Five Euro moments Italian football fans can't forget

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An Italian fan nervously watches the 2012 Euro Cup final in Rome. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
07:00 CEST+02:00
As Italy prepares to face Belgium on Monday night as part of the bumper 24-team edition of the Uefa European Championships, we look back at the country's history in the competition.

In the competition's 56-year history, Italy have only managed to lift the cup - known as the Henri Delaunay Trophy -  on one occasion.

They have experienced plenty of heartache along the way: finishing as runners-up twice and arriving among the last four teams on further two occasions.

Champions of Europe: Italy 2-0 Yugoslovia, 1968

Hosts Italy won the tournament in 1968, putting two goals past Yugoslavia at Rome's Stadio Olimpico in the final.

The goals came from star forwards Pietro Anastasi and Luigi Riva, who is still Italy's all-time top goal-scorer, having netted the ball 35 times in 42 appearances.

Back then, there was no 'extra-time' or penalties in the final game of the tournament, and so the match had to be replayed after the teams drew 1-1 in the first game. Italy then went on to win 2-0 in the second game.

The hosts crash out: Italy 1–1 Czechoslovakia, 1980 (Italy lose 9-8 on penalties)

After their famous victory, Italy failed to make it to the final stages of the competition until 1980, when they had home advantage once again.

In 1980, the structure of the contest was wildly different from today, having just eight participants, who were separated into two groups of four.

After the group stages, the two group leaders played eachother in the final, while the two teams in second place played against eachother to determine who finished third and fourth.

Italy missed the final after finishing second place in group two and then failed to beat Czechoslovakia in a third-place playoff.

Playing in front of a packed house at Naples' San Paolo stadium, the hosts went down 1-0 after Ladislav Jurkemik smashed a creamer past 38-year-old Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff, who had been between the sticks for their victory 12 years earlier.

Italy drew level late in the match when Francesco Fraziani headed home from a free-kick for the Azzuri.

Following the final whistle, the match went to penalties, but Italy missed the chance to go to the final when Czech 'keeper Netolička saved Fulvio Collovati's penalty.

Semi-final pain: Italy 2–0 USSR, 1988

A slightly re-jigged format saw Italy facing the USSR for a place in the final, but a young-looking Italian side were no match for the Soviet's steel – and conceded twice in five minutes during the second half.

It would be the USSR's final appearance in a European Cup tournament as the forces of history were poised to topple the Berlin Wall and raise the iron curtain less than a year and a half after the match.

The USSR went on to lose the final to the Netherlands 2–0, with goals coming from AC Milan stars Ruud Gullit and Marco Van Basten.

From the jaws of victory: Italy 1-2 France, 2000

By the time Euro 2000 was held in Belgium, the number of teams permitted to take part in the competition had doubled from eight to 16 – meaning Dino Zoff's men had to dig in for the long haul if they were to make the final.

Inspired by captain fantastic Paolo Maldini and the talismanic Francesco Totti,  Italy overcame Romania and the Netherlands on their way to setting up a final showdown with reigning World Cup champions, France.

Under the floodlights at Rotterdam's Feijenoord Stadium, Italy struck first, with Marco Delvechhio making the breakthrough in the 58th minute.

Italy remained in front until the final seconds of stoppage time, when Bordeaux striker Sylvan Wiltord drove low past Francesco Toldo to take the game to extra time.

The game was to be settled by the short-lived 'golden goal' rule.

As the minutes ticked away, David Trezeguet peeled away from his man to smash the winner into the roof of the net at 81 kmph - handing Dino Zoff a second Euro final defeat.

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A final drubbing: Italy 0–4 Spain, 2012

Four years ago, a resilient Italian side made it to the European final's once again, dumping out England and their historic bogey-team Germany on the way.

In the finals, they faced tough opposition in the form of reigning world champions, Spain.

The Spaniards proved too strong for Italy and the azzurri were 1-0 down within the first 15 minutes. They went on to lose the final 4-0, on what was a humbling night for the national side.

France 2016, in with a chance?

Four years on from their heartbreak in Kiev and much has changed for the blues, who have seen swathes of their star talent fade away or retire over the last four years.

With current manager, Antonio Conte, bound for Chelsea as soon as the tournament ends, many have questioned whether the side will be able to mount a serious challenge this time around

On paper at least, the team should make it out of their group (which other than Belgium, includes Sweden and the Republic of Ireland), but it will be a big ask if they are to make it to the finals this year.

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