By the time the qualifiers for the Third (1968) Euros kicked off in the Fall of 1966, the interest for the competition had increased drastically from its modest beginnings in 1960.
By now just about every European Nation was taking part including the most notable absentees West Germany.
The competition was now only second in importance to the World Cup.
In fact the shear number of participants made it impossible to continue with its previous format of elimination rounds.
Just like World Cup qualifiers, the Nations were to be divided into Groups (eight in total).
This Group would consist of Spain, Czechoslovakia, Republic of Ireland and Turkey.
Defending Champions Spain, now under new Manager Domingo Balmanya, were favored along with Czechoslovakia.
Czechoslovakia appeared to have the upper hand after defeating Spain (1-0) in Prague on October 1, 1967.
But Spain edged ahead by defeating them at Madrid (2-1). The Czechs still had a chance as they had two matches in hand, but a scoreless tie in Turkey followed by a home loss against the Irish and left them one point behind in the end.
Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer (special thanks to Jose Luis Carbonell)(October 23, 1966, EC Qualifier, Republic of Republic of Ireland 0-Spain 0)
Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer (special thanks to Jose Luis Carbonell)(February 1, 1967, EC Qualifier, Turkey 0-Spain 0)
Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer (special thanks to Jose Luis Carbonell)(October 1, 1967, EC Qualifier, Czechoslovakia 1-Spain 0)
This Group (featuring Portugal, Bulgaria, Sweden and Norway) appeared to be Portugal’s for the taking, The Benfica and Eusebio inspired side had just finished Third in the 1966 World Cup and the future appeared bright.
However, a home loss (1-2) vs. Sweden in their very first match on November 13, 1966 would be their undoing and Bulgaria would take full advantage.
The Bulgarians would go on an unbeaten run culminating in their win vs. Portugal (1-0) on November 26th, 1967 to qualify. The last match between the Nations on December 17th, 1967 at Portugal (scoreless tie) was inconsequential and only confirmed Bulgaria’s domination.
Photo From: World Soccer, January 1968(November 12, 1967, EC Qualifier, Portugal 2-Norway 1)
This Group consisted of the Soviet Union along with Austria, Finland and Greece. From the onset, qualification seemed assured for the high scoring Soviets. They were rarely tested and only suffered one loss away (0-1) at Vienna vs. Austria on October 15th, 1967.
Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer(USSR Squad, June 11, 1967, EC Qualifier, USSR 4-Austria 3)
This smaller Group featured West Germany along with Yugoslavia and Albania.
It was always going to be a duel between the Germans and Yugoslavs, with the Germans slightly favored.
In the end, the greatest upset of the qualifying rounds would take place as Yugoslavia edged ahead of West Germany.
Yugoslavia had defeated West Germany (1-0) at home on May 3, 1967 through a Josip Skoblar strike. The Germans had been disadvantaged by the absence of missing regulars such as Uwe Seeler, Helmut Haller, Hottges and Wolfgang Weber through injury, while AC Milan refused to release Karl-Heinz Schnellinger.
When the Germans (under a pouring rain) defeated Yugoslavia (3-1) at home on October 7th, 1967, it appeared that they were home and dry.
Especially since all they had to do was to defeat the Group’s weakest side Albania at Tirana on December 17th, 1967. However, the Germans without the injured Franz Beckenbauer and Uwe Seeler faced a fortress that they could not breach and the result left them one point behind Yugoslavia.
The result had been expected to be a foregone conclusion to such an extent that only a single Yugoslavia reporter had made the trip to Tirana to cover the match.
Photo From: Chronik des deutschen fussballs, 2005(Gerd Muller after scoring West Germany’s second goal, October 7, 1967, EC Qualifier, Yugoslavia 1-West Germany 0)
This Group featured Hungary along with East Germany, Denmark and Holland. The more experienced Hungarians were expected to qualify form this Group and did it comfortably and their only loss was an inconsequential one in their very last match vs. East Germany (0-1) at Leipzig on October 29, 1967.
