FOCUS ON ITALY
FOCUS ON ITALY
However, the only success for the Azzurri at EURO came at their first appearance in the competition as they hosted the tournament back in 1968. Having won their qualifying group, Italy would still need to beat Bulgaria to reach the finals, and suffered a 3-2 defeat in the 1st leg of the play-off. However, the side recovered to win 2-0 in Naples in front of 95,000 fans to progress.
Only four teams would compete at the finals of EURO 1968 as Italy were joined by Yugoslavia, England and the Soviet Union. The hosts were selected once the four teams had been confirmed, and it was decided that the games would take place in Naples, Florence and Rome. Italy were drawn to play the Soviet Union in Naples for what was effectively the first game and semi-final of the tournament, and a 0-0 draw followed. To decide which team would progress to the final, referee Kurt Tschenscher of West Germany would toss a coin.
“I went up with the Russian captain,” explained Italy captain Giacinto Facchetti. “We went down to the dressing rooms together, accompanied by two administrators from the two teams. The referee pulled out an old coin and I called tails. It was the right call and Italy were through to the final. I went racing upstairs as the stadium was still full and about 70,000 fans were waiting to hear the result. My celebrations told them that they could celebrate an Italian victory.”
Yugoslavia defeated England in the other match, and the final would take place at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Dragan Džajić opened the scoring for Yugoslavia before half-time, but Angelo Domenghini equalised on 80 minutes to take the game to extra-time. No further goals meant that a reply to decide the winner would be required, and the teams returned to Rome two days later. Over 68,000 fans had witnessed the 1-1 draw, but surprisingly, less than half that number returned for the match that would decide the European champions.
It proved to a comfortable success for Italy in the reply, as goals from Luigi Riva and Pietro Anastasi ensured that Ferruccio Valcareggi's side would lift the trophy in the capital city. Two years later, Valcareggi would lead Italy to the World Cup final in Mexico, but they were well-beaten by the great Brazilian side of that era. Italy failed to qualify for the 1972 and 1976 editions of the EURO finals, but finished fourth in 1980 and reached the semi-finals of the competition again in 1988. However, their success of 1968 has never been repeated.