Tales from an author

#World Cup1966 – 50 years ago

50 years ago today England beat Portugal 2-1 in a World Cup Semi Final. Four days ahead of the anniversary of England subsequently winning the 1966 World Cup Final, here is a short review of the tournament – taken from my latest book.

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The World Cup finals moved to England, a country that had given football to the world, but initially ignored its major competition. In March 1966, the World Cup trophy was stolen when it was put on display in London. It was retrieved a week later, found by a dog named Pickles, being taken for a walk by his owner. England’s manager, Alf Ramsey (who had played in the 1950 finals), modernised the organisation of the team, and initiated a 4-4-2 formation, relying on strength in midfield, rather than numbers in attack. England began with a goalless draw against Uruguay, followed by unconvincing victories over Mexico and France.

Brazil, fielding an ageing team, started with a 2-0 win against Bulgaria, in which Pele scored, but persistent physical challenges by the opposition left him injured. This caused Pele to miss the next game, in which Brazil were beaten 3-1 by Hungary. Brazil lost by the same scoreline against Portugal, causing their elimination from the tournament, with Pele suffering a brutal double foul by Morais, which left him as a passenger. Understandably aggrieved, Pele threatened not to play in the next World Cup. The biggest shock of the tournament saw Italy being eliminated by a 1-0 defeat against North Korea, the goalscorer being Pak Doo Ik (July 19, Middlesbrough). The North Koreans, who had never entered the World Cup before, advanced to the last eight. West Germany beat Switzerland 5-0 in their first match, drew 0-0 with Argentina in a bad-tempered encounter, and came from behind to beat Spain 2-1.

In the Quarter Finals, England struggled to a single goal victory over Argentina, with a goal from Geoff Hurst (July 23, Wembley). It was a bruising match, in which Argentina’s captain, Antonio Rattin, was sent off, and refused to leave the pitch for several minutes. Uruguay had two players sent off as they crashed 4-0 against West Germany. North Korea built up a 3-0 lead against Portugal within 25 minutes, but the Portuguese recovered to win 5-3, led by Eusebio, who scored four times in this game – he was to become the tournament’s leading scorer, with nine goals. The Soviet Union defeated Hungary 2-1, before losing by the same score to West Germany in the first Semi Final. A day later, England defeated Portugal 2-1, with a brace of goals from Bobby Charlton.

England and West Germany met in a match that stands, half a century later, as the best ever World Cup Final. The fortunes of each team alternated along with the weather – which mixed sunshine with showers – in a display of sparkling football, drama, controversy, and goals. This took place before a crowd of 93,000 people at Wembley Stadium, on Saturday July 30 – the anniversary of Uruguay’s 4-2 win against Argentina in the first Final, back in 1930. England retained the team which beat Argentina and Portugal. Jimmy Greaves, a prolific goalscorer who missed those matches due to injury, was fit again, but Alf Ramsey decided against changing a winning team.

West Germany took the lead after 12 minutes, with a goal from Helmut Haller, who swept the ball past Gordon Banks. Six minutes later Bobby Moore, having been fouled on the left wing by Wolfgang Overath, chipped a quick free kick into the opposition penalty area, and Geoff Hurst met the ball with a firm header, past the static Hans Tilkowski, to equalise.

After the interval, England controlled the play for a sustained spell, but failed to take advantage of numerous attempts on goal. With 12 minutes remaining, Alan Ball’s corner from the right was only headed by Wolfgang Weber, a German defender, as far as Hurst, standing just outside the penalty area. Hurst’s shot deflected off Horst Hottges into the path of Martin Peters, who scored with a decisive strike, to give England the lead. In the final minute, West Germany scored a contentious equaliser. Jack Charlton, the brother of Bobby, challenged Held, and had a free kick dubiously awarded against him, by Gottfried Dienst, the referee from Switzerland. Emmerich’s shot deflected off George Cohen, in the defensive wall, and the ball travelled into the crowded penalty area. Held crossed from the left, and the ball hit Karl-Heinz Schnellinger on the arm, as it flew across the goalmouth, before falling into the path of Weber, who drove it into the net, past the despairing dive of Gordon Banks. England had appealed for handball against Schnellinger, and a linesman momentarily signalled for this, before changing his mind. Dienst blew the final whistle just seconds after England restarted play. With the score level at 2-2, extra time was required.

Ramsey inspired further effort from the England team, declaring “You won it once, now you must win it again”, and remarking the Germans looked tired. After 100 minutes, Nobby Stiles provided a fine pass to Ball on the right wing, he in turn crossed to Hurst, who controlled and hit a powerful shot, whereupon the ball flew past Tilkowski, and crashed against the underside of the crossbar, before dropping and bouncing towards Weber, who headed it over the bar, presuming that the ball had not crossed the line, while the England players claimed a goal. After consulting with a linesman, Tofik Bakhramov, from the Soviet Union, Dienst awarded England a goal. The German players briefly disputed the decision, without success. The debate as to whether all of the ball crossed all of the line has continued ever since, with the balance of filmed evidence strongly suggesting that it did not.

West Germany battled for an equaliser during the second period of extra time, but England held firm. In the last minute, Bobby Moore sent a long pass out of defence to Hurst, with some jubilant England supporters on the pitch, thinking the match was already over. Hurst ran into the German penalty area, and drove the ball into the roof of the net – he remains the only player to score a hat trick in a World Cup Final – and England had won 4-2.

After a hesitant start, England had won the competition, fulfilling a prediction made by Ramsey upon his appointment, and Moore collected the Jules Rimet Trophy from Queen Elizabeth II. England had a title to match its claims of international leadership, and the World Cup had finally come to the home of football.

Group 1

England 0 Uruguay 0

France 1 Mexico 1

France 1 Uruguay 2

England 2 Mexico 0

Mexico 0 Uruguay 0

England 2 France 0

Group 2

Switzerland 0 West Germany 5

Argentina 2 Spain 1

Spain 2 Switzerland 1

Argentina 0 West Germany 0

Argentina 2 Switzerland 0

West Germany 2 Spain 1

Group 3

Brazil 2 Bulgaria 0

Hungary 1 Portugal 3

Brazil 1 Hungary 3

Bulgaria 0 Portugal 3

Brazil 1 Portugal 3

Bulgaria 1 Hungary 3

Group 4

North Korea 0 Soviet Union 3

Chile 0 Italy 2

Chile 1 North Korea 1

Italy 0 Soviet Union 1

Italy 0 North Korea 1

Chile 1 Soviet Union 2

Quarter Finals

Argentina 0 England 1

Hungary 1 Soviet Union 2

North Korea 3 Portugal 5

Uruguay 0 West Germany 4

Semi Finals

Soviet Union 1 West Germany 2

England 2 Portugal 1

Third Place Match

Portugal 2 Soviet Union 1

Final July 30, Wembley

England 4 West Germany 2 After Extra Time




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