When They Flipped A Coin to Declare A UEFA Euro Winner

As the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament progresses in its knockout stages, everyone knows what will most likely be coming in the near future.

One or more of the knockout round matches will end up being decided via a penalty shootout. The supporters of nations that are eliminated through this heart-wrenching and often heartbreaking method of determining the outcome of such important matches will no doubt natter on about the unfairness of it all.

Those who bet on football understand succinctly the Euro odds are extremely good that there will be penalty shootouts that determine knockout stage matches. This is vital knowledge for anyone who is wagering on spread outcomes.

Since 1972, when the knockout phase was implemented into the tournament, just two of 12 events have reached a conclusion without a match going to penalties. The record came in 1996 when four of seven knockout phase matches required penalties.

In 2016, three matches were decided by penalties. There’s been at least one penalty shootout in each of the past seven tournaments.

In 1976, the final went to penalties with Germany and Czechoslovakia tied 2-2. The Czechs won 5-3. As devastating as that loss would’ve felt to German players and fans on that day, imagine how stunned Soviet Union players were in Naples in 1968 when they lost the semifinals to Italy on a coin flip.

Yes, you heard that right. A toss of a coin sent Italy to the finals and the Russians to the third-place game.

euro 2020
Euro 2020 is already in the quarterfinal stages

The Luck Of The Call

Only four countries took part in the final stages of the 1968 tournament in Italy. It was the first event to be known as the European Championship. The first two tournaments in 1960 and 1964 were called the European Nations Cup.

In one semifinal, Yugoslavia ousted reigning World Cup champions England 1-0. English fans recall it as the day that midfielder Alan Mullery became the first England player to be sent off during an international match after he kicked Yugoslav player Dobrivoje Trivic in the groin.

The other semifinal was a rematch from the 1966 World Cup between the host Italians and the Soviets. Italy was knocked out of the 1966 World Cup by the Soviet Union, so revenge was on the mind of the players.

During a match that was played in poor weather conditions, scoring chances were few and far between. It didn’t help when Italian forward Gianni Rivera was injured and forced to depart early in the match. Late in extra time, Italy’s Angelo Domenghini hit the post, the closest either side came to finding the back of the net.

When the whistle blew at the conclusion of extra time, West German referee Kurt Tschenscher and the respective captains – Soviet skipper Albert Shesternyov and Giaccinto Facchetti, his Italian counterpart – were all bundled off to a room in the bowels of the Stadio San Paolo by UEFA officials along with two officials from each team.

A coin was produced by Tschenscher. He flipped it. Facchetti called it.

“I went up with the Russian captain,” Facchetti recalled to UEFA.com. “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.”

Outside, a capacity crowd that had sat through 120 minutes of football awaiting a goal now were waiting again, this time to determine whether they would go home happy or in despair

“I went racing upstairs as the stadium was still full and about 70,000 fans were waiting to hear the result,” Facchetti said. “My celebrations told them that they could celebrate an Italian victory.”

Another First In Final

Three days later in the final at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, Italy and Yugoslavia battled through a full 90 minutes and 30 minutes of extra time deadlocked at 1-1. Again, there would not be penalties, but neither would there be a coin flip. Another method unique to the Euros would decide the outcome.

For the first and only time in tournament history, a replay of the final would take place. Two days later, again at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, Italy won 2-0 on goals by Luigi Riva and Pietro Anastasi.