This is the seventh in a weekly series of World Cup history lessons brought to you by our very own “Professor” Guy Bailey. He is not actually a professor; the only professor on staff is Jamie Clary. Well, sort of.
The 1966 World Cup
England was awarded the 1966 World Cup Finals in 1960 in honor of the codation of rules – football finally came home.
Controversy reared its head before the tournament began when 16 African Nations boycotted the tournament. This was in protest at FIFA’s decision that required the Champion of the African Zone (so only one team from Africa to begin with) having to play off against the winners of the Asian or Oceania Zone.
1966 was also the first World Cup to have the truly modern scourge of the tournament – the official mascot. World Cup Willy was a cartoon Lion and quite charming, as the first of his breed but the true animal mascot of the competition would turn out to be a Jack Russell terrier called Pickles. The Jules Rimet Trophy was on public display at an Exhibition in London before the tournament and this being England, somebody nicked it. The World Cup. What did they plan to do with it? Stick it on the mantelpiece, use it as an ashtray and hope nobody would notice? The thieves must have got cold feet because they left it in some bushes in a nearby park, wrapped in newspapers where it was found by the foraging dog thus becoming the answer to trivia questions all over the country for time immemorial. This being England, a replica was also ordered in case such a disaster happened and this is the one on display at the National Football Museum in Preston.
The first group featured the hosts, France, Uruguay and Mexico and all the games were due to be played at Wembley Stadium – the iconic home of English Football. The curtain-raiser turned out to be a drab 0-0 draw between England and the stubborn Uruguayans and struggled to get past the dogged Mexicans in the second game before Bobby Charlton struck a superb 25 yard opener. England sealed qualification by beating France 2-0 in the final game. Uruguay joined England in qualifying by also beating France 2-1 at White City Stadium in West London. The game was played here because it clashed with the regular Friday night Greyhound racing fixture held at Wembley and the greyhound authorities refused to cancel the meeting.
Group Two saw West Germany begin in imperious form routing the Swiss 5-0 at Hillsborough, Sheffield. They went on to draw with Argentina before beating Spain 2-1 in the final game. The Argentines joined them after also beating the Spanish and the Swiss to go through to face the hosts in the Quarters.
Group Three saw the holders, Brazil begin with a 2-0 defeat of Bulgaria with man of the moment Pele scoring the first, the livewire Portuguese beat Hungary 3-1. This wasn’t the swashbuckling Hungarians of tournaments past however; they had had an infusion of steel which they unmercifully unleashed on Brazil in a shock 3-1 defeat, as famous for their strong-arm tactics and kicking Pele out of the match as the final score. Portugal continued their rise, beating Bulgaria and then sending the hosts home in their final group game 3-1 with Eusebio scoring twice to add to the one he got against Bulgaria. Hungary joined the Portuguese after seeing off the overwhelmed Bulgars.
Group Four was in the North East where cold hard industry and perspiration was always favored over artistry so it was fitting that the Soviet Union topped the group, beating their communist counterparts 3-0 at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough in the first game. The Latin duel at Sunderland was won 2-0 by the Italians over Chile who then drew 1-1 with the Koreans back at Middlesbrough. Italy lost 1-0 to the Soviets who sealed the group with a 2-1 victory over the Chileans. The scene was set for a winner-takes-all duel between the unfancied Koreans who had been adopted by the partisan Middlesbrough crowd, partly because they were the plucky underdogs but mainly because they played in red and the ever dangerous Italians who may have been unaware of Ayresome Park’s reputation as a graveyard of dreams – they weren’t 90 minutes later.
Italy began brightly and toyed with their opponents but didn’t get the breakthrough and seemed stunned when dentist Pak Doo Ik extracted maximum pain with an opener on 42 minutes. Spurred on by a crowd scenting blood, the Koreans penned the Italians back in the second half and realizing the desperation of their situation they attacked recklessly but buoyed on by the increasingly hysterical crowd, the Koreans held out. The result shocked the football world almost as much as England’s elimination at the hands of the Americans some 12 years earlier. Ayresome Park was demolished in 1995 after the club moved to the Riverside Stadium and a housing estate now stands on the location with streets named jauntily after vaguely footballing terms like the Midfield and the Turnstyle. A single bronze boot marks the spot where Pak Doo Ik struck his improbable winner which, whilst pleasing to see it commemorate, must be a bugger to mow around in the summer.
A large contingent from Middlesbrough followed their adopted team to Everton and were even more delighted when they took a 3-0 lead against the fancied Portuguese. Fitness and finesse took hold as they eventually equalized and finally overcame the underdogs 5-3 thanks to four goals from Eusebio, now dubbed the Black Pearl. West Germany contemptuously swept the Uruguayans aside 4-0, after the latter were reduced to nine men. The Soviet Union won the battle of the Iron Curtain, beating Hungary 2-1 at Sunderland and England overcame Argentina in a thoroughly bad-tempered, nasty encounter with a 1-0 victory, the goal coming from late substitute Geoff Hurst in the 78th minute after Argentine captain Ratin had been sent off, the first ever at Wembley for one of countless fouls. England manager Alf Ramsey called them “Animals” and refused to let his team swap shirts with them after the match, sowing the seeds of a rivalry that would return in a blaze of international publicity in the 1980s.
The first finalist was West Germany who overcame the Soviets 2-1. The second semi-final was a tight, cagey affair, with the crowd getting even more nervous, especially as England had to alter their gameplan to contain Eusebio. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and Bobby Charlton duly delivered twice with two trademark long range strikes. A nervy finale ensued with Eusebio netting a penalty and the golden boot into the bargain with nine in the tournament but the hosts had made it to the final, their first, where their old friends from the Axis – West Germany – were waiting for them.
The 1966 World Cup Final was held on a bright late summer’s day, July 30th and not at all according to plan as the Germans went in front through Haller on 12 minutes. Hurst equalized shortly after and West Ham teammate Martin Peters scored on 78 minutes. England were hanging on and amazingly, some people left with a minute to go to get their trains home, thus missing the heartbreaking spectacle of Weber poking home in a goalmouth scramble with less than 60 seconds remaining on the clock. A shattered England were roused by the manager with the inspiring speech: “You’ve won the World Cup once, now go and win it again!”
Extra time began cagily but after 11 minutes of extra time, Geoff Hurst’s dipping shot crashed against the crossbar and CLEARLY bounced over the line before being cleared, which was why team mate Peters began celebrating the goal instead of poking it over the line as he had the opportunity too – as you can see from the footage. Never gracious in defeat, the Germans demanded the referee consult with Azerbaijani linesman Tofik Bakhramov who bravely told the truth in the face of stiff German intimidation. It was only recently acknowledged that Tofik was an Azerbaijani as for years he was referred to casually as a Russian. Ask any Canadian if they enjoy being mistaken for Minnesotans for a comparison. Commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme sealed his own place in English folklore observing that despite the game still being in progress “Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over…IT IS NOW!” as Hurst steamed past Seeler and smashed the ball into the top corner to complete the only World Cup Final Hat Trick.
England became the first hosts to win the trophy since Italy in 1934 and the first team to have two brothers in the line-up, Jack and Bobby Charlton.
Guy Bailey is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.