Italy are hoping to reach the final of this competition for the third time, and the first since UEFA EURO 2000, but Cesare Prandelli's charges first have to overcome the mightily impressive Germany in the second semi-final in Warsaw on Thursday. Azzurri stars of previous tournaments shared their semi-final memories.
05/06/1968 Italy 0-0 USSR (aet, ITA won on coin toss) (Naples)
Giacinto Facchetti: In those days there was no provision for a penalty shoot-out after the end of extra time. The match had to be decided by the toss of a coin. In sporting terms, you can't talk about a great victory if you've won on a coin toss. But Italy had played almost the entire match with ten men due to an injury because, at that time, the substitution of an injured player wasn't included in the regulations either. Another of our players was suffering with severe cramp during extra time so we finished with nine and a half men.
So I think it can be considered as sporting justice that Italy won the coin toss. The referee pulled out an old coin and I called tails. It was the right call and Italy were through to the final. As soon as the toss had been completed I went racing upstairs – because the dressing rooms were at basement level – to celebrate. The stadium was still full and about 70,000 fans were waiting to hear the result. My celebrations told them they could celebrate an Italian victory. And the public really celebrated because it meant we were in a final for the first time in 30 years.
22/06/1988 USSR 2-0 Italy (Stuttgart)
Paolo Maldini: It was like a dream for me because I hadn't played much in the Italian national team. I had played only three games before we went to Germany in 1988. We had a very young team and it was fantastic to reach third place. The tournament was not just a dream – it was also a valuable experience that taught me a lot of things for the future. It was a beautiful experience for us young players.
29/06/2000 Italy 0-0 Netherlands (aet, ITA won 3-1 on pens) (Amsterdam)
Francesco Toldo: As a fan you could rank that match at the top of your list – but for me the match was nice and emotional but not at top spot in my personal list. It was a magic match, that's for sure. The whole stadium was orange with only a small section of blue Italian fans. There were six penalties taken and only one scored. It's just unbelievable how that game unfolded.
We lost one of our players after 20 minutes, so we played the match with ten men. But we had our chances, especially with the two counterattacks started by [Alessandro] Del Piero, who could have scored a goal in those moments. And it was Italy's best performance of that tournament, also because we were coming off a bad run after EURO '96 and the 1998 World Cup. With that game we brought the Italian fans closer to the national team again.
Giacinto Facchetti died in September 2006. Read Paolo Menicucci's obituary.
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