1966 World Cup

Football’s biggest trophy, the FIFA World Cup 2018, will be held in Russia from 14th June to 15th July – and with England currently top of qualifying group ‘F’, it looks like they’ll be one of the 32 finalists lining up for the championship.

England achieved an emphatic 4-0 win against Malta on 1st September, followed by a 2-1 win against Slovakia on 4th September to remain top of their group. Whether they can win the prized trophy next year – emulating England’s only success in the competition in 1966 – remains to be seen.

1966 world cup

© naito8 / Adobe Stock

It was 51 years ago when the Queen and Prince Phillip joined 93,000 other excited spectators at Wembley Stadium in London to watch the England team walk out on to the pitch for the much-anticipated final against West Germany. More than 400 million people worldwide watched the match on TV.

England had never won the World Cup since the competition’s launch in 1930 but as host nation, expectations were high. A party atmosphere spread across the country, with flags and bunting hung across the streets, as everyone waited with bated breath to see if legendary manager Alf Ramsay could lead the national team to victory.

Geoff Hurst had been drafted into the team after England’s star striker, Jimmy Greaves, suffered an injury. This meant personal disappointment for Greaves, who had injured his leg in the group match against France. Hurst went on to become the first player ever to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final.

The match didn’t start well for England when they went a goal down to West Germany, courtesy of a strike from Helmut Haller. However, West Ham striker Hurst equalised after Bobby Moore set up the striker’s first goal. Keeper Gordon Banks made an astounding double save from Overath, followed by Emmerich, to keep England in the game.

In the 78th minute, Martin Peters scored to put England 2-1 up but their opponents, led by manager Helmut Schön, forced the match into 30 minutes’ extra time, with Wolfgang Weber’s 89th minute equaliser. It was a hard-fought battle to the end, with Bobby Charlton striking the post. The score remained 2-2 until 19 minutes before the final whistle, when Hurst scored one of the most controversial goals in football history. The shot hit the cross bar, bounced and was scrambled clear by German keeper, Hans Tilkowski.

However, after discussions between Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst and linesman Tofiq Bahramov of Azerbaijan, they ruled the ball had crossed the line and awarded England the goal. This has been a bone of contention for more than half a century, as the rules of the game state it’s a goal only when the whole ball has crossed the line. In fact, modern technology that uses computer simulation appears to reveal that the ball didn’t cross the line, so it shouldn’t have been a goal but back in 1966, when goal line technology didn’t exist, the goal put England 3-2 ahead.

In the dying seconds, England fans began celebrating early – leading to the most famous footballing quote of all time. BBC TV commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme said, “They think it’s all over!” However, Hurst scored his hat-trick just before the final whistle, putting the score at 4-2. Wolstenholme quipped, “It is now!” His quote is now the stuff of legend and even led to a television series, They Think It’s All Over.

Bobby Moore led the team to the royal box to collect the coveted gold Jules Rimet trophy from Queen Elizabeth. Fans celebrated wildly across the nation, with a crowd gathering in Trafalgar Square in London and people leaping fully-clothed into the fountain to party!

As players and fans look forward to the World Cup 2018, will England be able to repeat their epic 1966 victory? Only time will tell!

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