (March 27, 1976, 2-2), and scored his first international goal on one of his trademark free kicks.

Michel Platini team celebrationPlatini was a member of the French football team at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Their tournament began on July 19 with an easy 4-0 win over Mexico. They registered another 4-0 win in their next match against Guatemala, with two goals from Platini. The French team completed the group stage with a draw against Israel, Platini scoring from a penalty. France progressed to the quarter-final stage, where they would face a full-strength East German national team. Hindered by some dubious refereeing, France lost 4-0 and finished the match with nine men.

With a 3-1 win over Bulgaria at the Parc des Princes on November 16, 1977, a match in which Platini excelled in the role of playmaker and scored on a splendid 25-metre shot, France secured qualification for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina for their first appearance in the World Cup finals since 1966. In the month following the decisive qualifying match, Platini finished third in the voting for the 1977 European Footballer of the Year.

Among the international friendlies France played in preparation for the World Cup, their match against Italy in Naples on February 8, 1978 (2-2) was particularly significant for Platini. With a number of scouts from Italian clubs in attendance, he was in excellent form. He beat Italian goalkeeping legend Dino Zoff from two direct free-kicks, the first being ruled out because the referee had not blown his whistle. The re-taken free-kick was blocked by the defensive wall, but minutes later Platini had the ball in the Italian net from another free-kick. Zoff attempted to anticipate the flight of the ball by positioning himself on the left side of the goal, only for Platini to find the unguarded area of the net with his free-kick, leaving Zoff rooted to the spot. Platini's duels with Zoff and his performance in a match that was broadcast on Italian television made him a name in Italy. A number of clubs both in France (Paris Saint-Germain and Saint-Étienne) and across Europe (Juventus, Inter Milan, Napoli, Barcelona, Valencia, and Arsenal, to name a few) began the clamour for his services.

Michel Platini in actionIn retrospect, this match may have been a Pyrrhic victory because Platini's brilliance drew the attention of Italy coach Enzo Bearzot, who devised a successful plan to contain him in a match-up that really mattered—the first round of the 1978 World Cup four months later. Platini was kept in check by Marco Tardelli's implacable marking and Italy won 2-1. Drawn in a difficult group with Italy as well as hosts (and eventual winners) Argentina, France did not survive the first round.

Platini was nonetheless made captain of the French national side after the World Cup and made the number 10 jersey his own. One of his trademark free-kicks helped France defeat Holland 2-0 in Paris (November 18, 1981) in a crucial qualifying match for the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

France unexpectedly reached the semifinals of the 1982 World Cup where they met West Germany in Seville for what proved to be one of the great matches of World Cup history. With both sides level at 3-3 after extra time had been played (Platini having scored France's first goal of the game from a penalty) the match went to a penalty shoot-out which West Germany won 5-4. Interestingly, Platini would consider this match the greatest memory of his career.

Michel PlatiniIn 1984, Platini captained France to success in the European Championship on home soil. His individual impact on the tournament was huge with nine of France's 14 goals in just five games (the top goal scorer in euro). He scored the winner in France's opening match against Denmark, and scored two "perfect" hat-tricks (one header and one goal with each foot) against Belgium and Yugoslavia, as France topped their first-round group with three wins out of three. In the dramatic semi-final in Marseille against Portugal, Platini scored the final goal of the match for a memorable 3-2 win in the last minute of extra time. In the final against Spain, he opened the scoreboard on his only free-kick goal of the tournament, helped by a monumental blunder from Spain goalkeeper Luis Arconada. A second goal from Bruno Bellone in injury time at the end of the match secured France's first major title in international football.

Suffering from groin pain and playing under injection, Platini was not in peak physical condition for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Nonetheless he contributed two important goals: the first setting France on the way to a 2-0 win over Italy and ending the 1982 champions' defence of their trophy; the second France's equaliser in a sumptuous quarter-final against Brazil, on his birthday, which France won on penalty kicks (Platini famously sending his over the bar). This goal was to be the last of his international career. After losing a second World Cup semi-final in a row to West Germany, France had to settle for third place. Platini did not take part in the 1982 or 1986 World Cup third-place matches.

Platini made his last appearance for France on April 29, 1987, in a European Championship qualifier at home to Iceland, a few weeks before announcing his retirement from all football. In 72 appearances for France from 1976 to 1987 (including 49 appearances as captain), Platini scored 41 times, a record for the French national team, which has since been surpassed by Barcelona FC striker Thierry Henry after scoring his 42nd and 43rd national team goals against Lithuania in a Euro qualifier on October 17, 2007.


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