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Spain savour home comforts

Spain combined home advantage and spirited teamwork to prevail at the Soviet Union's expense, Marcelino heading in a late winner.

1964 European Nations' Cup ©Getty Images

Spain combined home advantage and spirited teamwork to win their first major trophy in 1964, as the European Nations' Cup continued to grow.

The format remained the same, with a qualifying competition followed by a four-team final tournament, but the buzz surrounding the inaugural edition meant the number of entrants rose from 17 to 29, with Italy and England among the hopefuls this time.

England fell 6-3 on aggregate to France in Alf Ramsey's first competitive outing as manager, however they were at least able to compete on the pitch. In an echo of the diplomatic wrangling from 1960, Greece objected to facing Albania, with whom they were officially at war, and the tie was awarded to their opponents.

Albania failed to grasp this opportunity as they were beaten 4-1 on aggregate by Denmark in the last 16. The Danes then sealed their place in the final tournament by seeing off surprise quarter-finalists Luxembourg after a play-off. In-form striker Ole Madsen fired six goals in Denmark's three matches against the Grand Duchy, who had earlier defeated the Netherlands 2-1 in Rotterdam; their last away win against European opposition until 1995.

Conquerors of a France team on the wane, Hungary also advanced to the semi-finals, where they were joined by Spain and holders the USSR. Spain looked particularly impressive after dispatching the Republic of Ireland 5-1 and 2-0 in the previous round, and they had been chosen to host the tournament's conclusion.

That was conditional on them accepting Soviet participation; in 1960 Spain had been disqualified after General Franco had refused his side permission to play the USSR. Four years on political disagreements were happily forgotten as football took centre stage.

The USSR were hungry to defend their title as they swept past Denmark 3-0 in Barcelona, with a goal apiece for 1960 veterans Valentin Ivanov and Victor Ponedelnik.

In the other semi-final, Spain required an extra-time winner from Real Madrid CF forward Amancio to defeat Hungary 2-1, but with midfielder Luis Suárez pulling the strings they went into the final with confidence high. Already a European champion with FC Internazionale Milano, Suárez added top-level experience to the youthful Spain side.

With just six minutes gone at a raucous Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the gifted No10 provided the cross for Jesús Pereda to open the scoring. Galimzian Khusainov quickly responded for the USSR, but Marcelino headed a memorable winner six minutes from time.

"Other Spanish national teams I played in were much better than that 1964 side but we never achieved anything," Suárez said. "That one was a team rather than a selection of top players."