World Cup 1966

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  • Story of England '66

        Finally it was England's turn to host the World Cup - sixteen years after taking part for the first time. Coach Alf Ramsey had a great generation of players in their prime age at his disposal; Banks, Moore, the Charltons, Greaves, Hurst and Hunt. Quarterfinalists in Chile 1962, Ramsay was confident his team would do better on home soil and boldly predicted his men would win the trophy. That trophy - the Jules Rimet Cup - caused a lot of drama months before kick-off in the tournament. It was stolen at an exhibition at Westminster's Central Hall in March. Due to its unique and not easily copied design, the organizers feared they would have no cup to hand out to the winners, but a dog named Pickles sorted out all problems when he sniffed around some bushes in Norwood, South London and found the trophy wrapped in newspaper just a week after the theft.

        Apart from the trophy hiccup, England staged a flawless tournament from an organizing point of view. England had few problems getting through from their first round group, although some people were critical after the goalless opening match against Uruguay. The teams in Group A (Uruguay, France and Mexico) did not push Ramsey's men to the limit of their capabilities, but things would be different in the quarterfinals. Uruguay followed the hosts to the knock-out stage. Mexico's goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal appeared in a record fifth World Cup and bowed out in style on Wembley keeping a clean sheet against Uruguay - his only clean sheet in his World Cup career.

        Group B was tough with West Germany, Argentina, Spain and Switzerland. The Germans had an aspiring young midfielder called Franz Beckenbauer who played superb in the early stages of the tournament. He scored two when Switzerland were beaten 5-0 in the first game. Argentina went through alongside West Germany, but their violent style, particularly in the goalless encounter against the Germans, forced FIFA to caution the whole team. With players like Rattin, Artime and Onega, Argentina were capable of much more than rough play. Reigning European champions, Spain, with loads of ageing stars like Gento, Suarez and Del Sol failed to reach old standards and finished third.

        Before the World Cup most people envied people on Merseyside who got to host the Brazilian team in all their first round games plus a likely quarterfinal if groupwinners. Everything went according to plan in Group C when Pelé and Garrincha knocked in a free-kick each to bag a 2-0 win against Bulgaria in the opening match. But the 1958 and 1962 world champions then faced problems against Hungary and lost 3-1. Pelé missed the game through injury. Florian Albert and Ferenc Bene stole the show and were the stars of this Hungarian team who surprised many.

        Still they were both overshadowed by a star-player from a country making their World Cup debut in 1966 - Eusebio from Portugal. He led the attack of a team which also featured great names like Torres, Augusto, Simoes and Coluña. Portugal won all their first round matches and put the final nail in Brazil's coffin when beating them 3-1 on the last matchday of the groupstage. Brazil's elimination was a huge upset and it meant the end of the national team careers of such great names as Garrincha, Bellini and Orlando.

        Huge upsets were to follow in Group D. The Soviet Union - just like Portugal - came through the first round stage with three wins. The Russians had a solid team with Yashin, Shesterniev and Porkuyan. They easily brushed aside debutants North Korea 3-0 in the first match, but the underrated Asians came back in the second game stealing a point from Chile seconds before the end before achieving their historic 1-0 win against Italy. It ranks up there among the greatest shocks in World Cup history. North Korea - with the youngest team in the finals - found themselves in the quarterfinals at the expense of twice winners Italy.

        In the quarterfinals the Koreans continued where they left off against Italy - shocking the world. 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 against Portugal halfway through the first half, but then the tide turned, Eusebio scored four goals and Portugal won 5-3 in the end. It remains the only time in World Cup history a team has come from three goals down to win.

        West Germany beat Uruguay 4-0 in their quarterfinal, but the South Americans had two players sent off early in the second half which made the scoreline look a bit more impressive than the performance really was. Still, nobody could deny the obvious quality of players such as Haller, Overath, Held, Seeler and Kaiser Franz. The Soviet Union put an end to Hungary's adventure with a display of solid defence particularly in the second half and thereby secured themselves a first ever semifinal place.

        England played most of their match against Argentina one man up after Rattin's much-talked-about dismissal. It took the Argentina captain nearly ten minutes to leave the field having had a running argument with the referee for much of the first half. Even the police entered the field to control the emotions of players who did not understand what was going on. England coach Ramsey refused his players to exchange shirts after the match with the Argentinians whom he described as "animals". Geoff Hurst headed home a cross 12 minutes from time to the relief of a packed Wembley who could look forward to a semifinal with Portugal.

        That semifinal was perhaps Bobby Charlton's best game in an England shirt. The Manchester United star scored both goals in the 2-1 win over the tournament's most exciting team. Eusebio scored on a late penalty - it was England's first goal conceded in the finals. West Germany beat the Soviets 2-1 in the other semifinal. Beckenbauer scored a wonderful goal from long range past Yashin who seemed to misjudge the ball's direction. Yashin would have to pick out two more balls from his net in the consolation final against Portugal. Eusebio scored his ninth goal of the finals which made him topscorer - three more than West Germany's Haller - and also secured his country bronze medals.

        The 1966 World Cup Final saw Alf Ramsey's prediction come true. His team triumphed at Wembley. Geoff Hurst scored the first (and only so far) hat-trick in a final game. His second, the much debated "did the ball cross the line?" and the third in the dying seconds "some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over....It is now!" are both World Cup classics. Of course the match also featured a late German come-back, but Hurst's two goals in extra-time sealed the win for England in a tournament which generally grew in quality and entertainment as it progressed.




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