Some may say that in life it is all about talent and hard work. Some others say it is all about luck.
What if being extremely lucky was a talent of an exceptional team captain?
The 1968 and the European Nations’ Cup
1968 was as crucial s year in history as it was in sports.
If the Champions’ league match-up between Benfica and Manchester United was the highlight of clubs’ continental football, the 1968 European Nations’ Cup was an even more European event.
After winning a preliminary stage, eight teams had a double face-off to determine the four finalists.
One of these contenders would then have to host this final stage.
Italy’s path to Rome
This fell to Italy who in the end proved capable of defeating Bulgaria, the eastern European team who had so far been the tournament’s surprise, having managed to beat and eliminate everybody’s favorites: Eusebio‘s Portugal. The other three teams who were to make it to the Italian stage were the two-time finalists USSR, England‘s World Champions, and Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia was the first finalist, but so as to decide who would go through, a bizarre rule was invented.
The coin rules at Euro 1968
After 120 minutes without a score, Napoli’s semifinal between the host nation and the USSR had not yet found a winner. As the penalty series had not yet been introduced as a solution for this kind of dispute, the flip of a coin would thus have to decide the game’s winner. Walking into the locker room, Italy already knew that victory was within their grasp.
They were not only the home team, normally advantaged in this kind of set-up and round, they had another string to their bow. Legend says that the Italian captain Giacinto Facchetti was not only one of the most all-around defenders of all time, but a lucky man. History went some way to confirming that.
If, during the Olympics of 1960 in Rome, the coin signaled a tragic end for Italy, this time Ferruccio Valcareggi‘s team had fate on their site. A fate that was destined to be repeated in the Euro 1968 final as well.
After a 1-1 game with a young but pivotal Dino Zoff to protect Italy’s net, the Azzurri won the Euro 1968.
Gigi Riva and Pietro Anastasi scored the two goals that bent Dragan Džajic‘s Yugoslavia in the decisive rematch.