A shocking start

In 1930, FIFA made the decision to stage its own international tournament. With Uruguay now two-time official world champions and due to celebrate their centenary of independence in 1930, FIFA named Uruguay as the host country.

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The national associations of selected nations were invited to send a team, but the choice of Uruguay as a venue for the competition meant a long and costly trip across the Atlantic Ocean for European sides. No European country pledged to send a team until two months before the start of the competition   America, but in the end, the influence of Jules Rimet let France, Belgium, Romania, and Yugoslavia take part in the historic event, which ultimately a success.

Before the Second World War broke out, FIFA staged three World Cups successfully with Uruguay winning one and Italy the rest.

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Surprisingly, England, who are dubbed by many as the inventor of the game did not take part in any of the FIFA World Cups until 1950.

In Europe, England were one of the top sides boasting with brilliant players and a well-established football league. There was a great opportunity for them to be a part of the history, but when they ultimately took part in 1950, their campaign was shattered by the United States of America.

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Their start was brilliant with a 2-0 win over Chile but in the next encounter at Belo Horizonte, Joe Gaetjens scored the only goal of the match, which gave the USA the unlikely victory and stunned England.

Still today, that victory is regarded as the greatest upset in the history of World Cup Football.

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A myth arose that the English newspapers were so confident of an English victory that when the result was telegrammed back, they assumed a misprint and printed the score as 10–1 in England’s favour. However, this has proven to be untrue.

This left England in a sticky situation prior to their final match, against Spain in Rio. They needed to win, and for Chile to beat the United States to stand any chance of going through, and even then they would need the goal averages to fall in their favour.

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As it turned out, no such calculations were necessary, despite Chile’s victory, as Spain’s Zarra scored the only goal of the game, eliminating England from the competition.

Since then England have been a regular feature in the tournament, but they had to wait 16 years to reach the top!

World Cup 1966

England was chosen as host of the 1966 World Cup in Rome, Italy on 22 August 1960, over rival bids from West Germany and Spain. This is the first tournament to be held in a country that was affected directly by World War II, as the four previous tournaments were either held in countries out of war theatres or in neutral countries.

The Africans boycotted the event in protest of a new FIFA rule that required the three second-round winners from the African zone to enter a play-off round against the winners of the Asian zone in order to qualify for the World Cup, as they felt winning their zone was enough in itself to merit qualification. They also protested against the readmission of South Africa to FIFA in 1963, despite its expulsion from CAF due to the apartheid regime in 1958.

Despite the boycott of the Africans, there was another new record number of entries for the qualifying tournament, with 70 nations taking part. After all the arguments, FIFA finally ruled that ten teams from Europe would qualify, along with four from South America, one from Asia and one from North and Central America.

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It was a World Cup, which was marred by controversies, shocks, ultra-defensive displays, l of intent to score goals in the group stages, rough tackles, and a memorable final Wembley.

In Group 1, England opened the event with a dull display against Uruguay and were crucified by the press. They responded well against Mexico and France in the following matches, thus, topped the group.

In Group 2, West Germany and Argentina qualified with ease as they both finished the group with 5 points, Spain managed 2, while Switzerland left the competition after losing all three group matches. FIFA cautioned Argentina for its violent style in the group games, particularly in the scoreless draw with West Germany, which saw Argentinean Rafael Albrecht get sent off and suspended for the next.

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In the northwest of England, Old Trafford and Goodison Park played host to Group 3 which saw the two-time defending champions Brazil finish in third place behind Portugal and Hungary, and be eliminated along with Bulgaria. Brazil were defeated 3–1 by Hungary in a classic encounter before falling by the same scoreline to Portugal in a controversial game, where the Portuguese relied on rough tackles to kick Pele ou of the game.

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No sooner had the exit of Brazil triggered a shockwave around the globe, in Group 4, North Korea knocked Italy out of the tournament and advanced to the quarterfinals along with USSR.

The knockout stages would not witness Brazil since 1938, but Argentina and Uruguay represented the Latin Americans.

The Germans thrashed Uruguay in a controversial game, where La Celeste complained against the English referee Jim Finney,  ad not recognized a handball by Schnellinger on the goal line, and then had sent off two players from Uruguay: Horacio Troche and Héctor Silva.

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It appeared as though the surprise package North Korea would claim another major upset in their match against Portugal at Goodison Park when after 22 minutes they led 3–0. It fell to one of the greatest stars of the tournament, Eusebio, to change that. He scored four goals in the game and Jose Augusto added a fifth in the 78th minute to earn Portugal a 5–3 win.

Meanwhile, in the other two games, Ferenc Bene’s late goal for Hungary against the Soviet Union, who were led by Lev Yashin’s stellar goalkeeping, proved little more than a consolation as they crashed out 2–1, and the only goal between Argentina and England came courtesy of England’s Geoff Hurst.

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During that controversial game, Argentina’s Antonio Rattin became the first player to be sent off in a senior international football match at Wembley. Rattin at first refused to leave the field and eventually had to be escorted by several policemen.

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After 30 minutes England scored the only goal of the match. This game is called el Robo del Siglo (the robbery of the century) in Argentina.

The semifinal was an all-European affair where England and Germany advanced to the finals.

Road to Wembley

July 30, 1966. All the roads led to the famous Wembley Stadium where the Three Lions would meet one of their bitter rivals, Germany in the final. Both the nations were enemies of each other during World War II and even after the end of the war, the bitterness is still evident in every aspect of life. In football, that rivalry always reaches a different level – apart from footballing displays, temper flows and controversies crop up from nowhere.

