#ThrowbackThursday - Euro '68: When the Euros first came to Italy
The 1968 tournament, the Henri Delanay trophy would change its name from the European Nations’ Cup to the European Football Championship. The format for the qualification rounds would also change from knockout rounds to a round robin group phase, with the eight group winners playing off for the right to participate in the 1968 Finals. The qualification round for the four British Nations would simply be the Home Nations Championship – which was the annual tournament competed for by England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which ran from 1884 to 1984. The combined results for the 1966/67 and 1967/68 tournaments would decide which home nation proceeded to the Quarter Final knock out stage to play off for a place in the 1968 Finals.
England were reigning World Champions after winning the 1966 World Cup on home soil. Less than three months on, England played Northern Ireland at Belfast’s Windsor Park. The World Champions came away with a 2-0 win secured by goals from Roger Hunt and Martin Peters. Meanwhile, that same day Wales and Scotland played out a 1-1 draw at Cardiff’s Ninian Park.
One month later, Scotland beat Northern Ireland at Glasgow’s Hampden Park. That same day, England played Wales at Wembley Stadium and took the points with a 5-1 win secured by goals from Bobby and Jack Charlton, two for Geoff Hurst and an own goal from Terry Hennessy, while Wales’s reply came from Wyn Davies.
The following April Northern Ireland and Wales played out a 0-0 draw, Scotland’s trip to Wembley three days later however would go down in Scots’ Football folklore. Scotland became ‘unofficial World Champions’ after inflicting a 2-3 defeat on the Auld Enemy with an inspired performance from Jim Baxter, as well as goals from Denis Law, Bobby Lennox and Jim McCalliog. On target for England that day would be Jack Charlton and Geoff Hurst
Six months later, in October 1967 England’s trip to Cardiff’s Ninian Park to play Wales ending in a 3-0 win for the World Champions with goals from Martin Peters, Bobby Charlton and a last minute penalty from Alan Ball
That same day, over at Belfast’s Windsor Park a George Best inspired Northern Ireland took the points after beating Scotland 1-0.
Northern Ireland’s trip to Wembley to face England the following month however lead to a 2-0 defeat for the Ulstermen with goals from Geoff Hurst and Bobby Charlton
That same day, at Glasgow’s Hampden Park Scotland secured the points with a 3-2 win over Wales, though were one point behind England ahead of their final showdown meeting the following February. Ahead of the game, both Bobby Charlton and Denis Law would be interviewed by the TV Times on their thoughts on the game. Interestingly, on the same day as this meeting, their Man United side would be facing Arsenal at Highbury. Though United were in the hunt to retain their league title and embroiled in a title race with fierce neighbours Man City, Bobby Charlton would be forced to miss this league meeting as he was on international duty. Denis Law however would not be called up by Scotland for this meeting and instead turned out for Man United at Highbury, as United won 2-0 to stay in the hunt for the 1967/68 League title.
England needed just a point to secure their passage to the Quarter Finals and took the lead with a goal from Martin Peters. ‘Yogi’ Hughes pulled one back for the Scots but it wasn’t enough to prevent England from topping the group with a 1-1 draw.
In the Quarter Final, World Champions England met reigning European Champions Spain at Wembley for the first leg.
A Bobby Charlton goal six minutes from time gave England a 1-0 lead to take to Madrid’s Bernabeu Stadium.
In the return leg, Spain levelled on aggregate early on in the Second Half, however goals from Martin Peters and Norman Hunter gave England a 2-1 win on the night (3-1 on aggregate).
Joining England in the Finals were hosts Italy, who overcame a 2-3 deficit away at Bulgaria in the first leg with a 2-0 win in Naples in the second leg.
The USSR also came back from 0-2 down away to Hungary in the first leg with a 3-0 win in Moscow.
Yugoslavia meanwhile hammered France 5-1 win to secure their passage to the Finals, 6-2 on aggregate.
The first Semi Final played in Naples would be between the hosts Italy and the USSR. The tie ended goal-less after both ninety minutes and extra time. Many people criticise a penalty shoot-out in modern football as being like a lottery. It surely however must be a much fairer way of settling tie than that of a coin toss. Italy secured their path to the Final purely on the back of their captain Giacinto Facchetti calling it right.
In the other Semi Final played later than night, England found themselves eliminated after a 0-1 defeat to Yugoslavia (and so beginning fifty years of hurt). Alan Mullery also made history in becoming the first ever England player to be sent off in a full international - an incredible ninety six years after England's first international fixture against Scotland back in 1872!
England however secured third place in the tournament with a 2-0 win over the USSR three days later in Florence
In the final, played later that same day in Rome’s Olympic Stadium, Italy and Yugoslavia played out a 1-1 draw after ninety minutes and extra time
There was no coin toss as this match actually went to a replay two days later with Italy triumphing on home soil with a 2-0 win.