In historical terms, the most important event in this Group was the debut of the Dutch Maestro Johann Cruyff who made his debut for Holland (as a teenager) on September 7, 1966 at Rotterdam vs. Hungary (2-2).
Photo From: Het Nederlands Elftal, De Histoire van Oranje, 1905-1989(Johann Cruyff on his debut for Holland, September 7, 1966, EC Qualifier, Holland 2-Hungary 2 )
This Group featured Italy along with Romania, Switzerland and Cyprus.
Italy had just suffered the humiliating loss vs. North Korea at the World Cup and reconstruction was required.
The men charged to lead the task were Inter Manager Helenio Herrera along with Ferruccio Valcareggi.
The duo would lead Italy in its first two wins in the Group vs. Romania at home (3-1) and away at Cyprus (2-0).
From Italy’s third match in the Group vs. Romania (1-0 win) on June 25, 1967 at Bucharest, Ferruccio Valcareggi would take sole charge of the squad and would remain so until 1974.
In This match vs. Romania, Ezio Pascutti and Giacomo Bulgarelli played their last matches for Italy.
Italy would run away with this Group and drop only one away point vs. Switzerland (2-2 tie) at Berne on November 18, 1967.
During these qualifiers, two important players entered the Italian set-up.
On November 1st, 1967, in Italy’s win over Cyprus (5-0) in Cosenza, Fiorentina midfielder Giancarlo De Sisti made his debut.
On November 18th, 1967, vs, Switzerland at Berne, Cagliari (and future Inter) forward Roberto Boninsegna would make his debut. This duo would be an integral part of the Italian National Team for the years to come.
Photo From: Die Nati, Die Geschichte der Schweizer Fussball-Nationalmanschaft, author Beat Jung, 2006(Fritz Kunzli and Giancinto Facchetti , November 18, 1967, EC Qualifier, Switzerland 2- Italy 2)
Photo From: Azzurri, Storia della Nazionale di calcio tre volte campioni del Mondo, 1910-1983(Italy squad, November 18, 1967, EC Qualifier, Switzerland 2- Italy 2)
Photo From: Azzurri, Storia della Nazionale di calcio tre volte campioni del Mondo, 1910-1983(Italy Manager Ferruccio Valcareggi )
This Group featured France along with Poland, Belgium and Luxembourg. France had been the only participant in the last World Cup, but it was a balanced Group with only Luxembourg seemingly without a hope.
France were initially led by the duo of Jean Snella and Jose Arribas. Starting 1967, former star Just Fontaine was appointed Manager. However, he only stayed in charge for five months and did not manage in any qualifiers. In the Fall of 1967, Louis Dugauquez would be appointed as Manager.
After losing to Belgium (1-2) at Brussels on November 11th , 1966, France went on a winning run against the other teams in this Group (Poland and Luxembourg).
Their most impressive win was a (4-1) win vs. Poland away at Warsaw on September 17th, 1967.
Belgium lost any chance by losing both its matches vs. Poland.
In the end France’s win (3-0) over Luxembourg on December 23rd, 1967, in the very last match in the Group edged them ahead of both Belgium and Poland.
Photo From: L’Equipe, L’Equipe de France de Football, la Belle Histoire(October 22, 1966, EC Qualifier, France 2-Poland 1)
Photo From: L’Equipe, L’Equipe de France de Football, la Belle Histoire(September 17, 1967, EC Qualifier, Poland 1-France 4)
Photo From: Football Magazine, Issue 94, November, 1967(October 28, 1967, EC Qualifier, France 1-Belgium 1)
This Group was specifically designed for all the British Home Nations (The New World Cup Champions England, along with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).
To save on fixture congestion, these qualifiers would concurrently count as part of the yearly Home Championship matches.
England started comfortably and won its first two matches vs. Northern Ireland and Wales.
For Scotland, Malcolm MacDonald was to be the caretaker Manager for its first two matches and starting 1967, Bobby Brown would take full charge and become Scotland’s first Full-Time Manager.
