The cold war stand-off between the competing power blocks of Nato and the Warsaw Pact ensured a stability of sorts in the world. In the West the explosion in popular culture led to an increasingly informal less deferential climate; even though the inflationary pressures of the Vietnam War, together the human cost of the conflict itself, represented dark clouds on the horizon. However, none of the countries who contested the football World Cup in the summer of 1966 were directly involved in that tragedy. More and more countries in Africa had gained their independence, one in a manner against the wishes of the British government of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, which was engaged in increasingly fraught negotiations with the white government of Southern Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe) up to and after its unilateral declaration of independence on 11 November 1965 (Armistice Day, a date deliberately chosen to infuriate the British government).

For the first time in a while a country outside Europe or the Americas appeared at the World Cup, and they made a difference. North Korea had qualified as the Asian representatives to play in England, the country that had invented football. The choice of England was in harmony with the theme of alternating the choice of host between Europe and the Americas. In England itself the Football Association adopted an increasingly determined attitude. Before WWII it was arguable that England had the strongest team in the world, the post war performances, not just in the World Cups of 1950, 1954, 1958 and 1962; but in the friendlies with Hungary in the 1950s and other matches, showed the hollowness of any claims to footballing superpower status. Victories of club sides such as that of Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 1950s over Hungarian opposition, plus the pulsating powerful displays of London’s Tottenham Hotspur in European club competitions in the 1960s, showed that the mediocre fair on display from the England football team was below potential, even if some of the Spurs players (Dave Mackay, John White) were Scots. For the first time the England manager was given full control over selection, and a new man was appointed: Alf Ramsey (appointed in 1962 after the team he managed Ipswich won the English first division, selection control had been a condition of acceptance). Ramsey used the four years he had at his disposal to experiment with different formations and styles. A disastrous tour of South America convinced him of the enormity of the task ahead, a mood not improved by England’s elimination from the European Championship at the hands of France, perhaps the country England least liked losing matches to. All these misfortunes happening after Ramsey had predicted that England would win the World Cup. There was one major change effected by Ramsey before the World Cup began, England would play with a 4-3-3 formation, a formation that attracted the moniker “wingless wonders”. Two wins over West Germany and a victorious four nation tour before the World Cup began provided some basis for optimism. The England team was built around West Ham, a notably less successful club than Tottenham, but with a larger English component. Perhaps Ramsey did not care for the fact that no Tottenham player had been sent off from October 1928 to 4 December 1965, and preferred a more robust demeanour, for many found it strange to prefer Geoff Hurst to the free scoring Jimmy Greaves.

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A competition as large as a World Cup cannot run entirely smoothly, nonetheless the organisers were taken aback by the first problem to receive coverage in the press: the theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy itself, which happened less than three months before the Cup was scheduled to begin. The Trophy was on display at the Central Hall Westminster when it was stolen on 20 March 1966. What was curious was that there were postage stamps on display with a combined value then of £3 millions, whereas the World Cup Trophy was only worth £3 thousands. Probably the thief was a prankster, as the one ransom demand received was from a hoaxer. Whatever the motive of the robber, the embarrassment was great, it could even be said to have left the authorities in the pickle. Fortunately the Cup was only missing a week, it was discovered by a dog which had been taken by its owner for a walk in Norwood, which is in South London. David Corbett, the owner of the dog, was rewarded with a cheque for £6,000, twice what the trophy was worth.

The first two teams from each group would go through, which meant a relatively kind initial draw for the hosts. Uruguay were fast declining as a footballing power, whereas France, despite their success at England’s expense in the European Championships were not a match for Blighty (England). Mexico, which had contested a vast number of World Cups, remained but a whipping boy; a situation that would not really change for a generation.

West Germany had a tougher path to negotiate; Argentina had remained serial underachievers for more than thirty years, this was coupled with an unwarranted inferiority complex, and a streak of cynicism, of which more anon; any country that boasted of the great Real Madrid (admittedly a declining force by the mid 1960s) club side, even if that team contained many foreigners, could not be considered weak. Only Switzerland looked like comparative pushovers.

