Five of Italy’s iconic moments in the European Championship

As the Euro 2024 qualifiers come to a close, let us look back to one of the glorious moments in European Championship history – Italy’s iconic moments. Italy has a rich footballing history and has been a major force in international football for many years. The Azzurri have won the FIFA World Cup four times and have also had many iconic moments in the European Championship over the years. Get your football handicap here! 

Euro 1968: The first and only toss-coin winner

One of the most iconic moments in the history of the Euro happened in 1968. Aside from officially calling the tournament “European Championship”, formerly “European Nations’ Cup”, the fairest way to declare a winner through a toss coin happened for the first and only time in history of Euro. It was Italy against the Soviet Union in the semifinals of Euro 1968. Get more football odds here! 

Having been humiliated at the 1966 World Cup at the hands of North Korea, Italy bounced back as they hosted and won the Euro 1968. It was Italy’s debut appearance in the tournament and the first time that they will host a major football tournament since 1934. The Azzurri faced the Soviet Union, while Yugoslavia took on England at the Stadio Communale in Florence just a few hours after the historic match.

The bizarre moment of determining the winner happened in a separate match where Azzurri skipper Giacinto Facchetti and his opposite number Albert Shesternev, accompanied by the referee and two administrators from the two countries proceeded to the coin toss. The Italian side called tails and as the coin flips in the air and lands on the official’s hand – a tail is shown and a winner has been declared.

Euro 2000: Francesco Toldo’s 3 saved penalties

Having helped the Azzurri to three wins from three in the group stages and a 2-0 defeat of Romania in the quarter-finals, Francesco Toldo’s superb display was unstoppable. Although Italy only finished as runners-up at Euro 200, Toldo was regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation, and most young goalkeepers look up to him and his contribution to Italy. 

During the semi-final against the Netherlands, Toldo saved one penalty during regulation time and two doing the shoot-out at the end of the game to book their place in the final. The Dutch side even missed another penalty during the game and yet another in the shoot-out, meaning Italy conceded only one from the opponent’s six attempts from the spot.

Euro 2012: Andrea Pirlo’s stunning Panenka 

Czechoslovakia’s fairy-tale run and triumph paved way to one of the most iconic images of an international football tournament and gave birth to an infamous penalty-kick, the Panenka Penalty, which was named after a gifted midfielder playing for Czechoslovakia, Antonín Panenka. Panenka has since worked as a coach after retiring from football at the age of 38 in 1987.

The Panenka Penalty remain with a couple of big names used it to win a match, including Francesco Totti did it for Italy against Holland in the semi-finals of Euro 2000, and 12 years later compatriot Andrea Pirlo followed suit as the Azzurri dumped England out of Euro 2012. ​With his side trailing 2-1, Andrea Pirlo stepped up to the spot and did a perfect Panenka that stunned the opponent’s keeper. 

Euro 2012: Mario Balotelli’s “Hulk” celebration

The 2012 edition of the European Championship saw Spain, who had won Euro 2008, successfully defended their title with a 4–0 win over Italy, becoming the first team to win two consecutive European Championships. Despite losing, Italy has an iconic moment in that edition with their player Mario Balotelli’s “Hulk” celebration in the semi-final match between Italy and Germany.

After scoring his second goal for the team, Balotelli removed his shirt and posed like the Marvel superhero Hulk as a celebration. This celebration was also seen compared to Mega Man and Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer and was one of the most memorable images of Euro 2012. This iconic celebration was made into a video game celebration later on.

Euro 2020: The renaissance kit

The “Azzurri” – the color blue – wearing green in the match against Greece for the qualifying round of the Euro 2020 is a nod to most fans. Dubbed a “Renaissance Kit,” this new kit color was a homage to Euro 1954 2-0 win against Argentina at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico. Interestingly, after 65 years, Italy defeated Greece by the same score, same stadium and same kit color. History repeats itself indeed.

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