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Apr, 29, 2012

European Nations Cup 1964

Innovations

•  Replays if scores were level after the two legs of the qualifying matches
 
Controversies
 
• Greece withdrew from the competition after they were drawn against Albania in the preliminary round • General Franco, Spain's Fascist dictator, who had banned his country from playing the USSR in the 1960, relented and was rewarded with being in the crowd as Spain beat USSR after extra time in the final
 
Trivia
 
• England played their home qualifying match against France at Hillborough. England, who were managed for the last time by Walter Winterbottom, were booed off after a 1-1 draw.
 
• Denmark qualified for the finals with wins over Malta, Albania and Luxembourg.
 
• Only 3869 spectators were in the massive Nou Camp for the third-place play-off between Hungary and Denmark
Franco's refusenik approach to the first championship had seemingly altered four years later. The tournament's crescendo would see his national side host and beat the Soviets in Madrid.
 
 
The story
 
There were more takers this time around too and 29 countries entered the elimination tournament. While the West Germans remained aloof, England took the plunge and in Alf Ramsey's first competitive tie crashed 6-3 on aggregate to France, inspired by Kopa. Politics played a part again as Greece refused to play the Albanians and were promptly banned from the tournament without kicking a ball.
 
Spain were on a rebuilding operation having lost the use of naturalised players like Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Ladislav Kubala. Coach Jose Villalong placed his faith in younger stars like Valencia's Vicente Guillot, Barcelona's Pedro Zaballa and Real Madrid's Amancio. He could also call on the huge talent of Luis Suarez, who had led Internazionale to the European Cup.
 
One of Suarez's club-mates, Sandro Mazzola, was part of the new generation of Italian talent. He formed an admirable inside-forward partnership with AC Milan's Gianni Rivera. The Italians demolished Turks 7-0 on aggregate while their Spanish counterparts destroyed Romania 6-1. The first round's major casualties were the Czechs at the hands of East Germany - just two years after being World Cup finallists.
 
The second round saw the Spanish new generation stutter to a narrow win over Northern Ireland while Yugoslavia, the previous tournament's losing finallists, exited at the hands of the Swedes. Holland, a few years away from the side that revolutionised football, lost embarassingly to Luxembourg while the efficiency of the Soviet Union ended the young Italians' participation. Yashin's saving of a Mazzola spot-kick was the Italians' last chance.
 
Spain cruised through the last eight with a 7-1 demolition of the Republic of Ireland but the French folded to the skills of Hungary's Florian Albert, as the Magyars despatched them 5-1. It was to be the last stand of Fontaine and Kopa's legendary Gallic partnership.
 
The Red Machine continued its progress with a 4-2 win over Sweden while Denmark squeezed past a Luxembourg side at the apex of its footballing achievement after a play-off was required after two legs. Striker Ole Madsen scored all six goals over the three games for the Danes.
 
So Spain took up its position as hosts and had to welcome two Eastern Bloc-ers in the USSR and Hungary. The Danes and Madsen ran out of gas as the Russians progressed easily in Barcelona's Nou Camp.
 
The hosts' progress was far less fluid. It took an extra-time strike just five minutes short of the 120 from Amancio to see off the Hungarians, who had to be content with 3rd place after a 3-1 win over the Danes. Madsen left the tournament with 11 goals to his name.
 
The final - a battle of rival political as well as footballing ideals - took place in the Santiago Bernabeu with Franco looking on from the VIP area. The Generalissimo must have been proud as his Suarez-inspired charges took apart the plodding Russians.
 
Though an early goal from Jesus Pereda was levelled by Galimzian Khusainov, a wonderful header from Marcelino won it for the hosts. A propaganda victory over the hated Communists had been achieved.

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