Group 3 looked far and away the strongest of the initial divisions. Almost by definition any football contest involving the reigning World Champions Brazil would have something extra. Hungary, although she had not recovered the peaks gained by the “Magical Magyars” in the 1950s was still a formidable force, and not just because of Florian Albert. Portugal was to produce one of the stars of the tournament, demonstrating that the whole of the Iberian Peninsular was an outstanding seam for mining football talent. Only Bulgaria looked like makeweights. Portugal’s star of the tournament was born Eusebio da Silva Ferreira on 24 February 1942 in Lourenço Marques (modern Maputo), in what was then Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique); inevitably he became known as Eusebio in the football world. A life of poverty seemed to be his destiny when his father died when Eusebio was five, however, he very early on stood out, not just as a sprinter, but as a basketball player, football only came later. He joined Portugal’s Benfica in the 1961-62 season and played professional football for them throughout his professional career. Benfica were one of the most successful club sides in the 1960s, in which environment Eusebio flourished, indeed he was European footballer of the year for 1965, so there could be no question of underestimating Portugal in the 1966 World Cup. Eusebio was not only a fine athlete, but very finely balanced with a deceptive ability to not so much accelerate astonishingly rapidly past opponents but very nearly explode with pace; it was no wonder he was nicknamed the “Black Panther”. This would merely have made him an excellent player, however, he also possessed one of the hardest and most accurate shots in football.

Italy and the Soviet Union looked far more potent than their rivals in the last and weakest of the groups; yet the Soviets were not the same force as had won the European Championship in 1960, whereas a dangerous complacency was to provide the Italian Achilles Heel. Everyone assumed that Stalinist North Korea had merely come for the ride, they attracted a certain amount of sympathy and support, particularly in the North East of England, where they were based. In turn the Koreans were to produce some of the biggest upsets and some of the most entertaining football. Chile, no longer World Cup host, was not expected to do all that much.

That group three was strong was underlined by the memorable match between Brazil and Hungary which was their second of the tournament; Brazil having comfortably dispatched Bulgaria two-nil, were more comfortably situated than Hungary, whose opening game against Portugal had resulted in a three-one reverse. Thus Hungary had to win, as they could not assume that Brazil would lose to Portugal in the last of their first round games. Great teams go on unbeaten runs, and in the case of Brazil this unbeaten run went all the way back to 1954, when ominously, they had been vanquished by Hungary. Perhaps the unbeaten run lent a degree of complacency to the Brazilian camp, for were they not the World Champions fielding a side largely unchanged from the previous 1962 World Cup, which, furthermore, was still fairly young? Pelé had received a buffeting from Bulgaria in their first game, so he was rested, but then, had not the Brazilians won in 1962 without their greatest player? The Hungarian manager Lajos Baroti blamed his goalkeeper for the loss of Hungary’s opening game to Portugal; he therefore replaced Szentimihaly with Gelei.

There could be no question of a game of attrition between two sides that laid such a premium upon attacking football, thus it was vital for Hungary to strike first and strike quickly. In the fourth minute Bene swept in from the right wing squeezing past his markers, his quick powerful shot leaving Gylmar, who was in goal for the champions, no chance. It was a warning of things to come, Bene proving a thorn in the Brazilian team for the entire match. Indeed the gritty determination of the Hungarians meant that Brazil were never able to impose themselves for sustained periods. Great champions are not felled easily, and Brazil kept attacking, Tostao in the centre and Garrincha on the wing proving especially threatening, indeed Tostao equalised for the champions after fifteen minutes. Hungary refused to panic, Sipos and Meszöly in midfield proving very redoubtable as their tackling considerably reduced the pressure on the Hungarian defence. At half time both teams left the pitch with the match level at one-one. If the match had ended then the fifty thousand plus spectators at Goodison Park, home to Everton football club, would have had their money’s worth, but it could better for the neutral. Hungary, almost incredibly, slowly began to get the better of their mighty opponents, Sipos and Meszöly provided a platform for Albert to show his distribution skills: indeed the next goal came courtesy of this great performer who pass the ball, quick as a flash, to Brazil’s nemesis Bene who was storming down the right wing; at the same time Farkas was rushing towards the penalty area and received a beautifully placed pass just in front of him, such superb timing deserved something, and it came from a powerful shot taken without having to chest down or trap the ball: two-one to the Magyars who looked full value for the lead. This, the finest match of the 1966 World Cup, was far from over with Brazil constantly menacing the Hungarian goal; even when Bene rushed in to very nearly score, a run that was ended by a pedestrian foul that sent Bene tumbling. Meszöly took the resultant penalty in the seventy-third minute, which would surely finish Brazil. But no, Brazil kept attacking, opening themselves up for Rakosi to score a fourth, save that one of the linesman, almost certainly wrongly, ruled that the player was offside. This non-goal finally caused Brazil to subside.

