In 1966 England hosted the World Cup, in a climate of football fever generated in-part by the much-loved mascot World Cup Willie. The cartoon lion appeared on everything from beer to breakfast cereals.
Of the 16 nations that reached the final stages, the biggest surprise was the demise of the holders, Brazil, who lost Pelé through injury and two matches to Hungary and Portugal to bow out.
It is said that most people remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of President Kennedy’s death. As memorable for Britons, is the day England’s team defeated Germany to win the World Cup on 30 July 1966.
In a fluctuating final at Wembley Stadium the red-shirted England team, managed with laconic intensity by Alf Ramsey and captained by West Ham’s Bobby Moore, beat a superbly organised West German team 4 – 2 in extra time.
The Germans, led by Franz Beckenbauer, took an early lead in the final, but Geoff Hurst equalised and then his West Ham colleague Martin Peters put England ahead, only to see Germany snatch a scrambled goal to equalise on the stroke of full time.
Extra time was frenetic, until Hurst slammed a shot against the underside of the crossbar; the ball bounced down over the goal line (or, as all Germany believes, on it) and the goal was awarded. The goal was controversial and the referee could not decide whether it had crossed the line or not. In the end, it was the Russian linesman who gave the goal
The result was then put well and truly beyond doubt when Hurst went on a long counter-attacking run against the direction of play and buried the ball in the roof of the net from some 30 yards away in the dying seconds of the match.
Commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme commented – just as Hurst scored the final goal and fans had already begun to spill onto the pitch – “Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over . . . it is now!”
Wembley erupted. 32 million people in the UK watched the match on television. It was a great moment for all of England.