Moments transcends everything in sport and nothing defines that more than football especially the bad ones. Welcome to 'Throwback Thursday', where we take a look at a moment in time, and this week, we look at the 1966 World Cup and a moment in time that fans of the Three Lions will never forget.
It’s the 30th of July 1966 and Wembley Stadium is packed to the rafters. 92,000 people sitting, waiting and wondering who on earth will lift the Jules Rimet trophy at the end of this all with 400 million more glued to their televisions. This is the 100th minute of the 1966 World Cup final after all and given that England are facing West Germany on English soil in possibly the most iconic stadium in the world at that moment in time, few would blame them.
It was the first time a World Cup final had gone into extra time and yet the stadium was chanting out what sounded like “we want more” as Hans Tilkowski thumped a goal-kick forward. The ball is met by an England defender who heads it down for Noby Stiles in acres of space. The holding midfielder has run this game with incredible passing and vision without ever breaking a sweat and somehow he already knew where the ball was going to go.
He had Bobby Charlton to his left alongside Martin Peters but he hasn’t even looked at them. There is right-back, George Cohen, as well, ready for the pass and then the sprint down-field if needed but again, Stiles wasn’t interested. His target is the young Allan Ball to run onto and everything slows down as the ball flies through the air. Geoff Hurst has made a run into the box again and the England striker is waiting, for his moment.
Time has now stopped but before we dive into the climax and reach the end, let’s roll it back and figure out how we got here in the first place. Because as luck would have it, nobody on this planet ever expected Alf Ramsey’s England to make it into the semi-finals, let alone the final. Especially given how quickly everything happened for them with it sixteen years between the 1966 tournament and their first appearance at a World Cup and in between things weren’t good.
That included two huge losses to the mighty Hungarians, and Alf Ramsey taking over. The England head coach was in his third year with the team and while few expected this after his first two games ended on the wrong side of history but still nobody would deny the impact he made. Somehow, Ramsey turned the Three Lions into a competitive and compact side with talent coursing through its veins. Entering the tournament, however, only Ramsey had his hopes up with nobody else believing England would make it far.
They proved them wrong though as the Three Lions topped their group despite a stale draw to Uruguay but wins over Mexico and France helped them end it on a high which earned them a battle against Argentina and it would prove to be a tough one. Come game night and Bobby Charlton hit the post, Antonio Rattin was sent off and then somehow Jimmy Greaves' replacement Geoff Hurst scored the winner.
Chaotic and it set up the English for a game against Portugal and they were amongst the favourites but few would know that Bobby Charlton could play football like that. He brushed aside Eusebio and his team to set up a final against West Germany, who were exactly where many expected them to be. This was, after all, the favourites. The team everyone had pipped to win yet another World Cup title and they proved it by strolling past their group.
Only Argentina gave them a challenge as it ended goal-less but seven goals in their two other games placed the Germans first in their group. They eased past a tough Uruguay side as well, by scoring four past them, and then beat the Soviet Union 2-1 thanks to yet another impervious performance from Franz Beckenbauer. Der Kaiser was 21 and running games for his country with many unable to simply play against them but as they walked into the final, it turns out England had a plan.
More on that later because you see, the focus turns to the man who was never supposed to be walking out at Wembley that fated evening. Going into the 1966 tournament, Alf Ramsey’s first choice striking pair was Jimmy Greaves and Roger Hunt with the duo thriving. By the time they reached the knockout stages, Hunt and Greaves were doing well but an injury had ruled Greaves out for the next two games.
In walked Geoff Hurst and the 24-year-old proved to be a hit as he scored the only goal to beat Argentina and assisted Charlton’s second against Portugal. It seemed the West Ham striker had made his mark on the world and on Ramsey because despite Greaves being fit, out walked Hurst and Hunt to face West Germany. And the game started well for the Germans with Sigfried Held putting an early chance just wide of Gordon Banks’ goal.