Portuguese speaking Brazil, in order to go through, had to defeat Portugal. Their hopes were buoyed when Pelé was pronounced fit to play. However, the Portuguese players cynically hacked and chopped at Pelé for the entire game; while unaccountably the rest of the Brazilian team did not present much of a threat; the three-one result putting Brazil on an early plane home as Hungary disposed of Bulgaria by the same score line. There was no sense of how the mighty are fallen, but rather a feeling that the tournament was the worse for it. Not for the first time the unbalanced nature of the divisional system had been found wanting. The only relief was the Eusebio’s second goal, and Portugal’s third, against Brazil was memorable, being struck at a seemingly impossible angle when Eusebio ran in from the corner flag and hit the ball behind Manga in goal for Brazil.

The biggest upset of the first round took place in group four when North Korea’s diminutive players defeated the two times World Champions, and nearly permanent footballing superpower, Italy by a solitary goal. Italy having previously lost to the Soviet Union, were unable to progress. Rotten fruit was their reward when they landed at Genoa airport as disappointed Italian fans gave vent to their fury.

England the host nation started fairly slowly with a goal-less draw against Uruguay, the most dangerous of their opponents in the opening round. There was some cause for optimism amongst the home fans for the recent results had been encouraging. England were also throwing up some world class players; none more so than Gordon Banks, who patrolled his goal mouth, behind possibly the strongest defence in the world, with a fine sense of anticipation. Banks had been playing for England for less than four years and at twenty-eight was entering the age at which goalkeepers reach their peak. Having started his football career playing for Chesterfield, he had moved to Leicester City in 1959. He played in goal for sixth placed Leicester when they were beaten two-nil in the 1961 FA Cup final, which saw Tottenham complete the second half of the “impossible” double. Two years later he was again in goal in an FA Cup final, this time Leicester were beaten three-one by Manchester United. Finally there was something to celebrate when Leicester won the League Cup in 1963-64 at the expense of Stoke City (Banks’s future club), a final played over two legs. Had Banks played for a larger club there is no question that he would have won more medals; as it was he was to collect the World’s finest. Banks was meticulous in his training and preparation, spending hours trying to iron out the smallest of deficiencies. In 1970 he was to make perhaps the most famous save in football when he prevented what looked like yet another Pelé goal. In this World Cup England did not concede a goal until the semi-finals. In 1972 Banks was voted footballer of the year in England, he had been instrumental in winning the League Cup for Stoke City, after yet another “impossible” save, this time to the detriment of West Ham’s Geoff Hurst. Months later disaster struck, Banks lost the use of his right eye in a motoring accident; his footballing career in England was over. In 1977 Banks resumed his career in the USA, he showed that even with only one eye he was more than a match for the best in America.

If England had the strongest defence in the 1966 World Cup, its strongest unit and linchpin was team captain Bobby Moore. Not the fleetest of foot, Moore overcompensated by his fleetness of thought, effortlessly appearing in the right place at the right time to break up yet another attack. Coming out of defence Moore had the knack of hanging onto the ball for just the right amount of time; many a defender has wrecked his team’s chances by holding onto the ball too long, leaving insurmountable problems once he had been robbed of possession; but not Moore, his forward pass coming once the opposing team had moved a little too far forward, thereby creating that extra yard that is so vital for both midfield and attack. Moore not only ensured that the England goal was protected by a fortress, but that the entire team kept its shape; the days were long past when many individual strokes of brilliance could overcome the deficiencies inherent in a lack of organisation. Moore’s form had dipped before the World Cup began, a result of being stripped of the West Ham captaincy; Moore, rightly in the view of this writer, felt that his career would advance were he to move to a larger more successful club (West Ham have never won the English First Division or its successor, the Premier League). Fortunately for England he recovered his touch and his confidence just in time. Not the least of Moore’s qualities was his ability to accept and enforce instructions given from the England bench. Unfortunately Moore was the victim of trumped up charges just before the 1970 World Cup, which had the effect of undermining England’s preparation for their first match; but all that lay in the future.

