Spain triumph on home soil
Four years on from their refusal to play the USSR on political grounds, Spain welcomed the holders…and then beat them in the Final.
Some 29 countries entered the competition, including England – who made a swift exit in Alf Ramsey’s first competitive encounter, beaten 6-3 on aggregate by France in the first round.
Under coach Jose Villalonga, Spain were rebuilding, using players from provincial sides – including Valencia’s Vicente Guillot, who scored a hat-trick in the first-round win against Romania.
Spain then drew 1-1 with Northern Ireland in Bilbao before winning 1-0 in Belfast with a goal from Francisco Gento. Next up were the Republic of Ireland, who were dismissed 7-1 on aggregate on the way to the semi-finals on home soil.
Early fallers in the tournament included Czechoslovakia, who were beaten by an athletic East Germany side, and Holland, light years away from the “total football” revolution but who still surprisingly lost to Luxembourg. Italy were beaten by the USSR in the second round.
In the quarter-finals, France went down to a Hungary side inspired by new hero Florian Albert, the Soviets beat Sweden and Denmark squeezed past Luxembourg.
After the political row four years previously, Spain had guaranteed UEFA there would be no problems
this time, and the USSR played their semi-final in the more politically sympathetic city of Barcelona, where they beat Denmark with ease.
Spain needed extra time to get past Hungary in the other semi, with new Real Madrid starlet Amancio scoring the late winner.
Spain’s key player was midfield general Luis Suarez, who was fresh from winning the European Cup that summer with Internazionale. He was arguably the best player in Europe at the time and provided the inspiration against an unimaginative Soviet side in the Final as Marcelino struck a second-half winner.
In the qualifying stage of the competition, Luxembourg won 2-1 in Rotterdam to eliminate Holland 3-2 on aggregate and only missed out on making it through to the finals in Spain after taking Denmark to a third, deciding game.
After their success against the Dutch in October 1963, Luxembourg would not win another Euro qualifying game until 1995.
The first coach to win the European Cup – and at 36 years and 184 days still the youngest – Jose Villalonga guided Real Madrid to victory over Stade de Reims in 1956 before taking charge of Spain in 1962. In addition to the 1964 Nations Cup, he also led his country
at the 1966 World Cup, albeit with less success.
Tale of two cities
Four days after scoring the winning goal for his country at the Nations Cup Final in the Santiago Bernabeu, Marcelino claimed another late winner, for his club side Real Zaragoza against Valencia, in the Camp Nou, in the Final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
June 21 – Madrid
Spain 2 (Pereda 6, Marcelino 84) USSR 1 (Khusainov 8)
Ref: Holland (Eng)