From the Archives
Last season I wrote five articles marking the 50th anniversaries of West Ham United’s quarter-final, semi-final and final matches in the 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup winning campaign. Following on from Tony Hanna’s excellent first-hand account of life during the 1966 World Cup, this is the first of my three-part series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the knock-out stage matches of English football’s finest achievement.
England had progressed to the last eight of the tournament by virtue of an uninspiring goalless draw with Uruguay, a 2-0 victory over Mexico thanks to Bobby Charlton “belting the ball” and a tap-in from Roger Hunt while a double from Hunt secured a 2-0 win over France.
The quarter-final took place 50 years ago today, on Saturday 23rd July 1966 – a day also famous for the death of Hollywood actor Montgomery Clift at the age of 45. England’s opponents were Argentina in front of 90,584 at Wembley – the South Americans had reached the knock-out stages by beating Spain 2-1, drawing 0-0 with West Germany and beating Switzerland 2-0.
Alf Ramsey made two changes to the side that had beaten the French – Blackpool’s Alan Ball came in for Liverpool’s Ian Callaghan and West Ham United forward Geoff Hurst replaced the injured Jimmy Greaves of Tottenham. Ramsey resisted calls from FIFA and his own FA officials to omit Manchester United midfielder Nobby Stiles from his XI – Stiles, for whom the term ‘combative’ does not seem fully sufficient, had irked the top brass after a bad tackle on Frenchman Jacques Simon in the previous match. After a row between Ramsey and the FA, the manager spoke to Stiles to discover if there had been any intent to injure Simon in the tackle. Stiles assured his boss that there had not and that was good enough for Alf, who duly went to the FA Senior International Committee and informed them that they could have his resignation if Stiles was not permitted to play.
Argentina, technically gifted and England’s first real challenge of the World Cup, did not set out to play the kind of football that could have beaten the host nation, who were resplendent in all-white. Their captain, Antonio Rattin, talked himself into being sent off, while the South Americans sought to intimidate their English opponents, spitting at them, pulling the hairs on the back of their necks, pulling their ears and going into tackles with excessive force. Ramsey would later describe the Argentines as “animals”.
Rattin was ejected from the field of play by German referee Rudolf Kreitlein in the 35th minute. He initially refused to leave the pitch, arguing furiously with Kreitlein even though neither understood each other’s native language and the game was held up for some eight minutes until Rattin reluctantly departed. As a way to further show his disgust, Rattin then sat on the red carpet which was exclusively for the Queen to walk on and he eventually had to be escorted from the field by two policemen and twisted a British flag before being escorted down the tunnel. It was also during this game that Jack Charlton was cautioned, only to discover the fact the next day from the newspaper report. As a result of the incidents during this game, Kreitlein (who died four years ago at the age of 92) and English referee Ken Aston developed the idea of yellow and red cards to aid on-field communication in football.
The breakthrough finally came in the 78th minute – a goal born on the West Ham United training ground at Chadwell Heath. Martin Peters delivered a cross from the left, Geoff Hurst’s near-post run left the Argentine defence napping and he glanced his header into the far corner beyond a rooted Antonio Roma. Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds were at number one on the day of the game with ‘Out Of Time’ and Hurst’s header ensured that time had run out on Argentina’s World Cup campaign. England, meanwhile, marched on to the semi-finals.
In Argentina, the match is referred to as el robo del siglo – the steal of the century. It was the beginning of a fierce rivalry between the two nations, with Ramsey running onto the pitch at the end of the match to prevent his players from swapping shirts with their opponents. Argentina have since said that the referee was biased in favour of the home nation, resulting in Rattin’s dismissal. Further refereeing decisions have impacted on major matches between the two countries since – 1986 saw the ‘Hand of God’ goal by Diego Maradona, 1998 saw David Beckham sent off for a petulant kick at Diego Simeone and 2002 saw Michael Owen fall under a challenge by current Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino to win England a crucial penalty.
Finally, a nod to those members of the Argentina team that day who are sadly no longer with us. Goalkeeper Roma passed away three years ago at the age of 80 while centre-back Roberto Perfumo, who went on to captain his country in the 1974 World Cup, died in March this year at the age of 73 from a skull injury after falling from a stairway while dining with fellow journalists at a Buenos Aires restaurant. Forward Ermindo Onega was killed in a car accident in 1979 at the age of 39.
England: Gordon Banks (Leicester), George Cohen (Fulham), Jack Charlton (Leeds), Bobby Moore (captain, West Ham), Ray Wilson (Everton), Alan Ball (Blackpool), Nobby Stiles (Man Utd), Bobby Charlton (Man Utd), Martin Peters (West Ham), Roger Hunt (Liverpool), Geoff Hurst (West Ham).
Argentina: Antonio Roma (Boca Juniors), Roberto Ferreiro (Independiente), Roberto Perfumo (Racing Club), Rafael Albrecht (San Lorenzo), Silvio Marzolini (Boca Juniors), Antonio Rattin (captain, Boca Juniors), Jorge Solari (River Plate), Alberto Gonzalez (Boca Juniors), Ermindo Onega (River Plate), Luis Artime (Independiente), Oscar Mas (River Plate).