Following Barcelona’s defeat at the hands of Real Madrid in the 1960 European Cup semi-final, their coach Helenio Herrera was sacked. No matter what he had achieved at the club and no matter how good his teams had been, Barca had lost on the biggest stage to their deadliest rivals and so he had to go. Herrera’s record, however, was impressive enough to ensure that there was no shortage of clubs waiting to try and snap him up. In the end it was Internazionale of Milan who lured Herrera to their San Siro home, and they would prove to be a dominant force in Europe for years to come thanks to their 'catenaccio' system of play. With their managers tactical nous amd a collection of world class players, theybecame feared around the world and would make an immediate impact as they followed their 1963 Italian championship win by embarking on their first ever European Cup campaign.
Inter’s first tie provided a taste of things to come. With the tough task of taking on English champions Everton, the Italians erected a seven man penalty area screen which forced a goalless draw on Merseyside. They then claimed a 1-0 victory courtesy of a fortunate Jair goal on 46 minutes in a bad tempered game in Milan which was sufficient to see them through to the second round. Europe had received its introduction to catenaccio. The 1964 European Cup would not be easily won, however, as the field included all three of the teams that had already won the trophy. But while Inter were squeezing through to the second round with just one goal, the other big guns were not quite so parsimonious with their goals in these early stages. Real Madrid returned to Glasgow, scene of their epic victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960, this time beating Rangers 1-0 with a late Puskas goal. The return game in Madrid was a lot more one sided as a Puskas hat-trick helped Real to an emphatic 6-0 win which showed that the old masters were still a threat. Benfica also hit the goal trail as they followed a 3-3 draw in Belfast against Distillery – who fielded 41 year old Tom Finney who came out of retirement especially for that game - with a thumping 5-0 win in Lisbon.
The holders Milan began their defence in the second round against Norrkoping. The reigning champions came from behind to scramble a 1-1 draw in Sweden , before an Altafini hat-trick helped them to a 5-2 second leg win. Inter accompanied their city rivals through to the quarter-finals at the expense of Monaco. A 1-0 win at the San Siro and two early Mazzola goals in France effectively ended the tie, although Monaco did go on to score from a penalty and Suarez bagged a late third.
The big stories of the round, however, happened elsewhere. Having contested the previous three finals and won two of them, Benfica were obviously expected to be one of the main challengers for the trophy once again, but they would not be making it four finals in a row as they were comprehensively beaten by the Germans of Borussia Dortmund. Benfica won their first leg at home by two goals to one, but in Germany, without Eusebio, Germano and Costa Pereira, they were thrashed 5-0 with Brungs scoring three times for Dortmund. The other notable event occurred in the tie between FC Zurich and Galatasaray. After Zurich won their home leg 2-0, Galatasaray replied with an identical score line in Turkey. This necessitated a replay in Rome, but for the first time in the competitions history, the replay did not prove to be decisive as a Zurich equaliser with five minutes remaining of normal time and a Galatasaray equaliser with just three minutes left of extra time meant that the teams were deadlocked at 2-2. This meant that the winners were to be decided by the toss of a coin, and it was the Swiss captain who called correctly to send FC Zurich through and see Galatasaray cruelly eliminated.
Borussia Dortmund v Benfica
The quarter-final draw brought together AC Milan, the new champions of Europe, and Real Madrid, winners of the first five tournaments. Having been well beaten by Benfica two years earlier and surprisingly knocked out by Anderlecht a year later, Real Madrid no longer had the kind of intimidating aura that they had previously radiated, but the fact that they had won the Spanish championship by twelve points in 1963 showed that they were still more than capable of taking on and beating the best teams from around the continent. The first leg was at the Bernabeu, and Real certainly took their opportunity to show that they were still capable of challenging for the European Cup, although they were helped by the absence of Trapattoni and Sani from the Milan side, as well as a first half injury to Maldini. Amancio put the home side ahead on 17 minutes before the old guard took control. Goals from Puskas on 44 minutes, Di Stefano on the hour and Gento after 66 minutes gave the original European champions a 4-0 lead and left the reigning champions on the brink of elimination. A 73rd minute goal from Lodetti reduced the arrears slightly, but a three goal deficit was still going to be tough to pull back in the second game. Milan, however, were not going to relinquish their title without putting up a fight, and Real were not well suited to the defensive tactics that they attempted to employ in the San Siro. Another goal from Lodetti, just seven minutes into the second leg, and a strike from Altafini on the stroke of half-time, reduced the arrears to just one and got Milan right back into the tie. But, despite intense second half pressure on the Real goal with only an inspired performance by goalkeeper Vicente keeping the home side at bay, there was to be no more scoring and Milan had become the first European Cup winners to fail to successfully defend their crown. In the other quarter-final encounters, FC Zurich made the most of the good fortune they had received in the second round by beating PSV Eindhoven 3-2 on aggregate, while both Internazionale and Borussia Dortmund maintained their progress at the expense of Partizan Belgrade and Dukla Prague respectively.
FC Zurich appeared to be the weakest side left in the last four, so Real Madrid would have been very pleased to draw them in the semi-finals. There seemed to be few problems for the five time winners as they took an early two goal lead in Zurich thanks to goals from Di Stefano and Zoco, and even though Brizzi got one back for the Swiss team in the second half, Real seemed set for a comfortable passage through to the final as they took a one goal lead to the second leg at the Bernabeu. And comfortable was exactly how their home leg could be described as they put six goals past the Zurich goalkeeper without reply. The only surprise was that Puskas and Di Stefano only managed a goal apiece as Real Madrid strolled through to their seventh appearance in a European Cup Final.
