The 1964 European Championship again not have the participation of either Germany or Italy, although England entered, only to be eliminated in the first round of the knock-out round. The tournament had no seeding, which led to Denmark making it to the semifinals, after defeating Malta, Albania and Luxembourg. The latter had been the sensation of the tournament when they eliminated the Netherlands, and were only defeated 0-1 by Denmark in third re-match.
The final tournament was to take place in Spain, who four years before had withdrawn from the tournament when refusing the play the latter champions of the USSR. This time, the USSR, having defeated Italy and Sweden on the way, had come to Spain to defend their title, and started by crushing Denmark 3-0 and making it to the final. The Spanish home side had defeated Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to make it to the final four, where they met Hungary. It was only after a nerve-wrecking extra time that Spain scored the winner, and made it to the final.
At home in Madrid, with the Dictator General Francisco Franco watching with 80,000 other spectators, Spain would not forfeit.
The dominating force in Spanish football throughout the 1950 had been Real Madrid. Between 1956 the team had won all the European Cup titles and led by the legendary Alfredo di Stefano, it was surely the best team in the world. Di Stefano had played for Argentina, Colombia, and finally Spain, but had retired from national teams in 1961. In the team of 1964 there was only one Real Madrid player though, namely the right winger Amancio, who is still one of the legends of Real Madrid. Otherwise, the team was a good mixture of players from different teams: On goal Athletic Bilbao's Jose Iribar. In defense Atletico Madrid's Feliciano Rivillo along the team captain Ferran Olivella from FC Barcelona. On midfield another Barcelona man, Jesus Pereda, was one of the team's leading players. In attack two Zaragoza strikers, Marcelino and Carlos Lepetra were supplemented by the superb Inter Milan playmaker Luis Suarez, who in 1960 had won the Balon d'Or (the only Spaniard to have won it).
A solid and elegant team that would be facing the physically strong defending champions. On goal the USSR still had the greatest goalkeeper in the world, Lev Yashin. In defense the team had two of the best defenders in the world at the time, Torpedo Moscow's Valery Voronin and the legenday CSKA Moscow defender Albert Shesterynov. The team was captained by the veteran striker Valentina Ivanov from Torpedo Moscow, while in attack Viktor Ponedelnik, who had scored the winning goal in the 1960 final, supported Spartak Moscow's Galimzyan Khusainov and Alexey Korneev.
Spain had to win, and the team started with putting pressure on the Soviets. Only 6 minutes into the match a cross by Luis Suarez hit the leg of the Dynamo Moscow defender Edouard Mudrik and the ball landed at the feet of Pereda, who hammered the ball into the net. But the Spanish delight lasted only a couple of minutes when Khusainov received a perfect pass and slid the ball under Iribar, who looked a bit passive in the situation.
The match then became a tactical match where the technically superior Spaniards were trying in vain to open the strong Soviet defense, while not letting themselves be caught in the patient Soviet counterattacks. Shesterynov had many close encounters in his direct duel with Marcelino, one of the most interesting themes in an intense match.
Only in the 84th minutes did Spain get relief.
Pereda elegantly got around a Soviet defender on the right side and his cross went to Marcelino, who had gotten a meter away from Shesterynov. It was a difficult ball as it came down a bit behind him and low, but Marcelino elegantly got his head around and headed the ball hard and low towards the near post. To many it looked as if it had gone around the goal. But it was a beautiful goal enough to give Spain the title.
Due to the circumstances the title was not regarded highly by many pundits, and it remained Spain's only international title until they finally broke through to become a footballing superpower in 2008.
Madrid, 21st June 1964,
Refree: Arthur Edward Ellis, England
Spain: José Ángel Iribar; Feliciano Rivilla; Ferran Olivella (c), Isacio Calleja, Ignacio Zoco, Josep Maria Fusté, Amancio Amaro, Jesús María Pereda, Marcelino, Luis Suárez, Carlos Lapetra. Coach: Jose Villalonga
USSR: Lev Yashin; Valery Voronin, Albert Shesternyov, Eduard Mudrik, Viktor Shustikov, Viktor Ponedelnik, Igor Chislenko, Valentin Ivanov (c), Viktor Anichkin, Aleksei Korneev, Galimzyan Khusainov. Coach: Konstantin Beskov
1-0 Pereda (6)
1-1 Khusainov (8)
2-1 Marcelino (84)