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Italian legend Riva hoping Azzuri can break Euro jinx

SoccerNews in European Championships, Ligue 1, Serie A 16 Jun 2008

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Italy's all-time top-scorer Luigi Riva, whose goals helped claim their last European Championships title in 1968, wants the Azzurri to break their Euro jinx by beating France on Tuesday.

Having scored Italy's opening goal four decades ago as a 23-year-old in their 2-0 win over Yugoslavia in the re-played final at Rome's Olympic Stadium, Riva is now the chief delegate for the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).

Since 1968, Italy have failed to win another European crown and the world champions were hammered 3-0 by the Netherlands on June 9 to begin their Euro 2008 campaign in dismal fashion.

But Riva is hoping the Azzurri win the repeat of the 2006 World Cup final here to reach the quarter-finals and get their tournament back on track.

“It seems as though the European Championship is jinxed for us,” said the 63-year-old, who scored 35 goals for his country from 1965-1974.

“In Portugal in 2004 we were knocked out in the final group game because Sweden and Denmark drew 2-2 in their final match in the pool.

“Also, in 1996, we drew with Germany who went on to win the competition.

“It was a good result but, because the Czech Republic scored in the last minute against Russia, we went out.

“So you could say we haven't been very lucky.

“Hopefully, history won't repeat itself. Each major tournament unfolds in its own way.”

Riva was in Zurich last Friday to see Italy hold Group C rivals Romania to a 1-1 draw after Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon saved Adrian Mutu's penalty with nine minutes remaining to keep the world champions' Euro dream alive.

“If Romania had scored their penalty against us, we'd all be going home, so perhaps that means we are not yet done this time and we can still have our say,” he said.

“Italy were really up against it after the Netherlands loss and we had to prove we could rediscover our character and concentration.

“We gave everything, played a great match and found our form again.

“So now we believe we can go through, even though France, who have become our traditional rivals it seems, will be a difficult game.”

Riva says he has fond memories of the triumph on home soil in 1968.

Back then, he returned from injury to score the opener in the 2-0 win against Yugoslavia and the memories are as fresh as ever.

“I have great memories of that match because I was very young at the time,” said the ex-Cagliari forward.

“It was the first wonderful emotion I experienced as a footballer.

“And looking back I realise I have not forgotten a single thing about that fantastic evening, when we beat Yugoslavia in the final.

“The European Championship was the best trophy I won as a player.”

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