Twenty-one year old Alan Ball was the youngest player in the England team. Only five foot six, Ball had a talent for terrier like aggression that resulted in frequent brushes with the referee, particularly early on in his career. Indeed his entire career was punctuated by periods of suspension. Ball’s ferocious temper made him something of a two-edged weapon, although this temper, the product of a win at all costs mentality, was the source of his seemingly endless stamina and his omnipresence on the pitch. Ball’s career began in 1962 when he turned out for Blackpool. Sold in 1966 to Everton for a then record £110,000, Blackpool were promptly relegated in the 1966-67 season. At Everton Ball was perhaps the driver in the team that won the 1969-70 First Division title. Just over a year later he was sold to Arsenal for double what Everton had paid; he was never to win a medal again.

Perhaps the most underestimated of the England players was Martin Peters, who was actually dropped for England’s opening match. The most versatile of the home players, Peters was played in practically every position by his club West Ham, a sad waste of a great talent; which lay in playing an aggressive midfield role, slipping unobserved just behind the strikers and scoring goals. Not for nothing was Peter’s given the nickname of “the ghost”, a nickname previously held by Tottenham’s John White, whom Peters resembled in some ways. Indeed Peters moved to Spurs in 1970 where he won three medals to add to the one he had garnered at West Ham, despite only spending half as long at the North London club. Described by Alf Ramsey the England manager as “ten years ahead of his time, Peters was to score a vital goal in the final itself as well as creating many opportunities for colleagues.

England had two world class strikers: Jimmy Grieves (later dropped for tactical reasons and injury, the far less prolific Geoff Hurst kept his place) and Bobby Charlton. Born on 11 October 1937 in the mining village of Ashington in Northumberland in the north-east of England, Charlton came from a family that was to produce two high class players in Bobby himself and his brother Jack, not only that but Charlton was a nephew of Jackie Milburn, famed for his goal scoring feats for Newcastle United and England. Even as a young teenager it was obvious that Charlton was made for football; his close control, sinuous body movement and thunderous shot made him lethal within twenty yards of an opponent’s goal. Recruited by Manchester United, Charlton scored twice on his debut against Charlton Athletic on 6 October 1956. Within a year Charlton was a mainstay of the United team that began so promisingly in the 1958 European Cup, only to see tragedy strike in the field at Munich which destroyed twenty lives. Charlton was lucky to crawl away largely unhurt. Ten years later he was to be a key player in the Manchester United team that actually won the European Cup, partly healing the scars of the dreadful night. It was Charlton’s goals in the semi-finals of the 1966 World Cup that put paid to Portuguese ambitions in perhaps the trickiest part of England’s route to the final.

After the disappointing draw with Uruguay, England won her next two matches without setting the pulse racing. Indeed almost two hours elapsed before England scored, Mexico having followed the example of Uruguay by adopting a massed defence. Charlton, playing in midfield unleashed an unstoppable volley from thirty yards out. England’s performance not matched by Uruguay, who conceded a goal and only scored two in their one decisive encounter in group 1. Perhaps the one blot on the England record was a truly dreadful tackle inflicted by Nobby Stiles on the opposing French forward. Ramsey refused to bow to pressure, and continued to pick Stiles, a decision that won him kudos with his players.

Germany began her campaign in group two with a bang, demolishing the unfancied Swiss five-nil. Indeed Argentina’s narrow two-one win against Spain made the identity of the qualifiers from this group obvious already. The two top teams registering a goal-less, but safe, draw in their second game.

The quarter final between England and Argentina became memorable for the worst of reasons. Argentina, a great footballing nation, laboured at that time under an unnecessary inferiority complex, which coupled with a fierce desire to win resulted in some very crude challenges on the pitch, and a lot of spitting at their opponents. Antonio Rattin was a captain who led by a lamentable example: he was eventually quite rightly sent off, which led to an eleven minute pause as he refused to depart, being supported in his challenge to authority by his team mates. Eventually Rattin did go, not that that brought any relief on the pitch, although Geoff Hurst, who was known for his durability, did eventually manage to head the ball home. An incensed Alf Ramsey, England’s manager, instructed his players to refuse to change shirts after the match; he then lost some self-control when he publicly stigmatised the Argentines as “animals”, his words were; “We still have to produce our best football. It will come against the right type of opposition, a team who come to play football and not to act as animals” . Ramsey, properly, subsequently apologised for his intemperance and the name calling. Fifa later registered its disapproval of the Argentine tactics, which had included wrecking their changing room, by suspending Rattin for four internationals and his colleagues Ferreiro and Onega for three; the Argentine FA was fined £83, the maximum then permitted. It must be borne in mind that the Argentine has staked a territorial claim to the British owned Falkland Islands (called the Malvinas by the Latin Americans); over which a small war was unfortunately fought in 1982. Argentine popular newspapers have routinely referred to the English as pirates (an allusion perhaps to the Tudor period of English history when English pirates did indeed sail the Seven seas {and the Mediterranean too, for good measure}, although that was centuries ago). The net effect was that matches between England and Argentina have ever since had an extra element of edge to them; fortunately without spinning out of control, they have therefore tended to be memorable for the right reasons.

