"The stadium was still full and about 70,000 fans were waiting to hear the result," recalled the late Giacinto Facchetti of the day he chose tails to earn Italy a place in the 1968 final.
A coin toss may be used to settle a dispute between friends, to select one of two alternatives or even simply to decide who kicks off – only once, however, has it picked a UEFA European Championship finalist.
For 120 minutes Italy and the Soviet Union could not be separated in their 1968 semi-final in Naples. The Azzurri had produced a herculean effort to stave off their opponents having been reduced to ten men through an early injury to Gianni Rivera. Their fate, though, was suddenly out of their own hands and into the referee's.
Italy's captain, the late Giacinto Facchetti, was the man designated to call for his side and recalled that most nerve-wracking of intervals after the final whistle. "In those days, there was no provision for a penalty shoot-out – the match had to be decided by the toss of a coin. Italy had played almost the entire match with ten men and at that time, the substitution of an injured player wasn't in the regulations.
"Another one of our players was suffering with severe cramps so we finished with nine and a half men. At the end of extra time the German referee called up the two captains. We went down to the dressing rooms together, the referee pulled out an old coin and I called tails. It was the right call and Italy were through to the final. As soon as the toss had been completed I went racing upstairs to celebrate. The stadium was still full and about 70,000 fans were waiting to hear the result. My celebrations told them they could celebrate an Italian victory."
Though FIFA World Cup winners in 1934 and 1938, Italy had not been to a major final for 30 years; however, one of Facchetti's compatriots knew their wait would be over once his captain took that fateful walk. "I could only hope that luck would be on my side," said full-back Facchetti. "One of my team-mates, [Tarcisio] Burgnich, asked who was going to make the call for Italy. When they told him it was going to be me, he said, 'It's all over, Facchetti is a lucky man!' Fortunately, things turned out as he predicted.
"In the corridor I was already shouting and when they saw the reaction from me and my team-mates, the public had no doubt about the result. The public really celebrated because it meant we were in the final for the first time in 30 years." All because Facchetti chose tails.
A test of endurance and will
Those old enough to remember the 1970 FIFA World Cup ™ semi-final will not have forgotten one of the most dramatic matches of all time - the epic clash of styles between the opportunism of 'Gigi' Riva's Squadra and the will to win of Kaiser Beckenbauer's Mannschaft. The match had club rivalry too, with the Inter trio of Facchetti, Mazzola, and Riva facing old foes in the shape of Bayern's Maier, Beckenbauer and Muller. It was also a duel between two formations whose hallmark was a balance between defensive steel and inspired forward play.
Boninsegna opens the scoring
The two giants of Europe were doing battle to decide who would line up in the final against the winner of the all South American tie between Brazil and Uruguay, played at Guadalajara on the same day. The Italians had been crowned European champions two years earlier, while the Germans had finished runners-up at the last FIFA World Cup ™ in England. At the start of the game, stifled by the high stakes and the oppressive heat of Mexico's brand new Azteca Stadium, both sides kept it tight, content to sit back and ease their way into the game. The spectators were also unusually subdued, and even the ball seemed lifeless, prompting Sepp Maier to ask for it to be changed early on.
But it was the Italians who turned this false rhythm to their advantage, springing a surprise on the West German team led by the old lion Uwe Seeler. In the eighth minute, Roberto Boninsegna exchanged a defence-splitting one-two with Luigi Riva before dispatching an unstoppable half-volley from 16 metres out which left Sepp Maier rooted to the spot. Game on.
The Germans responded immediately, with the main threat coming from rising star Franz Beckenbauer, first with a pass into space which Gerd Müller just failed to reach, then a 40-yard burst of acceleration before he was stopped in his tracks by a questionable challenge from Squadra Azzurra captain Giacinto Facchetti.
Although the Mannschaft clearly dominated the first period, the Italians often looked comfortable at the back, mopping up the somewhat predictable assaults of Seeler and Co. At the tender age of 34, the tireless Seeler was taking part in his fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup ™, and it was the Hamburg striker's ability to get his head to almost every free kick that constituted the main threat to the Italians in the opening half-hour.
But little by little, his strike partner, 'Bomber' Muller started to make his presence felt at the heart of the Italian defence. First he just failed to control a curling cross from the ever-present Wolfgang Overath, allowing Mario Bertini to come out and claim. His 20-yard half-volley on the turn just two minutes later (31') then drew the Fiorentina keeper into a smart save. Bertini had been picked instead of Dino Zoff by coach Ferruccio Valcareggi, much to the displeasure of the Friulian's supporters, and he was soon called into action again, this time turning an even better-struck shot from Jürgen Grabowski round the post for a corner.
The second half followed the same crescendo-like rhythm. Seeler, put through cleverly by the Kaiser, lost out in a one-on-one duel with Albertosi, and Grabowski was thwarted by the Florentine guardian on the hour mark. The Germans then failed to capitalise on an under-hit backpass from Bertini. Muller robbed Albertosi, Grabowski gathered and laid it back into the path of Overath, but his shot cannoned back off the crossbar with the Italian keeper stranded.
Injury time equaliser
West Germany were throwing everything forward now, but just couldn't find a way through. In the 67th minute Beckenbauer charged forward only to be bundled over by Pierluigi Cera. Penalty...surely! But no, Arturo Yamakasi decided the foul had been committed outside the box. As the furious German side crowded around the ref, Beckenbauer stayed down, his right shoulder pulled out of joint, and since the Mannschaft had already made their two substitutions, the Kaiser had to stay on the field. Tension mounted with each passing second, Siegfried Held walloped a volley past Albertosi only to see Roberto Rosato acrobatically clear off the line. Seeler and then Muller fluffed chances in quick succession.
