Euro Moments: Tails the call as Italy reach ’68 final via bizarre coin toss

Before the invention of a penalty shootout Uefa had to come up with some way of separating Italy and the Soviet Union

Angelo Domenghini scores during Italy’s 2-0 defeat of Bulgaria during the quarter finals of the European Nations Cup in Naples, 20th April 1968. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Angelo Domenghini scores during Italy’s 2-0 defeat of Bulgaria during the quarter finals of the European Nations Cup in Naples, 20th April 1968. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

 

Euro 1968: Italy 0 Soviet Union 0

June 5th, 1968

Say what you want about penalty shoot-outs but at least they involve a) skill and b) a spectacle. Back in 1968 nobody seems to have had the wit yet to imagine either was especially important when deciding games and so it was that Italy managed to win a European Championship semi-final thanks to a coin toss.

It happened in Naples, in front of an estimated 70,000 many local fans and the Soviet Union were on the wrong end of the call. They had been slight favourites to beat Italy in the game having put them out of both the ’64 Euros and ’66 World Cup but both sides were hampered by injuries as they prepared for what would prove a tight game and neither was ultimately capable of scoring through 120 minutes of football.

Accounts differ as to whether Soviet skipper Albert Shesternyov then called it wrong or his Italian counterpart, Giaccinto Facchetti, got it right while it also appears to be contested as to whether the episode was overseen by the referee or a Uefa official, but the Italian puts himself and the West German match official at the centre of the action in his version of events.

“I went up with the Russian captain,” he says, “and 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.”

It’s unclear whether Shesternyov made any last ditch attempt to make it the best of three or his Soviet overlords threatened, in a fit of pique, to annex the other half of Europe but the result stood and Italy went on (eventually) to become European Champions.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.