The 1966 World Cup Final is deeply embedded in the folk-memory of the English nation, vividly recalled as a rare moment of pure joy and uncomplicated triumph. The match, the only occasion England won the Jules Rimet trophy (and the first time in 32 years that the competition had been won by the host nation) was watched by over 96,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium and some 400 million people around the world, including 32.6 million UK viewers. This is still, fifty years later, the highest figure ever recorded for an event broadcast on British TV. It remains the only final in which a player has scored a hat-trick: none of the other prolific scorers in World Cup Final tournaments, such as Pele, Just Fontaine, Gerd Müller, Miroslav Klose or Ronaldo, have managed this feat. It was a key moment in the annals of football, and its immense importance to the English game and nation is being underlined once again this year by the extensive commemorations of the match's fiftieth anniversary.
This jersey, worn by the key goal-scorer, is the most significant obtainable artefact relating to the 1966 World Cup Final. It was manufactured by the celebrated sportswear manufacturer Umbro, a company that is very well known for their long-running association with the England national team, and which in 1966 provided kits for all 16 participating countries apart from the USSR.
The teams that jogged onto the pitch at Wembley on the afternoon of 30 July 1966 were well-matched. England had not conceded a single goal in the tournament until their semi-final against Portugal, but in that semi-final they had begun to cast off their reputation as unadventurous in attack and thuggish in defence with an exciting performance in which they had seen off the threat of the hugely talented Eusebio and won 2-1. West Germany had conceded just two goals and scored 13 in the five matches that took them to the final. England, of course, had the support of the home crowd but England are rarely a popular team internationally so the West Germans knew that much of the world was urging them to victory. The Germans had their young star Franz Beckenbauer, then in the early years of what would become one of the most impressive careers in footballing history, but England's team included such luminaries as Bobby Charlton (later elected European Footballer of the Year) and Bobby Moore (voted player of the tournament). Then there was Geoff Hurst, the man in the celebrated number 10 jersey.
Hurst was a prolific goal-scorer at club level, scoring 40 goals in 59 games for West Ham during the 1965-66 season, but he had begun the World Cup on the substitutes bench. Jimmy Greaves was the nation's top goal-scorer but he had not played his best in the early matches of the tournament and in the final group match against France he suffered a gash to the shin that required 14 stitches. Hurst took Greaves's place and scored the only goal in England's quarter-final against Argentina and was also a powerful presence in the semi-final victory against Portugal. Greaves was pronounced fit for the final but England’s enigmatic manager Alf Ramsay was uncertain of Greaves's form and had been impressed with Hurst's performances: he resolved to stick both with Hurst and the rest of his suddenly revised formation of “wingless wonders”, who had found winning form against Portugal after a sluggish start.
Remarkably – given the results of games played since – England had never lost to Germany in the 65 years they had been playing them before the World Cup Final. England’s confidence and morale were high; Germany, out of the two teams, were probably the more cautious, with their manager Helmut Schoen sacrificing his great playmaker Beckenbauer to the ungrateful task of policing Bobby Charlton for the duration of the game. But Germany were the first to strike after 13 minutes, with Haller taking advantage of an uncharacteristic poor clearance by Ray Wilson at the back to drive it low past Banks into the left-hand corner. England responded within six minutes, with Geoff Hurst rising superbly to a perfectly accurate Bobby Moore free-kick to head past the German keeper Tilkowski.
An open match followed, with chances at both ends. The Germans looked flexible and dangerous, with Banks making good saves from Emmerich and Seeler. An inconclusive first half ended. The second half began with some fine control by England’s midfielder Alan Ball, but then a period of stalemate commenced, broken when only twelve and a half minutes were left in the game, when Martin Peters followed up Geoff Hurst’s blocked shot and scored – seemingly sealing a victory. England then squandered a chance to finish the job when Hunt, Charlton and Hurst were three-on-one against the German defender Schulz. Shortly afterwards West Germany were awarded a free kick just outside the English penalty area. Emmerich’s strong shot was reflected back across the goal mouth, where Weber drove it home past the lunging Gordon Banks: the drama of extra time beckoned – for the first time in a World Cup final since 1934.
Famously, as the players sprawled across the Wembley turf in exhaustion (perhaps more from the tension of the occasion than their running) Ramsay marched across the pitch and told his team that they had won the World Cup once; now they must win it again. “Look at them!” he said, pointing at the weary Germans, “They’re finished!”.
In the first ninety seconds of extra time Alan Ball pushed down the right wing and had his shot deflected by Tilkowski. After a further shot by Bobby Charlton was tipped by the German keeper onto the post, Nobby Stiles once more found Alan Ball on the right wing (Ball later wrote that he thought "Oh, no! I can’t get that one! I’m finished!"; he felt, he said, that he had "died twice" already). Ball found the energy to leave Schnellinger standing and pass to George Cohen, who crossed, where Geoff Hurst met the ball on the near post with a crashing right-footer. It sped past the goalkeeper, hit the underside of the bar, and bounced down. Roger Hunt stood with arms raised, convinced that the ball had crossed the line. The Swiss referee Gottried Dienst was unsure and went to consult his Soviet linesman, Tofik Bakramov, who gestured emphatically to the centre spot. The goal stood, to the delight of the English players and supporters and the everlasting complaint of their German counterparts. The legitimacy of this infamous “Wembley Goal” continues to be debated fifty years on.
There were still nineteen minutes of extra time to play, and the game's drama continued until its final climactic moment, immortalised by Kenneth Wolstenhome’s BBC television commentary. The Germans threw everyone forward in the game's dying minutes, but as the referee put the whistle in his mouth seemingly to blow for full time, and as a small group of boys celebrated prematurely by dashing onto the field of play, the immaculately-performing Bobby Moore put a looping 40 yard pass through to Geoff Hurst (“…Here comes Hurst…Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over…”) who blasted the ball past Tilkowski and into the top corner of the net (…it is now!”) Hurst had just become the first (and still the only) man to score three in a World Cup Final; the Cup itself had come home to the land where the game had been invented.
Bobby Moore, followed by Geoff Hurst and the rest of the England team, climbed the steps towards the Royal Box to receive the Cup. Moore, feeling “misty and unreal”, noticed the Queen’s lily white gloves, and famously wiped his hands on the velvet-lined front of the Box before shaking her hand and receiving the Jules Rimet trophy.
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