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5 interesting facts of the UEFA European Championship you may not know

 Italy were lucky to win the coin toss against the Soviet Union
Neelabhra Roy

greece vs portugal

It’s only a matter of hours now before the 15th edition of the Euros commences. A total of 24 teams will fight it out in France to lift the coveted Henri Delaunay Trophy. Since its inception in 1960, the Euros has witnessed plenty of excitement, drama and controversy which haven’t been forgotten.

However, there have been some incidents as well which may have escaped your notice. With only hours to go before the opening match of the tournament gets underway, let’s take a look at five interesting Euro facts which you may not know.


#1 The cruel coin toss of Euro 1968

The third edition of the Euros in 1968 was remembered for a number of events. One of them occurred during the opening game of the tournament between hosts Italy and the Soviet Union at Naples.

Italy were not having the best of outings against the Soviets as they had lost to them in their last two meetings at a major tournament. After an impressive defensive display by both teams, the score was tied at 0-0 at the end of regular as well as extra time.

Since the concept of a penalty shootout hadn’t been invented at that time, the match would be decided by a coin toss between Italian captain Giacinto Facchetti and his Soviet counterpart Albert Shesternyov. Facchetti called tails which turned out to be correct and Italy were through to the final.

After a really good performance against Italy, the Soviets were eliminated from the tournament by the cruelest way possible. As for Italy, they went on to win the tournament. To date, this is the only match in the Euros to have been decided by the toss of a coin.

#2 The replay of the final of Euro 1968

Italy won the first and to date the only Euro final to have been replayed

Euro 1968 hosts Italy had already been a part of a dramatic semi-final against the Soviet Union which saw them edge past the Soviets courtesy of a lucky coin toss. In the final at Rome, they would be a part of something which had never occurred in the final of any previous Euro Cup.

Italy were up against Euro 1960 runners-up Yugoslavia who came into the final after a difficult game against then world champions England where Dragan Dzajic scored a late winner.

Dzajic once again was instrumental for Yugoslavia as he gave them the lead in the 32nd minute. Angelo Domenghini equalized for Italy in the 80th minute through a brilliantly taken free kick. The scores remained 1-1 after extra time and the final went into a replay.

In the replay, Italy’s chances of winning were boosted by the return of Luigi Riva and Sandro Mazzola. Riva made his return in fine style by putting Italy 1-0 up after only 12 minutes. Nearly 20 minutes after the opener, Italy’s lead was doubled by Pietro Anastasi’s spectacular volley.

Italy maintained their two-goal advantage and were crowned the champions of Euro 1968. The final still remains the only Euro final to have been replayed.

#3 The rematch of Euro 1976 final in opener of Euro 1980

West Germany won the rematch of the Euro 1976 final against Czechoslovakia during their victorious Euro 1980 campaign

Czechoslovakia had a dream journey in Euro 1976 as they beat West Germany 5-3 on penalties to win a nail-biting final. It was their first victory in a major tournament after the losing the finals of the 1934 and 1962 World Cups. With the tournament format being expanded, eight teams would participate in Euro 1980 instead of four.

Czechoslovakia had narrowly qualified for Euro 1980 ahead of France. In the finals, they were drawn in the same group as West Germany and they would face West Germany in the tournament which instantaneously would be a rematch of the 1976 final.

The Czechs had 10 members from the victorious squad that won the Euro four years back, including star players Anton Ondrus and Antonin Panenka while West Germany had only one player from Euro 1976. The outcome of the match, however, wasn’t the same as four years ago as a goal by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge separated the two teams.

However, the fact that the opener of Euro 1980 was a rematch of the final of Euro 1976 is something which happened for the first time in the Euros and is yet to happen again.

#4 The similarities between the finals of Euro 1996 and Euro 2000

Both the golden goals of the finals of Euro 1996 and Euro 2000 were scored by substitutes

There haven't been many occasions when you can say that the finals of two European championships have been similar in some manner but then again, not many doesn’t mean not at all. In fact, there have been some similarities between the Euro 1996 final between Germany and Czech Republic and the Euro 2000 final between Italy and France.

Firstly, on both occasions, Germany (in 1996) and France (in 2000) came from 1-0 behind to win the match 2-1. Secondly, both matches were decided by a golden goal in extra time.

And finally, both the golden goals were scored by substitutes. Olivier Bierhoff had scored the golden goal for Germany in 1996 and David Trezeguet did the same for France in 2000. Very coincidental, isn’t it?

#5 The beginning and ending of Euro 2004: Greece vs Portugal

Greece beat Portugal on both occasions when they met in Euro 2004

Euro 1980 saw the opening game of the tournament being the same as the final of the previous tournament. Euro 2004 witnessed another similarity involving the tournament opener.

However, this time, the tournament’s opener would go on to be the tournament decider. Hosts and tournament favorites Portugal were up against outsiders Greece in the first match of the tournament where Greece surprisingly beat Portugal 2-1.

Both eventually went on to play each other in the final and the result was the same as Greece prevailed 1-0 to win Euro 2004.

Edited by Staff Editor

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