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Football World Cup - 1966: England

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The World Cup: An Introduction | 1930: Uruguay | 1934: Italy | 1938: France | 1950: Brazil
1954: Switzerland | 1958: Sweden | 1962: Chile | 1966: England | 1970: Mexico
1974: West Germany | 1978: Argentina | 1982: Spain | 1986: Mexico | 1990: Italy | 1994: USA
1998: France | 2002: Japan and South Korea

The 1966 World Cup caused some bitter disagreements before a ball had been kicked in anger. Sixteen African nations boycotted the tournament in protest against a 1964 FIFA ruling that required the champion team from the African zone to play off against the winners of either the Asian or the Oceania zone in order to win a place at the finals. The Africans felt that winning their zone should have been enough in itself to merit qualification for the finals.

Despite the Africans' absence, there was another new record number of entries for the qualifying tournament, with 70 nations taking part. After all the arguments, FIFA finally ruled that ten teams from Europe would qualify, along with four from South America, one from Asia and one from North and Central America.

The Tournament

The group stage of the 1966 finals produced two big surprises. The first was the elimination of Brazil, winners of the previous two tournaments. Their downfall was largely due to some severly over-physical play from their opponents. Pelé was particularly targeted. He was injured in the Brazilians' 2-0 win over Bulgaria, and missed their 3-1 defeat at the hands of Hungary. He returned for Brazil's final group game, against Portugal, but again ended up being carried off. Brazil lost 3-1 to Portugal, and were eliminated. Pelé was so disgusted at the treatment he received that he vowed never to take part in international football again. Fortunately for Brazil, and for football fans everywhere, he changed his mind in time for the 1970 World Cup finals.

Portugal appeared in the finals for the first time, and made quite an impact. They won all three of their games in the group stage, with a lot of help from their outstanding striker Eusebio, whose nine goals made him the tournament's top scorer.

The other big surprise came when Italy were eliminated by the unknowns of North Korea. Pak Doo Ik wrote his name into World Cup history by scoring the only goal of North Korea and Italy's decisive group game.

Meanwhile, England comfortably progressed to the quarter-finals without conceding a goal. France and Mexico were both beaten 2-0, while Uruguay held the hosts to a 0-0 draw.

The two surprise teams from the first stage met in a sensational quarter-final. Pak Seung Zin put North Korea ahead in the first minute of the game, and after 25 minutes the Koreans led 3-0. But Portugal then staged a storming comeback. Four goals from Eusebio helped the Portuguese to a dramatic 5-3 victory.

England were involved in an ugly encounter with Argentina, during which Argentina's Antonio Rattin was sent off. A single strike from Geoff Hurst was enough to see England through to the semi-finals, but the win didn't assuage the anger of Alf Ramsey, the England manager. Ramsey was so incensed by the Argentines' tackles and tactics that he raced on to the pitch at the end of the game to prevent England players from swapping shirts with the Argentines. Ramsey subsequently sparked a row by describing the Argentine players as 'animals' during a post-match press conference.

The semi-finals were relatively uneventful. England finally conceded a goal when Eusebio converted a penalty, but they still beat Portugal 2-1 thanks to two goals from Bobby Charlton. West Germany overcame the Soviet Union by the same scoreline.

In the 12th minute of the final, Helmut Haller scored to put England behind for the first time in the tournament. But Geoff Hurst equalised six minutes later, and then Martin Peters put England ahead with 12 minutes remaining. Peters' goal looked likely to be the winner - but then, with the home nation getting ready to celebrate, Wolfgang Weber scored an 89th minute equaliser to send the game into extra time.

In the 11th minute of extra time, Hurst scored perhaps the most controversial goal in football history. His sharply rising shot hit the underside of the crossbar, and bounced down and then out - but did the ball cross the line? Despite endless analysis of film footage, the question has never really been resolved. But what mattered was that Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst awarded the goal after consulting his Russian assistant Tofik Bakhramov. England led 3-2.

In the circumstances, it was just as well that Hurst scored again to conplete his hat-trick - the only one ever scored in a World Cup Final - and confirm England's victory. Hurst burst through the German defence in the last minute, just as a few over-excited fans ran on to the pitch at the other end. As Hurst scored, BBC TV commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme uttered the immortal words: 'Some people are on the pitch. They think it's all over... It is now!'

He was right. English football's finest hour had arrived. England had won the World Cup by four goals to two.

Tournament Trivia

Before the 1966 World Cup finals, the Jules Rimet Cup was stolen whilst on display in London. A few days later, it was found wrapped in newspaper under a bush in a suburban garden in south London by a dog named Pickles. How the trophy got there has never been explained.

For The Record

Group 1
  P W D L F A Pts
England 3210405

Group 2
  P W D L F A Pts
West Germany 3210715

Group 3
  P W D L F A Pts
Portugal 3300926

Group 4
  P W D L F A Pts
Soviet Union 3300616
North Korea3111243

Soviet Union 2 : 1 Hungary

West Germany 4 : 0 Uruguay

Portugal 5 : 3 North Korea

England 1 : 0 Argentina

West Germany 2 : 1 Soviet Union

England 2 : 1 Portugal

Third Place Play-Off
Portugal 2 : 1 Soviet Union

England 4 : 2 West Germany after extra time

Tournament Top Goalscorer
Eusebio (Portugal) - 9 goals

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