Regrettably the match between West Germany and Uruguay followed a similar course to the England-Argentina encounter. The Latin Americans fouling opponents and intimidating the referee in a way that was outside all accepted convention. Two Uruguayans were sent off which opened the sluice gates for a convincing four-nil demolition of Uruguay. Unless one counts the Battle of the River Plate, which one can’t (Uruguayan sanctuary was provided for a limited time), there is no history of significant antagonism between the two countries. Thus all this behaviour must have been actuated by an over-competitive attitude.

Fifty thousand people witnessed what looked like a miracle in the quarterfinal between Portugal and North Korea; for Asia’s representatives raced to an amazing three-nil lead after twenty-two minutes. Before the tournament began North Korea had been quoted at 1000-1 by bookmakers, many a heart must have been racing by this stage. But one couldn’t ever discount the “Black Panther” as Eusebio scored four in little over half an hour, two of them from penalties. Portugal winning eventually by five goals to three. There would be no miracles that day, but the crowd warmed to the plucky underdogs, who had carried on attacking when prudence might have been advisable.

In contrast the solid Soviets managed to overcome Hungary by a two-one score line in a relatively sane match.

The semi-finals were contested by four European teams, a decisive termination of the Latin American supremacy, albeit, a rather harsh one. For the home fans it was a relief when England finally started to play at a level that befitted potential champions; a necessary precondition as their opponents Portugal had scored more goals than anyone else left in the competition. Ramsey assigned to Nobby Stiles the difficult task of marking Eusebio; Stiles had a formidable reputation as a tackler, as hinted at above in the comments about the England-France first round match, yet the match was a relatively clean affair, the referee did not blow his whistle to signal a foul until the fifty-eighth minute; and Stiles largely kept Eusebio quiet. Indeed only three fouls were noted by the referee for the entire match. For half an hour the match patterns were determined by England, with several chances being fluffed by Geoff Hurst; many an England fan was ruing the absence of the injured Grieves. Then fortune smiled on England when Pereira, in goal for Portugal, unaccountably kicked an incoming ball away instead of trying to grab it with his hands; the ball headed straight for Bobby Charlton who instantly sent it past the goalkeeper. England had now played roughly for and a half matches in the World Cup without conceding a goal, had the best goalkeeper in the competition and the best defence. Portugal’s prospects looked bleak. Eusebio was not willing to give up, forcing an outstanding save from the flexible Banks in goal for England very soon afterwards. The second half followed largely the one script, wave after wave of Portuguese attacks without resulting in any meaningful product. The margin of the lead was so slender that it appeared possible that Portugal could alter the course of the contest; even though there was always a hint of menace in the England counterattacks. Moore, with his great ability to turn defence into attack, passed the ball in the eighty-first minute from the left side of central defence to George Cohen on the right wing. The fullback raced forward until he had the opportunity to pass the ball to Geoff Hurst who was just ahead of him. Hurst carried on the run wrong-footing Portugal’s Hilario; suddenly Hurst stopped; he quickly slid the ball to Charlton who was on the edge of the penalty area near the marked semicircle. Charlton through everything he had into an incredibly hard shot that gave Pereira no chance; it was such a spectacular shot, with Charlton still in the air as he scored, that several of the Portuguese players applauded him. A two-nil score line would have been hard on the team from the Iberian Peninsular, thus there was an element of justice when a rare Banks error, resulting from misjudging a cross, pressured Jack Charlton into handling the ball in the area. Eusebio scored from the penalty that was awarded; but there would be no more goals. England were through to the final of a World Cup for the first time.
England’s opponents were West Germany, who had benefited from the sending off of a Soviet player and the injury to another. In view of these advantages the two-one winning margin was hardly convincing.

