Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 4 -“Two World Wars & One World Cup….”



“Like a Soviet Linesman my conscience is clear.”

Arthur Daley, Minder.


The English took a while to take the World Cup seriously from its initial concept. When the first World Cup was created in 1930 the English FA had already walked out on FIFA and deemed the competition to be beneath them and the other home nations. They wouldn’t be part of FIFA or the World Cup for the two other World Cups before the Second World War.

After rejoining FIFA they finally took part in the 1950 World Cup with limited preparation due their inability to take the competition seriously. After similar poor efforts in 1954 and 1962 (where young star Jimmy Greaves had to capture a stray dog that had come on to the pitch) England had finally made up with FIFA enough to be awarded the World Cup hosting rights for 1966 over West Germany. There were the issues of problems such as having to schedule games at Wembley Stadium around the greyhound racing and the like but England felt they were ready.

By the time the tournament had rolled around the World Cup trophy had been stolen and then found in a garden bed by a dog and England had developed in to quite a handy team under the Londoner Alf Ramsey. Ramsey took over shortly after the 1962 tournament and boldly predicted that England would win the tournament in England which was roundly questioned. Still, he managed to convince the FA that a selection committee selecting the side would not work and he would need complete control. He got it. He was England’s first proper coach.

Ramsey brought together a cohesive and well drilled side and took no prisoners when it came to a slack attitude. There were the Charlton brothers from the North East, the fantastic Gordon Banks in goal, cultured George Cohen and West Ham regulars including the affable Bobby Moore. Greaves (a star striker by now) was constantly butting heads with Ramsey. Ramsey also took the risk in awarding the captaincy to a young Moore claiming he was a born leader. In the first round of games they first drew with Uruguay 0-0 which deflated a lot of hype surrounding the team. They then finally clicked despite changing the team around again and beat Mexico and then France 2-0 to finish top of the group.

In the quarter finals England focused on having two midfielders rather than wingers who would track back and defend. The side was labelled ‘The wingless wonders’ by the press. In the quarter finals against Argentina in a terse match that resulted in the first bit of bad blood between the countries that would go through the history of the World Cup. In the semi finals they outlasted Portugal and the brilliant Eusebio thanks to Bobby Charlton scoring twice. On a wave of pride, attacking football and hype England had made the final.

Their opponents would be a West German side that was a mix of the old and the new. This side had not only been rebuilt on the pitch but off it too with the regional leagues all pulled together to form the Bundesliga and new coach Helmet Schon bringing in players like the brilliant yet deranged Wolgang Overath, keeper Sepp Maire and the one and only Franz Beckenbauer. They had had topped their group to avoid England with a belting of Switzerland (their last World Cup for 28 years), draw with Argentina and then Spain. In the quarter finals they rose above Uruguay’s thuggery to win 4-0 and then turfed out the Yashin-led Soviets 2-1 to book their place in the final. A dream final for organisers with the undercurrent of the history between the two countries.

The West German press certainly thought the English needed to let a bit of stuff from just over 20 years ago. The always trashy ‘Bild’ magazine had quipped that in the Press Box the English journalists wrote their copy for their respective newspapers in army fatigues and a gas mask. While the British PM Harold Wilson used the day of the final to announce a wage freeze and policy changes to curry favour with the US President Lyndon B Johnson that slipped under the radar with the world’s eyes focused on North-West London. The prolific Greaves would also miss the final despite being fit after suffering a gash leg against France. His replacement, a young and until then out of form Geoff Hurst, was kept in the side after scoring against Argentina and Ramsey’s reluctance to change a winning team. With no substitutions in this era Greaves would not play a minute.

The players walked out to a wall of noise with so many waving Union Jacks it looked as though an octopus had got caught in some coronation bunting. England would play in their red away kit. Germany in their traditional white with their national anthem respectfully played to a silent crowd that didn’t boo like today’s’ ‘OI OI!’ shouty reprobates. Jack Charlton was doubly nervous in what was the biggest game of his career with his wife at home in Sunderland due to give birth at any hour.

The game was end to end for the first 10 minutes with England having two shots that was easily collected by the German keeper. It was the visitors who were ahead on 10 minutes though when the winger Haller took advantage of a mistake by Wilson to send the ball past Banks. Wembley was silent with the exception of some boos and mutterings from the seats. England hadn’t fallen behind during the whole tournament. It didn’t take long for England to back on level terms though. After Nobby Stiles was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch for trying to break Haller in half it was 1-1 on 18 minutes when Bobby Charlton finally broke free from Beckenbauer for a second and crossed to Moore who was clattered. Rather than complain about the tackle Moore took the free kick quickly and crossed in to Hurst who was completely unmarked and headed the ball past the keeper. It seemed Ramsey’s selection had been justified.