The other semi-final was a much closer affair and, in fairness to Inter and Herrera, not without goal action. Internazionale travelled to Dortmund to take on Borussia in the first leg and made a dramatic start when Mazzola gave them the lead after just three minutes. On this occasion, however, the door was not bolted successfully behind the Inter defence as Brungs equalised on 24 minutes and then struck again just four minutes later to give the German side the lead. Then, with half-time just moments away, Inter drew level again as Corso made it 2-2. With no further goals being scored in the second half, the two sides met again in Milan a fortnight later with the scores even. There were no goals before the interval at the San Siro but, roared on by the fanatical, flag waving tifosi, the Italians were roared on to victory as first Mazzola and then Jair found the net to clinch the tie. Later there were allegations of Inter offering inducements to the referee, but the fact remained that it was Internazionale who would go into the final.
Borussia Dortmund v Internazionale
The Final would present the Real Madrid veterans like Di Stefano, Puskas and Gento with the chance to show that they were still capable of succeeding at the highest level. Despite reaching the Final yet again, many viewed them as an ailing power with ageing players. Becoming European Champions once more would certainly put paid to such charges, but they would have to do that against one of the most formidable back lines in history. In Tarcisio Burgnich, Aristide Guarneri, Armando Picchi and Giacinto Facchetti, Inter possessed a defensive foursome that had already frustrated the best teams in Italy and was now doing the same to the cream of Europe. The star of the Inter defence was undoubtedly Facchetti. Herrera spotted the young defender early on in his managerial reign and quickly promoted him to the first team. The coach later recalled: ‘I could see that this big tall player with an eye for goal was ideal for the left back slot.’ Facchetti was the prototype wing back as he surged forward and scored a remarkable number of goals. Considering that Italian football was, at that time, at its most defensive and that Internazionale were the masters of negative football, Facchetti’s 60 Serie A goals are mightily impressive. Goal scoring, however, was not Facchetti’s priority, that was the job of Sandro Mazzola. Mazzola was carrying on a family footballing tradition. His father Valentino had been tragically killed in the 1949 Superga air crash which wiped out the famous Torino team of the 1940’s. Mazzola senior had been the star of that Torino team and now, despite losing his father so tragically, Sandro had worked his way to assuming a similar mantle for another great Italian club side as he scored the goals that his team-mates could defend.
The Final was held in Vienna, which provided the fanatical Inter supporters the opportunity to travel in their thousands to the game. For the first time in European Cup history there was a mass movement of fans from one country to another as the Inter hordes descended on Austria. A crowd of over 70,000 with many thousands of them from Italy, crammed into the Praterstadion to see if the attacking maestro’s of Madrid could outfox the young catenaccio kings from Milan on the biggest stage of all.
The match itself proved to be the end of an era as Inter powered their way to the European title. Despite their defeat, Real Madrid would return as a force in Europe’s major club competition, but the two men who had been so instrumental in the clubs success would never be seen in a European final again. Up against the dynamic efficiency of the Italian champions, Puskas and Di Stefano were no longer able to compete. Puskas found himself stranded up front, now totally reliant on the service from his team-mates, while Di Stefano was shackled by the Italian man markers and merely flitted in and out of the game. With Suarez running the midfield, Inter not only stifled their opponents, but also managed to puncture Real’s defence on three occasions through Mazzola on 43 and 76 minutes, and Milani on the hour. When Real did get forward they came up against a tight and ruthlessly marshalled defence which gave them little hope of success. Felo did score acrobatically from a Puskas corner on 70 minutes and the great Hungarian did strike a post, but Inter’s triumph was never seriously in doubt. Real’s defeat brought to an end the glorious era of Puskas and Di Stefano. These two greats had dominated the early years of the European Cup and had appeared, on occasion, to win games for Real Madrid on their own. The high point of their careers had almost certainly been that incredible Glasgow night when they tore Eintracht Frankfurt apart and scored all seven goals between them, but there had been many, many more games that would live long in the memory for the genius that they had shown on the football pitch. Now, their days of competing in European Finals was at an end, but they would go down in history as two of the most influential players in the history of the competition.
But what a bitter sweet night it must have been in Barcelona. On the one hand, Barca’s greatest rivals were humbled on the biggest stage and their two legends, Ferenc Puskas and the man who they had come so close to signing, Alfredo Di Stefano, were finally shown to be unable to compete with the best in Europe. But on the other hand, Inter’s triumph was masterminded by Helenio Herrera the man they had hounded out after a European Cup defeat, and the man of the match was their old hero Luis Suarez who had followed his coach to the San Siro. Many drinkers in the bars around the Nou Camp must have wondered about what might have been. But the cup was not going to Barcelona, it was headed back to the San Siro in Milan. This time, however, it belonged to Internazionale – the first team to win the European Cup without losing a game - and it was going to prove as difficult to wrench the trophy from their grasp as it was to get behind their door bolt of a defence.
1964 European Cup Final (Vienna)
Internazionale 3 Real Madrid 1
Internazionale: Sarti, Burgnich, Guameri, Picchi (capt), Facchetti, Tagnin, Suarez, Corso, Jair, Mazzola, Milani
Scorers: Mazzola 2, Milani
Real Madrid: Vicente, Isidro, Santamaria, Zoco, Pachin, Felo, Muller, Amancio, Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento (capt)
1963/64 European Cup Highlights (in Italian)
You can find details of all the results, dates and scorers on the RSSSF website here.