The clock ticked on. Just a few more minutes and the Squadra Azzura would be home and dry. But just as they had shown against England in the quarter-final, Beckenbauer and his team-mates just did not know when they were beaten: in injury time, after two further close calls in the Italian goalmouth, the hard-working Grabowski swung in a cross from the left which was met by defender Karl Heinz Schnellinger at the penalty spot. Albertosi was beaten all ends up and the Italians held their heads in disbelief.
A ding-dong battle
And so began probably the most memorable period of extra-time in footballing history. Beckenbauer set the tone by taking the field with his arm in a sling - which did nothing to stop him tearing towards goal whenever he got the ball. Helmut Schoen's men now had the bit between their teeth. Muller intercepted a Poletti back pass and poked the ball home just before Albertosi could grab it. The 100,000 fans packed into the Aztec stadium were in raptures.
German joy was short lived, however. Just 9 minutes into extra time, Gianni Rivera, the Golden boy from AC Milan, sent over a free-kick which was cleared by Held to an advancing Tarcisio Burgnich, who beat Maier easily from the 6 yard box. The European champions were back level. And just before the teams changed ends, Italy went one better when Angelo Domenghini crossed from the left for the inevitable Luigi Riva to run on and score. It was Gigi's 22nd goal in just 21 outings for his country.
There was no let up in the action in the second period of extra-time either. The pace of the game was furious with both sides looking capable of scoring each time they went forward. Germany soon hit back when another Seeler header was pounced on by the ever-opportunistic Muller, who once again steered it home. Rivera, standing at the far post held his head in disbelief. The great Gerd had just scored his tenth goal of the tournament, while Beckenbauer, grimacing with pain, could have been forgiven for not celebrating too overtly.
26 players go down in history
But the Italians were not to be outdone by this umpteenth German fight back . Almost immediately from the restart, Boninsegna reached the byeline on the left and knocked the ball back for Rivera. The 1969 European footballer of the year sent Maier the wrong way to score the fifth extra-time goal. The AC Milan marksman, who had only come on after 60 minutes, had shown that he could indeed partner Riva upfront, as the tifosi had been demanding since the tournament began.
The game had now reached fever pitch. After 2 gruelling hours of football under the Mexican sun, the two exhausted teams finished the game almost in slow motion. The Italians, past masters at killing time, stayed down after every tackle, fired the ball high into the stands and contested every decision the referee made. At the final whistle, the players fell into each others arms and then to the ground in exhaustion. By now it no longer seemed to matter who had won and who had lost. The crowd fell silent in admiration, privileged no doubt to have witnessed an unforgettable spectacle.
|Full Name : Giacinto Facchetti
Date Of Birth: 18 July 1942
Place of Birth: Treviglio, Italy
Date Of Death: 4 September 2006 (aged 64)
Height: 1.87 m (6 ft 1+1⁄2 in)
National Career: 1963-1977
Caps: 94 (3)
Giacinto Facchetti (18 July 1942 – 4 September 2006) was an Italian football player. From January 2004 until his death, he was President of Internazionale, the club for which he played for his whole career during the 1960s and 1970s, playing 634 official games and scoring 75 goals. He played for the Inter Milan team remembered as “La Grande Inter”. Facchetti is remembered as one of the first truly great attacking-full backs. He would make marauding runs upfield using his wonderful dribbling and crossing. He could also play at centre-back where his tackling was used to great effect. He also possessed wonderful stamina and scored important goals.
Born at Treviglio, in the Province of Bergamo (Lombardy), Facchetti began his career with his hometown club, Trevigliese, as a forward. He was soon noticed by Helenio Herrera, then manager of Internazionale, who launched him in Serie A in the late 1960-61 season as a full back. The change of role was a good choice, and eventually Facchetti developed into one of the most effective defenders of Italian soccer.
With his club, Facchetti won four scudetti in 1963, 1965, 1966 and 1971; one Italian Cup in 1978; two European Champions Clubs’ Cups in 1964 and 1965; and two Intercontinental Cups in 1964 and 1965.
Facchetti made his debut for Italy on March 23, 1963. He was capped 94 times (a record at the time, since overtaken only by Dino Zoff, Paolo Maldini and Fabio Cannavaro), wearing the captain's armband 70 times and scoring three goals. He played for his country at the 1966, 1970 (where his team was runner-up to Brazil losing the final by 4-1), and 1974 FIFA World Cups, and was part of the winning Italian squad at Euro 68. In March 2004, Pelé named him one of the top 125 greatest living footballers.
Giacinto, however, was not just a great football player and executive. He will always be remembered as a gentleman on the pitch – he was sent off only once (that too for sarcastically applauding the referee) – for his personality, fair play and the leadership skills that made him a natural-born captain both for Inter and the national team.
Over the years Facchetti held various managerial positions at Inter, including technical director, board member, worldwide ambassador and vice president. Facchetti was elected president of Inter on January 19, 2004. After a long illness, he died of cancer in Milan on September 4, 2006. He is survived by his wife, Giovanna, and four children.
In an unprecedented move by the club, Inter retired the number 3 shirt in his honour.
Seria A: 1962-63, 1964-65, 1965-66, 1970-1971 (4 Titles)
European Championship: 1963-64, 1964-65 (2 Titles)
International Cup: 1964, 1965
EURO Championship: 1968
FIFA World Cup
FIFA 100 (125 greatest living players, as selected by Pelé): 2004