Welcome to this brand new section called the corner memories, a section thought for all those football fans who love retro football so much. Curiosities, legends, great football memories, and a lot of nostalgia will be found in this new section.
Today we will talk about the only and lonely Euro that is on Italy showcase, the 1968 Euro.
Probably our dear reader is asking himself, what makes this Euro so special? Well, besides the tournament format which was completely different from the ones that we are used to nowadays, this Euro probably was the best prove of existence of the champion´s luck. That Italy, in a sort of way ended up as champion thanks to the luck that was with them.
If we talk about the format, the “68 Italy” Euro was quite quirky. In some way, we could say that the official tournament that took place in Italy only consisted of the semifinals and the final, as this were the only stages played on Italian territory. The rest of the tournament was played in each national team stadium.
First, it was played a pre-qualifier stage which is a sort of equivalent to the current qualifiers, with the difference that there were 7 groups of 4 teams each except for group 4 that only had 3 and were only the first team of each group would be qualified for the ¼ finals. It can be said that that pre-qualifier round somehow was a qualifier but also a group stage at the same time in that Euro.
As fun facts that worth mentioning, we have that this Euro ¼ final was played in a two-legged tie were every national team played in their stadium. Also for the pre-qualifier stage, UEFA decided to put all together in group 8 all Britain countries, which made it a particularly interesting group for spectators to watch. England, Scotland, Wales, and North Ireland fought for a place in the ¼ finals which in the end the English took.
After some suffered quarterfinals for both USSR and Italy, the semifinals will clash them against each other, on the other hand, England faced a very talented Yugoslavia which was determined to do everything to eliminate the current 1966 world champions.
The Yugoslavian surprised everyone and knockout the current world champions by defeating them 1 – 0, but the event that transcended in football history occurred in the other semifinal disputed by Italy and USSR.
After 90 minutes on the edge of a heart attack for the Italians and extra time, the man of the match was, Dino Zoff, mythical Italian goalkeeper, which made it possible that the match ended up 0-0. The penalty shootout didn't exist back on the time and as the final was supposed to be played 3 days later there was no time for a rematch, therefore, that semifinal was decided by a toss coin, something that had never happened before and that never happened again.
It is true that nowadays, with everything that football represents plus the sponsors and tv chains, that would have never happened as they would have probably extended the tournament to play the rematch, but back in the day football didn't move millions as it does now and Italy was the favored when they saw their captain, Facchetti, back in the field with the hands to the air indicating that Italy was in the final.
Afterward and even when Italy ended up being champion winning on the football field to Yugoslavia, the luck didn't seem to leave Italy alone. The final was decided on a rematch after the first match concluded 1 – 1. In that draw, the Yugoslavian were superiors and were very close to being crowned as champions, if not for a free-kick that the Italians took advantage of 10 minutes before the final whistle.
Finally, in the rematch that was played two days after, the Italians were the fair winners and crowned their self's as champions of their first and last Euro. There was a lot of merit behind the trophy conquest, but sometimes as many other occasions in life, a bit of luck doesn't hurt.
So, what do you think? Was it luck the great protagonist behind the Italian success?