The First match in the Group between Wales and Scotland at Cardiff on October 22nd, 1966, was played just one day after the Aberfan Disaster in Wales.
A Slag Mountain slide had buried the village school killing more than 116 children (in all 144 dead).
England got a big scare on April 15, 1967 at Wembley after Scotland defeated them (3-2). This was England’s first loss in 19 matches.
For the Scottish, 36-year old goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson was making his International debut.
However, England would stay the course and win its next two matches vs. Wales and Northern Ireland to stay one point ahead.
It all came down to the return fixture vs. Scotland at Glasgow on February 24, 1968. Scotland had to win to edge ahead but England managed a tie (1-1) to win the Group and qualify.
Photo From: Wizards and Bravehearts, A History of the Scottish National Side, Author: David Potter, 2004(April 15, 1967, EC Qualifier, England 2-Scotland 3)
Photo From : World Soccer, December 1967(October 21, 1967, EC Qualifier, Northern Ireland 1-Scotland 0)
Photo From: World Soccer, May 1968(February 24, 1968, EC Qualifier, Scotland 1-England 1)
The Quarterfinals were to be played on home and away basis in the Spring of 1968 just months ahead of the Finals.
England were paired with Spain, while Italy faced Bulgaria. France were to face Yugoslavia, while the Soviets would take on Hungary.
The first match was on April 3rd, when England took on and defeated Spain (1-0) at Wembley through a Bobby Charlton strike near the end.
For the return leg at Madrid on May 8th, the English were missing starting goalkeeper Gordon Banks. Peter Bonetti stepped in as his replacement.
It was also a clash in styles; the English were still sticking to their 4-3-3 formation, while Spain played in a 4-2-4 formation.
Spain struck first early in the second half through Amancio. Their hopes were dashed just a few minutes later when Martin Peters scored England’s equalizer.
England would score another through Norman Hunter with less than ten minutes remaining to win the series convincingly.
On April 6th, Bulgaria took on Italy at Sofia. The Italians would miss the injured Cagliari striker Luigi Riva for both these matches. AC Milan’s Pierino Prati would replace him in these matches.
Bulgaria scored first in the 11th minute through a Nikola Kotkov penalty kick. They would hold onto the lead until the hour mark, when an own goal from Dimitar Penev leveled the score. The Bulgarians scored two goals in succession through Dinko Dermendiev (66th minute) and Petar Jekov (73rd).
Prati justified his selection by scoring a second goal for Italy in the 83rd minute to give them hope for the second Leg.
The second leg would be on April 20th at Naples. The local goalkeeper Dino Zoff would earn his first ever cap in this match. The future World Cup winning (1982) captain would stay with the National Team until aged 41.
The Italians were missing defender Armando Picchi through injury (he would sadly pass away on May 27, 1971, aged just 35).
Valcareggi decided to replace Bertini, Bercellini and the injured Picchi with Giorgio Ferrini, Aristide Guarneri and Ernesto Castano.
Bulgaria’s game plan was to play defensively in the hopes of earning a scoreless tie and qualify.
Italy had to attack and were rewarded early on. In the 14th minute, Gianni Rivera set up Prati for the opener.
Italy doubled the lead in the 55th minute. On a Free Kick, Rivera passed to Angelo Domenghini who shot from more than 30 yards for the second goal.
Afterwards Italy took on a defensive form to keep the lead, while the Bulgarians were forced to come out and attack. They could not manage to break through the Italian defense and were eliminated.
On April 6th, France hosted Yugoslavia at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome. They could not host the match in Paris as Parc des Princes was being renovated.
France had called up Nestor Combin from Torino for this match.
Yugoslavia played more defensively but still ended up having more chances, as they were technically stronger.
Vahidin Musemic gave Yugoslavia the lead in the 66th minute. France tied up the match through Fleury Di Nallo in the 78th minute.
