England 1966 World Cup

For the first time in the competition’s thirty six year history, football returned home as England was granted the right to host the eighth FIFA World Cup.  The hero of the World Cup wasn’t a player as one might expect but a small dog called Pickles.  Before the tournament began, the Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen from an Exhibition in London.  After a nation wide search, it was Pickles who stumbled across the trophy as he sniffed at some newspapers.

This was the first World Cup where the draw for the group stages was televised and also the first World Cup to feature a mascot, as World Cup Willie became the first of a succession of national mascots commissioned specially for the competition.  The format was once again unchanged as it had proved successful in the previous two events.  Brazil went into the tournament as one of the favourites on the back of two successive wins and was attempting to win an unprecedented third.  Sadly, the tournament in England was a World Cup with few goals as teams adopted a more defensive strategy with tactics coming evermore to the fore.  This would benefit England under the leadership of Alf Ramsey but less so the more expressive and expansive Brazilians.

Brazil was drawn in a group with Portugal, Bulgaria and Hungary and once again their players were subjected to treatment by their less illustrious opponents which amounted to little more than savage thuggery.  Despite this approach, the defending champions got their campaign underway with victory against Bulgaria at Everton’s Goodison Park with goals from Pele and Garrincha.  This was as good as it got for the boys from Brazil as they suffered defeats to both Hungary and Portugal to be eliminated at only the group stage.

Host nation England were joined in the quarter finals by Argentina, the USSR, Portugal, West Germany, Uruguay, Hungary and most notably North Korea who had created one of the shocks of the tournament by eliminating Italy in the group stages thanks to a solitary goal by Pak Doo-Ik.  The hosts were drawn to play Argentina in a game that began the long standing rivalry between the two nations.  Argentine player Antonio Rattin became the first player to be sent off in an International match at Wembley.  The referee claimed he sent the player off because of “the way he looked at me.” Rattin at first refused to leave the pitch and eventually had to be escorted from the field by policemen.  The behaviour of the Argentine didn’t go down well with the English public and after the game England coach did his bit for International relations by labeling the South Americans as “animals”, a quote that unsurprisingly was received with ill feeling in Buenos Aries.  The Argentineans would have to wait until 1986 for revenge.  The English eventually overcame their numerically challenged opponents with a solitary Geoff Hurst strike. 

England was paired with Portugal in the semifinals who had overcome a resolute North Korean outfit by five goals to three.  The Iberian side was spearheaded by the legendary Eusebio who scored four against the Asian side.  The Mozambique born striker was on his way to a goal tally of nine for the tournament and the Golden Boot.  The other semifinal featured West Germany, who had defeated Uruguay by four goals to nil, and the USSR who had overcome Hungary.   Controversy was once again at the forefront as the semifinal was moved from Liverpool to Wembley, to the obvious benefit of England and Eusebio alone had four goals incorrectly ruled as offside.  A brace from Bobby Charlton was enough to see England through to a final meeting with West Germany despite a later penalty from Eusebio.

The final took place at Wembley as almost 100,000 people packed into the famous old ground.  In one of the most enthralling and memorable finals in the World Cup final it was England that emerged triumphant by four goals two, thanks to a hat trick from Geoff Hurst, which remains to this day the only final hat trick.  The game will always be remembered for its controversial fifth goal.  The West Germans took an early lead but England hit back through Hurst four minutes later.  Martin Peter’s strike in the 78th minute looked to have won it for England, but a defensive lapse allowed Wolfgang Weber to equalize in the last minute.  Into extra time and Hurst was awarded a second after “the Russian linesman”, Tokif Bakrhamov (he was actually Azerbaijani) deemed the ball had crossed the line after Hurst’s shot had struck the underside of the bar and bounced towards the goal.  The most controversial goal in the World Cup history, with the possible exception of the “Hand of God” had given England a vital lead and as the Germans pushed forward for another equalizer, Hurst was allowed the freedom of Wembley as he ran onto Bobby Moores long ball forward to blast home his third, England’s fourth and give English commentator Ken Woolstenholme a chance to enter football folklore with the line “some people on the pitch.  They think it’s all over.  It is now!  It’s four, it’s four!”  England indeed did have a fourth and were crowned champions for the first time.


Matches: 32
Goals: 89 (average 2.8 per match)
Attendance: 1 635 000 (average 51 093)
Golden Boot Winner: Eusebio (Portugal) 9 goals

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