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Coin toss takes Italy to EURO 1968 final after USSR stalemate

Italy 0-0 USSR (Italy win on coin toss)
The hosts' luck turned after they were beaten by the same opponents at the 1966 FIFA World Cup.

Giacinto Fachetti in action against the USSR at the 1966 World Cup
Giacinto Fachetti in action against the USSR at the 1966 World Cup Getty Images

Knocked out of the 1966 FIFA World Cup by the Soviet Union, Italy found the same opponents blocking their path to the final of the 1968 UEFA Football Championship – this time they were granted a fortuitous way through.

Despite his pre-match claim that the USSR were "not unbeatable", coach Ferruccio Valcareggi could not disguise Italy's anxiety about a team who had also knocked them out of the EURO four years previously.

EURO 1968: All you need to know

Such wariness was not the only explanation for the goalless outcome, however, with both teams showing steely defence despite being hit by injuries. The Soviet Union missed little Igor Chislenko, who had scored the only goal of that 1966 match, and were also without Murtaz Khurtsilava at the back. Italy's fragile but brilliant playmaker Gianni Rivera, meanwhile, was forced off for treatment in the opening period following a collision with Valentin Afonin.

Giancarlo Bercellino also injured a knee in extra time, forcing Angelo Domenghini to move to left-back, so the hosts were never operating at full strength. Small wonder then that the Soviet Union forced six corners in succession just before the interval.

Highlights: The best goals of EURO 1968
Highlights: The best goals of EURO 1968

In a match played in bad weather throughout, chances were predictably few and far between. Piero Prati fired only just wide from 15 metres, the impressively calm Dino Zoff saved from Albert Shesternev and twice from Aleksandr Lenev, freed to go forward by Rivera's injury. Near the end of extra time, Domenghini hit the foot of a post, but although he and Sandro Mazzola worked hard as usual, the Italian attack was not at its most menacing.

With the Soviet forwards unable to keep possession, 0-0 seemed fair. The teams had to be separated, however, and it was Italy who marched on to the showpiece after their captain, Giacinto Facchetti, called correctly in the dreaded coin toss. For the USSR, there was only the consolation of the third-place play-off.

Reaction

Giacinto Facchetti, Italy defender: "I went up with the Russian captain. We went down to the dressing rooms together, accompanied by two administrators from the two teams. The referee pulled out an old coin and I called tails. It was the right call and Italy were through to the final. I went racing upstairs as the stadium was still full and about 70,000 fans were waiting to hear the result. My celebrations told them that they could celebrate an Italian victory."

Dino Zoff, Italy goalkeeper: "It was special for me because I was playing for Napoli at that time [and the game was in Naples]. We were down to ten men after five minutes because [Gianni] Rivera was injured. At that time there was no such thing as substitutes so we had to play practically the whole game with ten men. We concentrated on defending well. It was a great triumph to come through all the qualifying rounds and get into the final – even if it was on the toss of a coin."

EURO 1968: Team of the Tournament

Lineups

Italy: Zoff; Bercellino, Burgnich, Castano, Facchetti (c); Ferrini, Juliano, Rivera; Domenghini, Mazzola, Prati
Substitutes
: none
Coach: Ferruccio Valcareggi

USSR: Pshenichnikov, Afonin, Banishevski, Byshovets, Yevryuzhikhin, Istomin, Kaplichni, Malofeev, Shesternev, Lenev, Logofet
Substitutes: none
Coach: Mikhail Yakushin

Referee: Kurt Tschenscher (West Germany)

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