However, the English defense would be breached in the end as Helmut Haller scored ten minutes into the first half. The stadium went silent as they realised what had happened but the agony didn’t last long with England equalising eight minutes later. For some reason, center-back and captain Bobby Moore was making a run down the left after he had been slipped in by Bobby Charlton who had been negated well by Beckenbauer.
The England captain, not even 30 yards from the German box, was brought to the floor by Wolfgang Overath and is awarded a quick free-kick. Not even ten seconds later, Moore is back to his feet, spots Geoff Hurst inside the box and plays an inch-perfect cross for the striker to head home. The 24-year-old is unmarked, which by German standards is a fireable offence, and has all the time in the world to guide the ball into the net.
Hans Tilkowski, the German goalkeeper, is as stunned as everyone else in the stadium and just watches in disbelief before pointing to the space Hurst has. The game is level and that was the way it would remain until the second half although Tilkowski and Banks did have a few saves to make. Nothing clear-cut though with the two sides at par especially since Bobby Charlton and Franz Beckenbauer were marking each other out of the game.
The second half arrives and it’s more of the same with the Germans struggling to create much because of the fact that a key offensive cog is forced to deal with England’s key offensive cog. But even then, despite a scrappy start to the second the crowd seem happy enough as they try and keep their hopes up. But then, twelve minutes from the full-time whistle and England have the lead with it coming out of absolutely nothing.
Somehow Alan Ball’s corner is planted into the mixer but Willi Schulz is there to clear and it falls for Hurst. The striker, under some pressure, shoots but has to watch as Horst-Dieter Höttges attempts to block the shot into oblivion. It’s a poor one, the ball drops into the heart of the German defense where Martin Peters runs and smashes home the rebound. Suddenly, England are eleven minutes away from lifting their first-ever World Cup.
But with time on the clock, the game was far from over as chances flew in left, right and centre for both sides. Hurst put a decent one wide a few minutes later, Hunt then fluffed a glorious chance four minutes from time and that silenced the crowd. It also riled up the Germans with them on the offensive as Alf Ramsey’s side held on for dear life as the game entered the final minutes of normal time.
But as luck would have it, Germany scored the equaliser. It was about as chaotic and storybook-esque as anyone could have imagined. it started with Jack Charlton conceding a needless foul about 30 yards from Banks’ goal. Emmerich stepped up, fired through the wall, the ball fell for Held and he blasted it goalwards. It was going right at Banks but somehow it takes a nick of Schnellinger, moves towards the right, evades both Wilson and Seeler before Weber ghosts at the far post and pokes it home.
The Germans are ecstatic, the English less so as Banks screams for a handball. He isn’t getting the call as Wembley goes silent although there is a part of the stadium cheering on because the goal means that the game becomes the first final to move into extra-time. The little five-minute break was supposed to change the mood in the England camp but it doesn’t with them a little knackered and deflated as the first half of added time kicks off.
But that quickly changed as Bobby Charlton clattered the post four minutes in and then as the clock ticked towards the 100th minute of the game, the Germans found their footing. But as Hans Tilkowski thumped a goal-kick down-field hoping that a German could take advantage, up stepped Jack Charlton. The defender’s towering header finds Nobby Stiles and the midfielder has acres of space to weave his magic. The commentator says “There’s twenty minutes of the game left” as Stiles takes the ball under his control and looks about.
He’s got Bobby Charlton and Martin Peters to his right but the midfielder’s gaze is elsewhere with acres of space to his right. The crowd wait in anticipation to see what the impervious midfielder was about to do especially as Allan Ball made a run down the right. He was Stiles’ target especially since he had the run on Höttges and Stiles finds his teammate with a lovely pass. Geoff Hurst is running through the center but after his earlier goal, you’d expect him to be man-marked to the hilt.
Yet, Ball runs his lungs out, gets to the ball first and pumps a hopeful cross into the center. Time slows down as the ball flies and the clocks tick somewhere in the distance. You can feel the collective breathing of the 93,000 at Wembley and the 400 million watching on the television.
Welcome to a moment in history.