Photo From: L’Equipe, L’Equipe de France de Football, la Belle Histoire(April 6, 1968, European Championships, France 1-Yugoslavia 1)
The return Leg on April 24th at Belgrade proved beyond a doubt, which was the better team.
France chose to select the inexperienced debutant Vincent Esteve at right back.
In what would amount tom one of France’s most humiliating losses, the Yugoslavian side technically and physically dominated them.
Ivica Osim, Dragan Dzajic and Iliaj Petkovic were praised in an all-around excellent performance. France’s Jean Djorkaeff was unable to control Osim and Dzajic set up the tempo by scoring as early as the second minute through an assist by Petkovic, The French defense were in full panic and conceded two more goals in quick succession in the 13th minute (Musemic header from a Petkovic free kick) and 14th minute (Dzajic scored from an Osim assist).
Petkovic would score another in the 32nd minute and even though just a minute later Di Nallo pulled one goal back, the Yugoslavs still dominated.
Musemic would scored his second and Yugoslavia’s fifth in the 79th minute to finish the rout.
Photo From: L’Equipe, L’Equipe de France de Football, la Belle Histoire(April 24, 1968, European Championships, Yugoslavia 5-France 1)
The last quarterfinals series took place later in May between Hungary and USSR. The Hungarians won (2-0) in Budapest on May 4th, but just a week later on May 11th at Moscow, the Soviets stormed back to win (3-0) and overturn the deficit.
Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer(USSR squad, May 11, 1968, European Championships, USSR 3-Hungary 0)
The Final Four consisted now of Italy, USSR, England and Yugoslavia.
To celebrate the Italian Federation (FIGC) (1898-1968)’s 70th Anniversary, the Italian Federation president Artemio Franchi had lobbied and won the rights for Italy to host the Finals.
The Format of the Finals had not changed; the Matches would take place within a few days of one another (and in fact this format would remain until 1976).
The semifinals took place on June 5th, 1968. The Italian hosts took on the Soviet Union at Naples, while Yugoslavia faced England in Florence.
Just four days prior, the USSR Olympic Team had played an Olympics qualifier vs. Czechoslovakia in Prague. In those days of ‘Shamateurism’, the Eastern Bloc Nations’ Olympic Teams were effectively their ‘A’ Teams.
In this Olympics qualifier, the Soviets lost two of their vital elements to injury: Igor Chislenko and Murtaz Khurtzilava.
Not only this duo were unavailable to face the Italians, but Valery Voronin was also missing as he had been recently invloved in an automobile accident.
Despite these withdrawals, the Soviets were generally better in this match but Dino Zoff was superb in goal and kept Italy in the match.
|(June 5, 1968, European Championships, Italy 0-USSR 0)|
In the end the match was scoreless after Overtime. The stalemate was to be decided by a coin toss. Italian Captain Giancinto Facchetti and his Soviet counterpart Albert Shesterniev followed the Match Referee, the West German, Kurt Tschenscher to the dressing room for the decision. The Italians won the coin toss and were through to the Final.
Photo From: Azzurri, Storia della Nazionale di calcio tre volte campioni del Mondo, 1910-1983(Diagram of the coin toss , June 5, 1968, European Championships, Italy 0-USSR 0)
The Yugoslavia and England match would be a physical and foul ridden match. England Manager Alf Ramsey had chosen Norman Hunter ahead of Geoff Hurst in the starting lineup.
Hunter would tackle Osim so hard in the fifth minute that it effectively rendered Osim useless for the rest of the match.
The English had better possession but could not make any headway.
It was only towards the end of the match that the deadlock was broken. In the 86th minute, Trivic and Holcer combined to set up Dzajic for the winner. Dzajic was able to just get ahead of Bobby Moore, whose positioning many blamed for the goal.
Shortly afterwards, Alan Mullery entered history by becoming the first ever England player to be sent off. He was sent off for retaliating after brutal tackle by Trivic.
Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer (special thanks to Predrag Cvijetic)(Dragan Dzajic and Branko Stankovic, June 5, 1968, European Championships, Yugoslavia 1-England 0 0)
The third place match between England and the USSR took place on June 8th at Rome, as a curtain raiser to the Final between Italy and Yugoslavia.
Ramsey decided to call upon Nobby Stiles (back after more than a year) to cover for the suspended Mullery.
Tommy Wright was also handed his International debut at right back and Geoff Hurst took the place of the injured Alan Ball.
Stiles was jeered every time he touched the ball. Many still remembered his vicious foul on France’s Jacques Simon during the 1966 World Cup.
In Addition, Italian Communists in the stands booed the English Team.
The English were victorious through goals by Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst to claim the Third spot.
Photo From: World Soccer, August 1968(June 8, 1968, European Championships, England 2-USSR 0)
Afterwards the stage was set for the Final that the Italians were expecting to win on home soil. Yugoslavia were missing Osim who had been injured in the match vs. England.
The Italians were missing Rivera. He had been injured in the match vs. the Soviets. Giovanni Lodetti replaced him in the starting lineup.
Aristide Guarneri was also drafted in, replacing Giancarlo Bercellino from the previous match.
Pietro Anastasi was given his International debut replacing Alessandro Mazzola.
Italy attacked but found Pantelic excellent in goal. For Yugoslavia, Dzajic was creating many chances that his teammates could not capitalize on.
Dzajic himself scored Yugoslavia’s goal in the 39th minute. In the second half, Italy tried to get back on terms but could not break through.
Finally, with ten minutes remaining Angelo Domenghini tied up the match for the hosts with a free kick. His shot had passed through a gap in the wall.
The result was unchanged through the overtime.
The Italians had been unimpressive and lucky, as Yugoslavia appeared set to win.
Photo From: Azzurri, Storia della Nazionale di calcio tre volte campioni del Mondo, 1910-1983(June 8, 1968, European Championships, Italy 1-Yugoslavia 1)
Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer(Italy squad, June 8, 1968, European Championships, Italy 1-Yugoslavia 1)
Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer (special thanks to Predrag Cvijetic)(Yugoslavia squad, June 8, 1968, European Championships, Italy 1-Yugoslavia 1)
Photo From: Football Magazine, Issue 102, August 1968(Ilija Petkovic and Giacinto Facchetti)
Since the match ended in a tie, a second encounter was required which took place two days later (June 10th) at the same venue.
Ilija Petkovic could not play this encounter as he had been injured from a Facchetti foul from the first encounter. Idriz Hosic started in his place. Osim was still injured and missed this match as well.
Valcareggi made many changes for Italy. Ferrini, Castano, Juliano, Prati and Lodetti were taken out to be replaced with Roberto Rosato, Sandro Salvadore, Alessandro Mazzola, Giancarlo De Sisti and Gianni Rivera.
This energized the Italians who appeared fresher than the clearly tired (and demoralized) Yugoslavians.
The late equalizer in the previous match had knocked the wind out of their sails.
The late equalizer in the previous match had knocked the wind out of their sails.
The Italians took the lead in the 12th minute. Angelo Domenghini crossed from the right side to Riva to score the opener.
In the 32nd minute, Domenghini was once again the creator as he set up Anastasi for the second goal.
Italy held on to the lead and won the UEFA European Championship for the first time. Italy became the first nation to win the Olympic Title, European Nations Cup and the World Cup.
Photo From: World Soccer, August 1968(June 10, 1968, European Championships, Italy 2-Yugoslavia 0)
Photo From: Il Libro Azzuro, Author: Walter Perosino, 1998(June 10, 1968, European Championships, Italy 2-Yugoslavia 0)
Photo From: (Magazine Source unknown) / Contribution From a blog viewer(Italy squad, June 10, 1968, European Championships, Italy 2-Yugoslavia 0)
The host Nation had recovered from the humiliation of the 1966 World Cup and would build up on this success to reach the 1970 World Cup Final.
