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World Cup History: 1966

Winners: England
Teams: 16
Teams in qualifiers: 70
Notable absentees: None
Surprises: North Korea
Golden Boot: Eusebio (Portugal) -- 9
Stats: A total of 89 goals were scored (2.78 per match); Portugal (17) scored the most
Format: Four groups of four, with the top two progressing to the quarterfinals
Number of matches: 32

Innovations
• Doping controls were introduced
• FIFA banned the naturalisation of players

Controversies
• Sixteen African nations boycotted the tournament in protest at a 1964 ruling that required the champion team from the African zone to enter a playoff round against the winners of either the Asian or the Oceanian zone

Trivia
• The Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen from a public display three months before the tournament and found under a hedge a week later by a mongrel dog called Pickles
• The draw was the first to be televised
• World Cup Willie was the first World Cup mascot
• One match between Uruguay and France was played at London's White City, not a traditional football venue, because there was greyhound racing scheduled for Wembley and the owners refused to cancel it
• The opening match between England and Uruguay was delayed because several of the England players left their ID cards at the team hotel. A police motorcyclist was sent to collect them
• As a security measure, the FA had a replica of the Jules Rimet Trophy made for post-match celebrations. It was bought by FIFA at auction in 1997 for 254,500 pounds


The official poster for the 1966 World Cup.
The official poster for the 1966 World Cup.

This was the year that finally saw England crowned world champions, just as Alf Ramsey had publicly predicted after taking charge of the side in 1963. However, while many had tipped the Three Lions to end their wait, the outcome was anything but a foregone conclusion. Portugal had their greatest-ever team -- featuring Eusebio, Jose Torres and Mario Coluna -- while the West Germans and the Soviet Union had their best teams in a generation. Brazil, meanwhile, had won the previous two tournaments and could count Pele among their ranks.

England, whose status as host was chiefly down to Sir Stanley Rous' presidency of FIFA, were also given the slightly unfair boon of being able to play all their home games at Wembley. Nevertheless, they initially struggled, with Uruguay providing solid opposition in a dour 0-0 opening draw before rallying to see off Mexico and France to qualify for the quarterfinal stage.

The last eight brought the challenge of Argentina, who had qualified from a group also containing a West Germany side that, in Franz Beckenbauer, had a young player of incredible talent.

But the most exciting group was that featuring champions Brazil, a resurgent Hungary and the glittering Portuguese, featuring many of the Benfica side that had been one of the best teams in European club football for half a decade. Bulgaria made up the numbers but played a crucial role in Pele's tournament. In the group's opening game, the Bulgarians took it in turns to foul Pele and he was eventually carried from the pitch. The sight of him stricken, covered in a blanket on the touchline, remains one of that tournament's enduring images.

The following game saw Hungary rip the Brazilians apart, with Florian Albert and winger Ferenc Bene shining. Brazil's first defeat in the competition since 1954 blew the destiny of the trophy wide open in many observers' eyes. In the following game, Portugal's Eusebio eclipsed Pele, who again came in for harsh treatment from opposing defenders. A 3-1 Portugal win sent Brazil home and Pele swore never to play in a World Cup again.

Italy, meanwhile, were another side whose clubs were dominating Europe, and they would suffer an even greater upset than Brazil. Despite having been beaten by a crack Soviet Union outfit, they seemed in little danger from their last group opponents, North Korea, but Pak Doo-Ik is a name guaranteed to wake Azzurri fans in a cold sweat and his goal sent the Italians home to a volley of rotten tomatoes.

And a similar fate seemed likely to befall the Portuguese when, after 22 minutes of their quarterfinal, the Koreans found themselves 3-0 up. But Eusebio again grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and scored a record four goals in just over half an hour. Though the Koreans would remain men of mystery, their impact on the tournament will never be forgotten.

West Germany made short work of the Uruguayans in a 4-0 win while the Soviet Union got the better of Hungary in a 2-1 win. England's clash with Argentina, meanwhile, would become notorious. Though Geoff Hurst, Greaves' eventual replacement, scored a header from a superbly executed Martin Peters cross, the English were held back by some South American-style spoiling, with referee Rudolf Kreitlein a constant target for abuse from Argentina captain Antonio Rattin.

Rattin eventually paid the price and was dismissed and, after 10 minutes of vigorous protests, the game was restarted and Hurst grabbed his goal. Ramsey refused to let his team swap shirts with their opponents after victory was secured and labelled Argentina "animals." It was not to be the last infamous World Cup incident between the two countries.

Portugal were the next opponents but, in England's best display of the tournament, they, and especially Bobby Charlton, were too much for a team for whom Torres and Eusebio again excelled.

In the other game, the Soviet Union's Lev Yashin, a goalkeeper regarded as the world's best and previously playing superbly, made a calamitous error to let Helmut Haller score as a nine-man Soviet outfit were well beaten.

The final hinged on two moments. England had, after the early setback of a Helmut Haller goal, looked likely to win the game through Martin Peters' 78th-minute strike. But in the last minute, Wolfgang Weber equalised after England failed to clear a free kick. Ramsey's famous stated belief in his pre-extra-time pep-talk that the Germans were "finished" proved to be correct. Alan Ball's outstanding running put the tired Germans to the sword.

Hurst's second goal remains much disputed. Did it cross the line or didn't it? Russian (actually from Azerbaijan but this was a time of the Soviet Union) linesman Bakhramov, the man who said "yes," remains a legend in English football. Hurst, of course, completed his hat trick with a blistering goal in the last minute and the cup was England's.

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