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Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was present at Wembley to witness the final and watch her Boys fight it out against the Germans. The noise at Wembley was so much that it created a festive atmosphere in the stadium and also, it pressurized the English Boys, who came out from the dugout with the determination to lift the trophy.

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The referee blew the whistle and the game commenced.

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After 12 minutes, Sigfried Held sent a cross into the English penalty area which Ray Wilson misheaded to Helmut Haller, who got his shot on target. Jack Charlton and goalkeeper Gordon Banks failed to deal with the shot which went in, making it 1–0 to West Germany.

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In the 18th minute, Wolfgang Overath conceded a free-kick, which Moore took immediately, floating a cross into the West German area, where Geoff Hurst rose unchallenged and leveled the scores with a downward glancing header.

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The teams were level at half-time, and after 77 minutes England won a corner. Alan Ball delivered the ball to Geoff Hurst whose deflected shot from the edge of the area found Martin Peters. He produced the final shot, beating the West German keeper from eight yards to make the score 2–1 to England.

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Germany pressed for an equalizer in the closing moments, and in the 89th minute Jack Charlton conceded a free kick for climbing on Uwe Seeler as they both went up for a header.

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The kick was taken by Lothar Emmerich, who struck it into George Cohen in the wall; the rebound fell to Held, who shot across the face of goal and into the body of Karl-Heinz Schnellinger.

The ball deflected across the England six-yard box, wrong-footing the England defence and allowing Wolfgang Weber to level the score at 2–2 and force the match into extra time.

Banks protested that the ball had struck Schnellinger on the arm, and reiterated the claim in his 2002 autobiography,but replays showed that it actually struck Schnellinger on the back.

The controversial third goal

The English manager Alf Ramsey rallied his team and advised to press forward.

England did the same and created several chances.

With 11 minutes of an extra-time gone, Alan Ball put in a cross and Geoff Hurst swiveled and shot from close range. The ball hit the underside of the crossbar, bounced down and was cleared.

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The referee Gottfried Dienst was uncertain if it had been a goal and consulted his linesman, Tofiq Bahramov from Azerbaijan in the USSR, who indicated that it was, and the Swiss referee awarded the goal to the home team.

The crowd and the audience of 400-million television viewers were left arguing whether the goal should have been given or not. The crossbar is now on display in the Wembley Stadium.

England’s third goal has remained controversial ever since the match. According to the Laws of the Game, the definition of a goal is when “the whole of the ball passes over the goal line”.

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English supporters cited the good position of the linesman and the statement of Roger Hunt, the nearest England player to the ball, who claimed it was a goal and that was why he wheeled away in celebration rather than attempting to tap the rebounding ball in. Modern studies using film analysis and computer simulation have shown that the whole ball never crossed the line – only 97% did.

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Both Duncan Gillies of the Visual Information Processing Group at Imperial College London and Ian Reid and Andrew Zisserman of the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford has stated that the ball would have needed to travel a further 2.5–6.0 cm to fully cross the line.

Some Germans cited possible bias of the Soviet linesman, especially as the USSR had just been defeated in the semi-finals by West Germany.

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Bahramov later stated in his memoirs that he believed the ball had bounced back not from the crossbar but from the net and that he was not able to observe the rest of the scene, so it did not matter where the ball hit the ground anyway.

50 years later, Geoff Hurst told FIFA.com, “I will tell anyone connected with world football: that ball was at least one meter over the line – full stop!”

“I hit the ball on the half-turn. I fell over, so I had a very poor view and the ball actually bounced behind Tilkowski, so I didn’t see it. But you want to believe more than your life’s worth that the ball crossed the line. And so that belief has remained strongly within me”.

“And I’ve always gone on my team-mate Roger Hunt’s celebration. He wheeled away in celebration when he could have put the ball in the net himself. He shouted ‘It’s a goal’, and I’ve always gone on that.”

However, after he hit the ball, he did not have the greatest view of what transpired in that 101st minute of play.

England led by 3-2.

Hurst completes his hat-trick, England triumph

Germany had equalized with the last kick in the regular 90 minutes, and they had gone within inches of repeating the blow in extra time when Seeler lunged in on a headed pass by Held.

But Bobby Moore took the ball coolly out of defence and lifted it upfield to Hurst 10 yards inside the German half. The referee was already looking at his watch and three England supporters had prematurely invaded the pitch as Hurst took the ball on his chest.

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At first, he seemed inclined to dawdle out time. Then abruptly he sprinted through on the inside-left position with a German defender pressing him. As Tilkowski prepared to move out, Hurst swung his left foot and drove the ball breathtakingly into the top of the net.

England’s supremacy was confirmed.

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Hurst became the only person on the planet to script a hat-trick in the World Cup Final.

The final goal gave rise to one of the most famous calls in English football history when BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme described the situation as follows:

“And here comes Hurst. He’s got… some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now! It’s four!”

One of the balls from the final is on display in the National Football Museum in Manchester.

Conclusion

The scene that followed was unforgettable.

Stiles and Cohen collapsed in a tearful embrace on the ground, young Ball turned wild cartwheels, and Bobby Charlton dropped to his knees, fuelled by emotion.

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Soon the players, who had forgotten the crippling weariness of a few minutes before, were hugging and laughing and crying with Ramsey and the reserves, who must go through their lives with bitter-sweet memories of how it looked from the touchline.

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“Ramsey, Ramsey,” the crowd roared!

Eventually, Moore led his men up to the Royal Box to receive the gold Jules Rimet trophy from the Queen, and the slow, ecstatic lap of honour began “Ee-aye-addio, we’ve won the Cup,” sang the crowd, as Moore threw it in his arc above his head and caught it again.

After a shocking start in 1950, England were on top of the world within 16 years.