Let’s Look Back at the Euros-Euro ’64 (Spain)

Despite a slow start to its existence UEFA would persist with the European Cup of Nations being held every four years in between World Cups. Momentum was building though and despite West Germany still not wanting to be part of the proceedings England and Italy entered the comp along with other numerous teams from Scandinavia to Malta to make it 29 countries in all.

THE LEAD UP

The format would be the same again with two legged knockout games like the domestic European Cup before the final four would play off on neutral turf. Politics would again play a big hand in deciding some ties in what was a period of relative calm for Europe. Greece were drawn to play their neighbours Albania but refused to participate due to the fact that technically the two countries were still at war. Greece withdrew and Albania received a free pass in to the final 16.

In actual games played on the pitch in the first round England (under new coach Alf Ramsey) fought hard but were ultimately undone by the French while first timers Holland went through knocking out a strong Swiss team and East Germany eliminated 1962 World Cup Finalists Czechoslovakia. In the round of 16 Luxembourg; who were normally made up of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, accounted for their big brothers Holland in a remarkable result winning in Rotterdam in what would be their last win outside of Luxembourg for over 30 years. Spain were happy to play teams that weren’t communist unlike 1960 and accounted for Northern Ireland while the 1960 finalists Yugoslavia were eliminated by the Swedes.

In the last eight Luxembourg’s luck finally ran out but only just. Led by their only really true world class player Louis Pilot they finished 5-5 on aggregate with Denmark with the game having to go a third game ‘play off’ where the Danes prevailed 1-0. Denmark had also eliminated those lucky Albanians in the previous round. The Danes would be joined by Spain, Hungary and the Soviets looking to defend their title. Despite two Eastern Bloc teams being involved the Spanish and Franco would not kick up a stink this time around and in a fine example of the squeeky wheel getting the grease were handed the hosting rights for the semi finals and final.

THE SEMI FINALS

The Soviets were fancied but this Spanish side mirrored the brilliant Real Madrid who was at the time dominating at club level. The coach Jose Villalonga was ex Real Madrid while star players returned from Italy and others chose to play despite seeing themselves as Catalunyan. The team was built around midfielder Luis Suarez (not THAT Suarez) who had been brilliant for Inter Milan in the lead up to this tournament winning two European titles in a row at club level.

In the first semi final in Madrid Spain would take on the Hungarians. There was a bit of spice to this match with some of Hungary’s ‘mighty maygars’ from the 50s defecting to Spain after the invasion of the Soviets with some even getting a Spanish passport and playing for the national side. Hungary fought well going down 1-0 in the first half before a late equaliser which took the game in to extra time where Spain prevailed thanks to an extra time goal from the star striker Marcelino. In the other semi final the Soviet Union were far too strong for Denmark who had led a charmed life up until this stage. 3-0 was the result with the team largely the same as their 1960 title winning team including Valentin Ivanov captaining, 1960 hero Victor Ponedelnik up front and Lev Yashin still in goal.

THE FINAL

The final would be held at where else but the home of Real Madrid; the world famous Santiago Bernebau Stadium. Almost 80,000 fans would converge on Madrid for the final which was some 60-70,000 more than the first final in France in 1960. Even El Caudillo Franco who was so vocal in his disdain for playing the Soviets four years ago was in attendance.

After only six minutes that home side had the massive crowd in raptures when Suarez showed off his skills and whipped in a delicate cross for Jesus Pereda to control and slam home after dominating from kick off. 1-0 Spain. The crowd could cheer despite Pereda being one of those very rare players at a sensitive political time to leave Real Madrid and go to Barcelona. The hosts had their tails up but the lead was to last for all of 90 seconds where the Soviets (featuring four forwards on the pitch no less) equalised through Kushianov.

The equaliser was gold for the visitors, it took the crowd out of the game. The Spanish second guessed and didn’t now have the Soviets locked in their own half. The game turned in to a slog as both teams tried to find that breakthrough. The Spanish crowd grew tired of these guys from behind the curtain but the Soviets knew how to play in front of a hostile crowd in the West. In the second half he minutes ticked away with extra time looking likely. Suarez was trying to inspire looking for openings in the defence not quite there yet and finally found one with his cross again perfect. With these kinds of crosses Yashin would normally be off his line and clearing such danger but his judgement was just a second too late and stayed on his line. The semi final hero Marecelino headed home perfectly leaving Yashin as a spectator watching the ball go past with some six minutes from full time. 2-1 Spain.

The Soviets needed a goal but none would be forthcoming with the game going the hack and descending in a bit of a farce. The ref had enough, blew for full time and Spain were the second champions of Europe!

At the time it was seen as a massive, if not unexpected, triumph for Spain who had been so good at club level. A big moment for Spanish football and one they would expect to repeat with the bevvy of talent. Unfortunately this would be their last piece of silverware for the national team for 44 years. It would take an extraordinary attacking side to win their next title to usher in a new super team. A little bit like Geelong really. Suarez would coach Spain at the 1990 World Cup when it started to sink in that some people may never live to see them win another trophy as this triumph faded in the minds of those around to see it. A more succesful second instalment of the Euros.

CHAMPIONS-Spain (First title)

RUNNER UP-Soviet Union

GOLDEN BOOT-Ole Madsen. 11 Goals. These were scored during the elimination games before the semi finals but the 30 year old was prolific with his late career form getting him a move to Holland.

SACRED COW-Luis Suarez. The flamboyant Spanish string puller was a star for club and country and resisted biting anyone unlike his name sake.

DUNCE HATS-The Dutch appeared in their first European competition long before ‘total football’ and were eliminated by a country that was around the same size as the ‘Hutt River Province’ near Geraldton.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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