Remembering the 1964 European Cup final

BY Steven Scragg

15th Jun 2023 Sport

Remembering the 1964 European Cup final

With Manchester City having recently won the Champions League final against Inter Milan, Steven Scragg looks back at football's 1964 European Cup final, which was more successful for Inter when they became champions by defeating Real Madrid, in an extract from his book The Undisputed Champions of Europe

With their recent, long-awaited victory in the Champions League, Manchester became the second city with multiple European Cup winners—Manchester City and Manchester United. Up until this final in Istanbul, the only other city with that claim was Milan, with both this year’s runners-up Inter Milan and AC Milan having both raised the European Cup over the years.

Despite falling at the last stage, here’s a look back at when Inter Milan enjoyed their first European Cup success, winning the cup in 1964, in an excerpt from Steven Scragg’s book, The Undisputed Champions of Europe out now on Pitch Publishing.

A rising force

At the culmination of what was their debut European Cup campaign, Helenio Herrera’s Internazionale walked out at the Praterstadion in Vienna to contest the 1964 European Cup Final against the fearsome five-times winners, Real Madrid.

"In the Austrian capital, it was Real Madrid who possessed most of the experience in what was their 60th game in the European Cup"

In the Austrian capital, it was Miguel Muñoz’s Madrid who possessed most of the experience in what was their 60th game in the European Cup, compared to an Inter side taking to the pitch for just their ninth appearance in the tournament. Added to this, it was to be Alfredo Di Stéfano’s last game in a Madrid shirt, but it was not to be a winning finale to his time with Los Blancos.

The son of an eternal legend

Inter Milan player Sandro Mazzola in 1971
Sandro Mazzola, who scored twice for Inter in the 1964 European Cup final, photographed here in 1971. Credit: Panini

There was a marvellous symbiosis at play in the 1964 final. Not only was it the last appearance of Di Stéfano, but it was also a game that marked the validation of Sandro Mazzola, a player blessed, cursed, and damned to be the son of the eternal figure that was Valentino Mazzola.

Valentino had been part of the legendary Grande Torino side, the Turin giants who had dominated the Italian game throughout the 1940s, a true superstar who had tragically been one of the victims that perished at the Basilica of Superga in May 1949, when all on board their flight home from a friendly against Benfica were killed after the plane they were travelling in crashed into a retaining wall at the back of the Basilica, having drifted badly off course amid a low-lying mist, and strong winds.

Cruel comparisons

Forever compared to his gifted father, the young Sandro was often dismissed as being a pale shadow of the player Valentino had been. It was cruel to put such pressure on a player of increasing potent, but more than that, it must have been devastating at times to have the spectre of the father he lost at the age of six used as a tool to measure his own burgeoning talents.

"It must have been devastating for Sandro Mazzola to have the father he lost at the age of six used to measure his own talents"

Left within the slipstream of the meteoric rise of AC Milan’s Gianni Rivera, it wasn’t until the 1962/63 season that Sandro claimed a regular place in Herrera’s plans. By then, Rivera already had the first of four World Cups under his belt, to go alongside Serie A and European Cup winners’ medals.

Making his own mark

Inter Milan team in 1964Mazzola in the Inter Milan team in 1964 (crouched, second from right). Credit: World Soccer from Wikimedia Commons

Mazzola would soon make up ground on his rival, however, and while Rivera was helping Milan to glory in the 1963 European Cup Final, Mazzola’s ten goals in 23 games went a long way in helping Inter wrestle the Serie A title from their great rivals. Before the season had come to an end, Mazzola had also broken into the national team.

At the 1964 European Cup Final, Mazzola blew away any remaining doubts over his right to be playing his football on such an elevated stage. The scorer of two goals, the first and the last of the contest, Mazzola’s strikes were scene-stealers. His first broke a tense deadlock and his second ended Madrid’s hopes of clawing their way back into the game.

Creating his own legend

1964 European Cup final match programme
1964 European Cup match programme. Credit: UEFA

Catching Madrid off guard with his opening goal, there was only two minutes of the first half remaining when Aristide Guarneri played a beautiful diagonal ball out of the Inter defence, which was collected by the overlapping Giacinto Facchetti on the left-hand side of the pitch.

"Mazzola's first goal for Inter Milan broke a deadlock and his second ended Madrid’s hopes of clawing their way back into the game"

Wonderfully controlled, the ball was rolled the short distance to Mazzola, who was positioned just to the left of the D on the edge of the Madrid penalty area, from where he took two touches to adjust his trajectory, before dispatching it beyond a stunned José Vicente.

Just beyond the hour, Vicente was beaten once again, this time in self-inflicted circumstances by Aurelio Milani, a goal in which Mazzola was again involved, yet ten minutes later Madrid reduced the arrears when Felo planted the ball into Sarti’s top-right corner with a spectacular scissor kick.

A nerveless response

It was here that Inter’s nerve was tested, but within five minutes they had re-established their two-goal lead, when this time Milani was the provider for Mazzola, with a looped ball forward that left Vicente badly exposed to the ruthless number eight.

Deflated, Madrid didn’t have the strength to rise again and Inter were crowned champions of Europe for the first time, in turn making Milan the first city to boast more than one team to have won the European Cup.

The Undisputed Champions of Europe book cover

The Undisputed Champions of Europe by Steven Scragg is out now through Pitch Publishing

Banner credit: Inter Milan team from the 1964-5 season, unknown photographer from Wikimedia Commons

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