This Tournament confirmed the competition’s growing status. It was becoming only natural for all European Nations to compete.
The main point of criticism appeared to have been the behavior of the Italian fans for continually whistling Yugoslavia in both matches, not to mention, booing of the English squad for Political reasons.
The Finals format still left a lot to be desired but that would be remedied in the 80s and beyond, but it was clear that this was now a highly rated competition (right behind the World Cup).
Photo From: Calcio 2000, Issue 22 Supplement, August-September 1999
|(Italy captain Giacinto Facchetti holding the Trophy , June 10, 1968, European Championships, Italy 2-Yugoslavia 0)|
Photo From: Azzurri, Storia della Nazionale di calcio tre volte campioni del Mondo, 1910-1983(Italy captain Giacinto Facchetti holding the Trophy , June 10, 1968, European Championships, Italy 2-Yugoslavia 0)
Photo From: La Nazionale Italiana, 1978(Italian players celebrating, June 10, 1968, European Championships, Italy 2-Yugoslavia 0)
Calcio 2000, Issue 22 Supplement, August-September 1999
La Nazionale Italiana, 1978
Azzurri, Storia della Nazionale di calcio tre volte campioni del Mondo, 1910-1983
Onze-Mondial, Issue 130, November 1999
Il Libro Azzurro del Calcio Italiano, Authors: Pericle Pratelli, Pasquale Scardillo, 1974
World Soccer, June 1968
World Soccer, July 1968
World Soccer, August 1968
England, The Complete Post-War Record, Author Mike Payne
L'Equipe de Suisse, Authors Guy Balibouse, Roger Felix, Pierre Tripod, 1993
Het Nederlands Elftal, De Histoire van Oranje, 1905-1989
Landslaget, Det Norske Fotballandslagets Historie, authors Egil Olsen, Arne Scheie,Per Jorsett, Otto Ulseth, 1997
Il Libro Azzuro, Author: Walter Perosino, 1998
The Boys in Green, THE FAI international Story, Author Sean Ryan, 1997
L'Integrale de L'Equipe de France de Football, Authors: J.M. and Pierre Cazal, Michel Oreggia, 1998
se Lvickem na prsou-Authors O.Bartunek, J.Kalat
Österreichs Fußball Länderspiele Chronik 1902 – 1993, Author: Anton Egger
Wizards and Bravehearts, A History of the Scottish National Side, Author: David Potter, 2004
Bialo Czerwoni 1921-2001, Author Andrzej Gowarzewski
Todo Sobre La Seleccion Espanola, Felix Martialay, 2006
Die Nati, Die Geschichte der Schweizer Fussball-Nationalmanschaft, author Beat Jung, 2006
Ireland on the Ball, Author: Donal Cullen
Fussball in der DDR 1945-1989 Teil 2 Nationalmannschaft, Author: Klaus Querengaesser
Chronik des deutschen fussballs, 2005
Almanaque da Seleccao, Authors: Published by Almanaxi, 2004.
Football Association of Ireland, 75 Years, Author: Peter Byrne, 1996
Les Bleus, Le livre official de l'equipe de France, Author: Dominique Grimault, 1997
Scotland, The Team, Author Andrew Ward, 1987
Scotland, the complete international Football Record, Author Richard Keir
Deutschlands Fussball Landerspiele, Eine Dokumentation von 1908-1989
Capitaines des bleus depuis 1904, Author Vincent Duluc.
L’Equipe, L’Equipe de France de Football, la Belle Histoire
Libri I Kombetares (1936-2001), Author Besnik Dizdari
Landsholdet-I medgang og modgang, Author: Palle "Banks" Jorgensen
England v Scotland, The Auld Enemy, Author: Dean Hayes
Les Bleus Author Denis Chaumier, 2004
Luxembourgeoise de Football , 75 and de football au Grand-Duche de Luxembourg 1908-1983
år med Svensk Fotboll 1904-84, Author Glanell Thomas red
Il Libro Azzuro, Author: Walter Perosino, 1998