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Revisiting Italy’s 1968 UEFA European Championship-winning campaign

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Italy’s 4-2 win on penalties against three-time UEFA Euro Cup champions Spain on Tuesday, meant that Gli Azzurri are now in their fourth European Championship final. 

Prior to this, the Italy national football team had reached the European Championship final in 1968, 2000 and 2012. And Italy's only title win in the UEFA Euros came in 1968, when the Blues had beaten Yugoslavia over two matches.

UEFA Euros 1968 followed a different qualification format altogether. While the group stages of that edition were held across two years, from 1966 to 1968, the quarter-final group stage was played in the tournament year (1968) with a home and away match basis for the teams divided into four groups. 

The host country was revealed only after the quarter-finals were finished and tournament debutants Italy were announced as the host that year. The final tournament had four winners of the quarter-final group stages, who would play two semi-finals, one third place play-off and the summit clash, spanning six days.

Coin toss sending Italy to Euro final

Amidst the many rules of Euro 1968, which would seem obscure today, the coin toss is one that stands out. As per the rules, every tied match of that tournament, barring the final match, was to be decided with extra time followed by a coin toss.

The provision for a rematch, in case of a drawn match, was reserved only for the final and Italy’s Euro win saw both these rules being put into action. 

After drawing 0-0 with the Soviet Union in Naples in one of the semi-finals, the Italian football team was handed a place in the final by virtue of a coin toss.

Footballing giants Yugoslavia had beaten England in the other semi-final to reach the summit clash. However, underdogs Italy managed to play out a 1-1 draw with them in the first game to force a rematch. The second game was played two days later and the hosts emerged 2-0 winners in Rome.

So close yet so far in UEFA Euros 2000 and 2012

Italy's next chance at lifting the coveted European title came 32 years later in the final of UEFA Euro 2000.  However, in one of the most heart-breaking football defeats ever, France had stolen the trophy with a 94th minute equalizer and a 102nd minute Golden Goal.

The UEFA Euro 2012 final was pretty straightforward. A World Cup-winning Spanish side delivered a 4-0 rout against Italy in the summit clash, with David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata getting on the scoresheet.

Italy’s record in UEFA Euro final matches

Year

Host country

Winners

Runner-up

1968

Italy

Italy

Yugoslavia

2000

Netherlands

France

Italy

2012

Ukraine

Spain

Italy

Featured Image: AFP/ Carl Regine

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