Eusebio da Silva Ferreira - Portugal

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.

Gordon Banks - England

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.

Bobby Moore - England

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.

Alan Ball - England

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.

Martin Peters - England

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.

© 2006 World Cup Years Ltd.