Today marks the day the 1968 European Championship began. Hosted by Italy, 4 teams took part after a successful qualifying campaign. It was a simple knockout format to determine who would be champions.
Competing in the 3rd competition of its kind were hosts Italy, World Champions England, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.
The first game saw Italy take on the Soviet Union at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples in front of a crowd of 68,582. The game finished 0-0 after extra time and so was decided by a coin toss. Something common in those daysdays before penalty shootouts.
The 2nd game saw England take on Yugoslavia at the Stadio Comunale in Florence. An attendance of 21, 834 saw plavi clinch a place in the final. Dragan Dzajic was the hero with an 86th minute winner in a 1-0 victory. Allan Mullery was later sent off for the three lions becoming their first ever player to see red.
Three days later the 3rd place match and final took place at the Stadio Olympico in Rome. In the battle for 3rd England faced the Soviet Union and made some amends for their semi final defeat with a 2-0 win. Bobby Charlton gave them a half time lead and Geoff Hurst added the 2nd after 68 minutes.
The final, later that night… Matched Italy with Yugoslavia. 68,817 were there to see a 1-1 draw AET. Dzajic had given Beli orlovi the lead after 39 minutes and they came close to seeing the game out. However, Gli Azzuri weren’t to be denied as Angelo Domenghini put them level with 10 minutes remaining. Extra time couldn’t separate the teams and so it was a replay rather than a coin toss to decide the champions.
Two days later at the same venue in front of a smaller crowd of 32,866, the Italians were crowned European Champions. First half goals from Gigi Riva and Pietro Anastasi made sure of the hosts victory.