European Championship History - 1968 Italy
The 1968 UEFA European Football Championship final tournament was held in Italy between 5 and 10 June 1968. It was this year that the tournament changed its name from European Nations' Cup to European Championship. There were also some changes in the tournament's qualifying structure, with the two-legged home-and-away knock-out stage being replaced by a group phase. At the time, only four countries could play the final tournament which meant that there were only the semi-finals, the final and the third place match. The hosts were only announced after the qualifying round, which meant that they had to qualify along with all the others for the final stage.
31 entrants were in the tournament there was no longer a two legged knock out round and they introduced the group stages. Between 1966 and 1968 the matches involved seven groups of four teams and one of the three group winners qualified for the quarter finals.
One group which had all four of the British nations was won by world cup holders England even though they had lost to Scotland 3-2 at Wembley. Meanwhile West Germany who were participating for the first time thrashed Albania 6-0 but they still finished runners up to Yugoslavia.
The other group’s winners were Hungary, France, Bulgaria, Italy, The USSR and defending champions Spain. During the quarter finals Bulgaria played Italy and Italy came out on top winning 4-3 on aggregate. Yugoslavia beat France 6-2 whilst the USSR beat Hungary 3-2. England defeated cup holders Spain 1-0 at Wembley and 2-1 in Madrid.
During the Final tournament just seven goals were scored. Italy’s game with the USSR ended up goalless and the game was then decided with a toss of a coin in which Italy had called correctly and were through to the finals. Luck was different with England however as they were reduced to just 10 men as one of the players was injured. During the last four minutes Yugoslavia were able to score finishing already wounded England off. Reigning world champions England however managed to seek consolation by beating the USSR 2-0 with goals from Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst to end the tournament 3rd place.
This 1968 final had two matches because there was the introduction of penalty shootouts the first of the matched ended in a draw with one goal from each side.
During the second match Riva opened up the game early with a low shot and then Anastasi with a boost of confidence doubled the lead for Italy with a volley. The rest of the game Italy were fairly untroubled and closed the game to lift the crown.