Euro 2012 History: The 1964 finals

Luis Suarez is the outstanding performer as hosts Spain claim a famous victory in front of General Franco before embarking upon a 44-year drought in major competitions

The format was the same as for the inaugural tournament four years earlier, with the host country selected from the four survivors of the home-and-away qualifying matches. One of this quartet was Spain, who were chosen to host the 1964 finals – but only on condition that they accept Soviet participation; in 1960 they had been disqualified after dictator Franco had prevented the Spanish side playing against the USSR. Now those political differences were conveniently shelved, enabling Spain to stage a major competition for the first time.

Given the prominence in continental club football of Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona (who between them had been involved of the eight of the first nine European Cup finals), it was no surprise that the venues for the four games of the Championship were the Bernabeu and Camp Nou.

IN THE NEWS IN 1964...
* Radio Caroline becomes England's first pirate radio station

*In South Africa, Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island, while in the UK, 12 perpetrators of the Great Train Robbery receive sentences totalling 307 years

* Robert Moog designs the first Moog synthesiser

* At the Tokyo games, Abebe Bikila becomes the first person to win the Olympic marathon twice
Interest from the first competition saw entries rise from 17 in 1960 to 29, but Greece withdrew after being drawn in the preliminary round against Albania, with whom they were still officially at war.

Spain beat Romania 7-3 on aggregate, while Italy defeated Turkey 7-0. The reign of England manager Alf Ramsey, who predicted his team would win the 1966 World Cup, got off to a chastening start when France thrashed England 5-2 in Paris for a 6-3 aggregate win. The two Irelands, Sweden, Denmark, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Netherlands, East Germany and Yugoslavia all won, while the USSR, Austria and Luxembourg had byes to the first round.

Albania couldn’t take advantage of their free passage into the last 16, losing 4-1 to Denmark. But the shock of the round was Luxembourg’s triumph over the Netherlands. The 2-1 win in Rotterdam was the Grand Duchy’s last away win over European opponents until 1995. Meanwhile Spain narrowly defeated Northern Ireland while holders USSR beat Italy 3-1.

In the quarter-finals, plucky Luxembourg took Denmark to a third match before succumbing 6-5 on aggregate, Ole Masden scoring all six for the Danes. Spain thrashed the Republic of Ireland 7-1, while Hungary defeated France 5-2 and the USSR beat Sweden 4-2.


Ferenc Bene
Dezso Novak
Jesus Maria Pareda
The semis, third-place match and final were again one-off, sudden death affairs. The USSR seemed determined to retain their title when they despatched Denmark 3-0 in Barcelona. Valentin Ivanov and Victor Ponedelnik, heroes in 1960, were again on target after Valery Voronin opened the scoring.

The other semi-final saw Spain taken to extra-time against a Hungary side boasting the sublime skills of Florian Albert and goalscoring power of Ferenc Bene. But the hosts had experienced playmaker Luis Suarez pulling the strings as the Bernabeu crowd chanted his name. He set up Jesus Martia Pereda’s 35th-minute opener, only for Bene to equalise with six minutes to go, capitalising on Jose Iribar’s hesitancy. But Spain’s keeper redeemed himself when Bene, one-on-one, looked set to steal it for the Magyars.

With nerves taut in extra-time, Real Madrid’s Amancio Amaro fired home the winner after Jose Maria Fuste had headed on Carlos Lapetra’s corner.

The Hungarians – who won Olympic gold in Tokyo later that year – beat Denmark 3-1 after extra-time to clinch third place.
Spain 2-1 USSR

Jose Villalonga's hosts and the Soviet holders were evenly matched but had been kept apart by politics four years earlier; now Franco sensed propaganda value and attended the final as history beckoned.

Spain started perfectly start when, after only six minutes, Edouard Mudrik couldn’t defend a Luis Suarez centre and midfielder Jesus Pereda thundered it past the helpless Lev Yashin. For Pereda, once of Real Madrid, now with arch-rivals Barcelona, scoring for his country in a Bernabeu final was especially sweet.

Yet Spanish joy was short-lived as two minutes later, Fernando Olivella fouled Galimzyan Khusainov, who equalised from the free-kick. Now the game was in the balance as two sides noted for their teamwork nullified each other’s threat.

Soviet defender Albert Schesternev was fortunate not to give away a penalty when Pereda went down under his challenge, but the USSR had opted for caution over creativity with a defensive midfield. In contrast the inventive Suarez, Spain’s arch-schemer, set up victory six minutes from time when he fed Pereda, whose cross was headed home by the stooping Marcelino.

Few then would have believed it would take Spain 44 years to celebrate their next major triumph.

For Galicia-born midfield general Luis Suarez, 1964 was the pinnacle of his career. Man of the final and the tournament, he brought class, panache and experience to the Spanish side just weeks after playing an inspirational role for Inter as they overcame Real Madrid to win their first European Cup.

"Other Spanish national teams I played in were much better than that 1964 side but we never achieved anything," Suarez reflected. "That one was a team rather than a selection of top players."

Having won two La Liga titles and the Fairs Cup as well as 1960’s Ballon d’Or while still a Barcelona player, he’d followed coach Helenio Herrera from Camp Nou to the San Siro in 1961 for a then word record fee of 250 million lire (£142,000) winning three Serie A titles and two successive European Cups with Inter. For Spain he earned 32 caps, scoring 14 goals. Suarez was Spain’s coach at the 1990 World Cup, and had three spells in charge of Inter, for whom he still scouts at the age of 76.

Marcelino’s superb 84th-minute headed goal low inside the near post from Pereda’s right-wing cross sent the Bernabeu crowd into raptures and was worthy of winning any cup final. Three days later, Marcelino also scored a late winner as Real Zaragoza beat Valencia 2-1 to lift the European Fairs Cup.
The Final

Franco’s Spain and the Soviet Union might have been ideological adversaries, at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but their football teams were well-matched in 1964, producing a fascinating if tense final. Both displayed energy and endeavour, but ultimately the hosts had just enough guile to overcome the holders and claim the first trophy in their history.