Today marks the 50th anniversary of that unforgettable game in 1966, the proudest moment of any English football fan – even for those who weren’t alive, including myself. Fifty years ago the famous picture of captain Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy must have brought a tear to the whole nation and even today you sense you were part of it.
Reliving the day
Moore won the coin toss and the Three Lions kicked-off the World Cup Final at Wembley. It only took 12 minutes for those ‘scummy’ West Germans to take the lead. Gordon Banks failed to stop the shot and Helmut Haller put the, practically, visitors ahead at the ‘home of football’. Just seven countless minutes later and Alf Ramsey’s team levelled the scoreline, Geoff Hurst rising above the hopeless German defence to nod in past the ‘keeper.
With the match being one-all at half-time, it was all to play for. 32 minutes into the second-half and the English took the lead thanks to Martin peters smashing the ‘knitted’ ball home from eight yards. It was at this moment that every-single person in this country were no longer dreaming, it could actually become a reality. Although the pesky Germans had better ideas. A few minutes of panic led to Jack Charlton giving away a free-kick in the 89th minute. The initial set-piece hit George Cohen in the wall but after a very frightening scramble in the defensive box, West Germany equalised with Wolfgang Weber putting the ball past Banks from six yards.
As the game went into the additional thirty minutes, the Three Lions stepped up an extra gear and went full throttle to end the day in glory. 11 minutes it took for the most controversial goal ever given to be scored. Sir Geoff Hurst smashed a rock-solid shot from close range, only for it to hit the crossbar and bounce on the line. With the officials all being of differing origins, the Swiss referee relied on hand gestures from the Azerbaijani linesman to award the goal – putting England 3-2 ahead. It left the 400 million television viewers debating whether it was actually a goal or not, and for the last 50 years or so. Without trying to be too negative, modern studies have proved that the ball never did cross the line and that perhaps could have completely changed the outcome of the ’66 World Cup Final. Anyway back to the football and in a desperate attempt to force the game to penalties, West Germany forced every player they had forward but Bobby Moore seeked out a long-ball to Hurst and after a few touches the West Ham forward put the game to bed and England won the game 4-2 after a frantic 120 minutes of football.
That final goal is the most famous in English footballing history, and made even more so when commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme screamed:
“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!”.
English football since…..
It’s easy to say that the England national team have never met the heights of ’66. With years of hopes and dreams constantly being diminished by rather unspectacular managers, unpopular team selections and off-field antics. Every two years a new major tournament would arrive and the whole nation building-up their dreams too much as only disappointment followed.
The closest we have come to any sort of success is Euro 1996, another tournament staged in this country and it’s probably no coincidence why the Three Lions came so close to another success. Against all the odds Terry Venables and his boys made it to the semi-finals, only to come up against the Germans….again! 180 seconds into the game being played at Wembley and Alan Shearer put country’s minds to some sort of rest with a header past the Germany goalkeeper. 15 minutes later and Stefan Kuntz put the score level. It went to extra-time and eventually penalties where a missed Gareth Southgate penalty ended the ‘possible’ dream for England.
The national team now is very lacklustre it’s easy to say. Without qualification for the ’08 European Championship under the guidance of the ‘wally with the brolly’, an unsatisfying display in 2010’s South Africa World Cup, another penalty fail in 2012, falling bottom in the group stages two years ago and most recently a ‘getting use to’ failure in France. It is definitely safe to say we’re a nation that fails to deliver when it comes to the international stage in football but may be it’s about the change with the appointment of Sam Allardyce, who has promised to reinstate desire and passion into the Three Lions.
Celebrating 50 years
The FA has planned several celebrations to remember that great day. Captain Bobby Moore, who passed away in 1993, will have a special plaque unveiled on his house in east London. There will be a live show in Wembley which will celebrate the culture and traditions which lied the England streets at the time of the 1966 victory. Also, the surviving members of that squad from fifty years ago will have a dinner to remember the ever-famous feat inside Wembley Stadium.