On 30 July 1966 ninety-six thousand nine hundred and ninety four, largely English, fans crowded into Wembley stadium. Up until then England had never lost to Germany, they had home advantage, and had only conceded one goal throughout the entire competition. Unsurprisingly, England were firm favourites. Yet rain would be a factor in this game, making the pitch muddy and slippery, so there would be goals, for there would be more errors than the norm.

It was an error that produced the first goal, Ray Wilson of England headed the ball out of defence straight into the path of West Germany’s Helmut Haller, there was no reprieve, and only thirteen minutes had elapsed. Fortunately for England, parity was restored in a little over five minutes when a quickly taken free kick found an unmarked Geoff Hurst at the near post of the German goal; the West Ham connection had been established and the score was one-one. However, the well-marshalled Germans refused to buckle; and England, despite enjoying much possession, were unable to break through. At half time both teams departed for the dressing rooms with the decision being very much in doubt. More rain did not greatly influence the pattern of the match when it resumed, England’s marginal superiority not translating into anything quantifiable. Team terrier Alan Ball just would not give up; a shot at goal forcing Tilkowski, in goal for Germany, to concede a corner after seventy-eight minutes. Ball picked up the ball and eagerly took the corner, which reached Geoff Hurst, Hurst shot, the shot fortuitously spinning off the foot of Germany’s Hottges towards Martin Peters; the ghost had arrived, and as was to happen many times in his career, the calmly taken shot defeated the opponent’s goalkeeper. Eight minutes later Bobby Charlton had the chance to end the game, but he was off-target. Then right at the death the referee decided that Jack Charlton, Bobby’s brother, had fouled Held of Germany. Emmerich took the free kick, his shot cannoned off Schnellinger’s back, who had infiltrated the England wall, which enabled Held to chaotically pass to Weber, courtesy of George Cohen’s knee, at the far post and send the ball goal wards.

Extra time, a potentially deflating moment for the England players who had thought the game was won. Happily, Ramsey found the right words to summon the spirits to renew the battle: “You’ve beaten them once, now you’ve got to do it again. Look at them, they’re finished!” Two exhausted teams rose to continue the contest. After ten minutes the indefatigable Alan Ball chased a long ball punted upfield by Nobby Stiles, catching it just before the right hand corner flag, Ball turned and passed to Geoff Hurst, who was on the corner of the six yard box; Hurst swivelled with the ball and shot, with Schulz of West Germany in attendance attempting to tackle him, the ball struck the upright and headed straight down. The ball span out of the goal which enabled Weber to head it away. Instantly England’s Roger Hunt raised his hand to claim the goal, several West German players raised theirs to protest that the ball had not crossed the line, but what had happened? Gottfried Dienst of Switzerland, who had commendably refereed the final, was rightly close to the action, but he was genuinely uncertain. A position that is readily comprehensible to anyone who has seen this incident. Dienst turned to linesman Bakhramov from the Soviet Union; Bakhramov, too, was admirably placed, being positioned level with the goal. An exhausted Geoff Hurst had his hands on his knees, he had visibly wilted. Pandemonium broke out when Bakhramov pointed to the centre circle. The serried ranks of England fans felt there was no way back for West Germany. However, had the ball crossed the line? There was a motor camera placed in line with the goal line, this shows conclusively that the ball did not wholly cross the line, thus the referee was wrong. At the end of the match an expectant joyous crowd started to come on the pitch, yet the referee had not blown the whistle: “they think it’s all over”, remarked BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme, as Bobby Moore sped an accurate pass upfield to Geoff Hurst; “it is now!”, continued Wolstenholme as Moore’s pass was smashed into the German net by Hurst.

The final was memorable as a well played game with an unfortunate, but easily comprehensible refereeing error, and a fine send-off from Wolstenholme. The dream of England fans, that the much coveted World Cup would be won by the country that had invented football, was now a reality. The pain of the astonishing (England were later to beat the USA ten-nil) loss to the United States in the 1950 World Cup had been forgotten, the roastings from the Hungarians in 1953 were in the past. England had won in the middle of the exciting decade that was the sixties, in 1968 an English club side was to win the European Cup, there was an optimism abroad in an era after the more or less complete dismantling of the British Empire and the decline in the value of the pound.

© 2006 World Cup Years Ltd.