From the Archives
Welcome to the last of my three-part series commemorating the 50th anniversary of England’s knock-out stage matches of the 1966 World Cup (Hamburg Hammer might like to look away now…)
England had progressed to the Final of the tournament by beating Portugal in the semi-final, as detailed in Tuesday’s article. The World Cup Final of 1966 took place 50 years ago today, on Saturday 30th July 1966 – England’s opponents were West Germany in front of 96,924 at Wembley, which was a wall of noise as the players strode out of the tunnel. West Germany had reached the Final by beating Switzerland 5-0, drawing 0-0 with Argentina and defeating Spain 2-1 in the group stage before trouncing Uruguay 4-0 in their quarter-final and defeating the Soviet Union 2-1 in the semi-final.
Alf Ramsey named an unchanged XI for the third game in succession, meaning there was famously no place for Jimmy Greaves. West Germany made one change, with coach Helmut Schon bringing right-back Horst-Dieter Hottges in for Friedel Lutz. Schon, who had been assistant coach of the national side since 1956 before taking on the top job in 1964, would go on to win the European Championship in 1972 and the World Cup in 1974. He passed away at the age of 80 in February 1996.
England conceded their first goal of the tournament from open play after just 12 minutes. Sigi Held lofted the ball into the penalty area but a poor defensive header from Everton’s Ray Wilson saw the ball fall at the feet of Hemut Haller who slammed the ball low beyond Leicester’s Gordon Banks and into the far corner of the net.
The Three Lions were level within six minutes. England and West Ham United captain Bobby Moore was fouled by Wolfgang Overath. Moore’s quick thinking meant that, within five seconds of the referee blowing the whistle, he was on his feet, looked up and played the ball into the penalty area – Geoff Hurst, his West Ham team-mate, was used to his skipper’s speed of thought and was in space anticipating an early ball. He took full advantage, heading beyond a static Hans Tilkowski.
West Germany had opened the scoring after 12 minutes – and with 12 minutes to go, England thought they’d won it. A corner found Hurst lurking on the edge of the box, he worked an angle for a shot which was blocked up into the air by Hottges and Irons midfielder Martin Peters slammed home on the volley from six yards.
Joyous, jubilant scenes immediately followed but they were usurped by nerves as the England players and fans recognised how close they were to the ultimate glory. In the dying seconds, England conceded a free-kick in dangerous territory. Lothar Emmerich flashed his shot past the England wall and it struck Fulham right-back George Cohen. The ball broke for Held whose shot hit the back of Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, evaded Wilson and Uwe Seeler and drifted agonisingly across the face of goal. 22-year-old centre-half Wolfgang Weber met the ball and squeezed it beyond the lunge of Wilson and the dive of Banks to level the Final at 2-2.
Alf Ramsey had long said that the aim for England was to win the tournament. His team-talk prior to extra-time is the stuff of psychological legend. He saw the Germans were lying on the ground, dead on their feet, exhausted after 90 minutes on the hallowed but energy-sapping Wembley turf. Ramsey ordered his players to stand up, to show their opponents that they were up for the challenge, up for the fight. He told them – “you’ve won it once and you’ve given it away something stupid – go and win it again…”
England responded to their manager’s call – the extra 30 minutes were to change the lives of every player in a red shirt and catapult one man who hadn’t even started the tournament into worldwide legendary status. With four minutes left of the first period of extra-time Blackpool’s Alan Ball, who never stopped running, scampered off down the right wing in chase of a pass from Manchester United’s Nobby Stiles. He centred, Hurst controlled, spun and shot – the ball smacked the underside of the crossbar, bounced down and came back into play. As we all know, the ball was miles over the line, but the Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst ran over to speak to his ‘Russian’ linesman – Tofiq Bahramov, from Azerbaijan, gave the goal. England were 3-2 up!
To make it safe in the last minute, Moore brought the ball out of defence and played the perfect pass over the shoulder of Hurst who ran forward with the ball before thumping a fierce finish behind Tilkowski into the roof of the net. In doing so he became the first and, still to date, only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup Final. His place in immortality was assured. The final whistle sounded and his ten team-mates joined him in securing legendary status.
In a typical display of gentlemanly conduct Moore, despite surely being beside himself with pride and joy, still had the wherewithal to note on his ascent to the Royal Box that the Queen was wearing white gloves. His only thought was to not dirty them and he wiped his muddy hands on his kit and on the velvet balustrade before shaking Her Majesty’s hand. His receipt of the Jules Rimet trophy is iconic of Moore’s own majesty and his holding aloft of the trophy still symbolises this country’s finest sporting moment. Incredibly, Moore had only recovered from testicular cancer 18 months previously.
The legacy of those England players has stood the test of time – manager Ramsey was knighted, as were players Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst. Ramsey died of a heart attack in 1999 at the age of 79.
Now a nod to those members of the West Germany team that day who are sadly no longer with us. Playmaker Helmut Haller died in 2012 at the age of 73 after suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s disease; forward Lothar Emmerich died of lung cancer in 2003, aged 61.
England have also lost two members of their side that day. Alan Ball died of a heart attack in 2007 at the age of 61. Bobby Moore passed away on the 24th February 1993 after a battle with bowel cancer. His legacy transcends generations – he is loved by those who saw him play, idolised by those who didn’t (such as myself – I always wore number 6 when I played) and remains an inspiration today for those who were not even born when he passed away.
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).
West Germany: Hans Tilkowski (Borussia Dortmund), Horst-Dieter Hottges (Werder Bremen), Willi Schulz (Hamburg), Wolfgang Weber (Cologne), Karl-Heinz Schnellinger (AC Milan), Franz Beckenbauer (Bayern Munich), Wolfgang Overath (Cologne), Helmut Haller (Bologna), Uwe Seeler (captain, Hamburg), Sigfried Held (Borussia Dortmund), Lothar Emmerich (Borussia Dortmund).
Apologies in advance for any lack of response to comments today – I’m busy getting married. At least I’ll never forget the anniversary! Wherever you are today, raise a glass to our heroes of ’66…