England got on top as the sun finally broke out from behind the clouds with the Germans flustered. As the game got closer to half time England got sloppy and gave the ball away when attacking with the Germans lethal on the counterattack but their ring rustiness was also apparent under the pressure of it being a game to see who would be champions of the World. Half time and 1-1 as the heavens opened up again. In the second half the game was still an arm wrestle with the crowd tense and subdued save for the odd call for England to ‘Come on!’. The West Germans had lost some of their attacking support with Beckenbauer doing a man marking job on Bobby Charlton that was working a treat but the young German had two speculative shots go wide. Both sides tried to take advantage of any paper thin moment to put the game in the favour. England finally got theirs.

With 12 minutes to go a corner was poorly cleared by the Germans to Hurst. The striker got a weak shot in that trickled towards goal but was cleared again and but again straight to a West Ham player, Peters, who struck the ball home with venom. 2-1. England 12 minutes away from winning the World Cup Final in a sport they’d invented 103 years previously. The game was again attack against attack with both teams spurning chances. Banks saved easily and Hunt was put through on goal with two other English players but his pass was poor and was berated by Bobby Charlton. Only minutes to go. With a minute to go Jack Charlton gave away a needless free kick 30 yards out that was whipped in by Emmerich. The ball went through the wall but cannoned off Cohen and in to the path of Held who saw his shot deflect past two English players and to Weber who equalised for the Germans and take the game in to extra time. They would be ecstatic and they had thrown everything in to getting an equaliser.

In extra time England regained their composure after the heartbreaking equaliser and got on with the job at hand. Bobby Charlton had a shot hit the upright of the goal as Hunt dominated on a wing as the wingless wonders decided to try and stretch the Germans but throwing their tactics out the window with Hunt a constant problem. Some 11 minutes in to extra time Ball got down the right wing and got a cross in before being tackled. The ball went across to around the penalty spot where Hurst let it bounce with his back to goal and then collected the ball before spinning and letting go a fierce left foot shot over the keeper, against the crossbar and then down on to the line.


The crowd celebrated, English players half celebrated/half pleaded for the goal and the Germans just tried to get on with the game after a corner was given following aerial ping pong. If Hunt had just tapped the ball in after it had hit the line rather than celebrated the question over if it crossed the line was a moot point. The Soviet referee waved away both sets of players and consulted his linesman, the linesman said it had crossed the line even though he didn’t even have clear sight of line. Unbelievably the goal was given. Wembley exploded. England 3-2.

The Germans surrounded the referee as he jogged back to restart the game, benefit of the doubt went out the window as the locals found their voice. West Germany broke down the left but desperation from Cohen saw the shot blocked and then collected by a desperate Banks. In the second half of extra time the Germans look spent, the English are also running on fumes and daring not dream just yet with Stiles letting ball run out rather than run in to space to attack again. West Germany threw what they had left at the English but they were holding on with Cohen especially resilient and heading a shot behind for a corner. Then with seconds to go after another half arsed German attack was stopped Moore collected the ball in his own penalty area and with all the calmness of an Easter Island statue passed down the left and through to Hurst who somehow found himself through on goal with all the Germans playing up the pitch. In what seemed like slow motion Hurst bore down on goal on the torn up pitch from the rain with Overath in pursuit. Hurst picked his spot and sent an unstoppable shot in to the roof of the net with the famous BBC Commentator Ken Wolstenholme uttering the famous words:

“They think it’s all over. It is now!”

England were up 4-2 and champions. Ball ran up to congratulate Hurst but is so exhausted Hurst has to hold him up. The referee found another minute from the game with both sets of players just wanting a final whistle. The crowd was jubilant to say the least with Queen Elizabeth II in the royal box even managing to crack a smile watching a game primarily played by commoners in her family’s eyes. Following the full time whistle there was more iconic moments with Bobby Moore collecting the trophy from the Queen and Geoff Hurst being still the only player to score a hattrick in a World Cup Final. West Ham United to this day still claim they won the World Cup with Moore, Hurst and Peters all from the Hammers with a statue of the famous photo of Moore being lifted up by teammates with the cup now outside West Ham’s Bolyene Ground.

None of the players on the benches received winners or losers medal as that was the FIFA ruling at the time. This included Greaves who would only play a handful of England games again before retiring from the side citing his inability to sit on the bench and wait for an opportunity in what was a prolific England career over way too early. After a long campaign the squad players who didn’t play for England and West Germany finally received what they deserved in 2009. West Germany would get their revenge in 1970 eliminating England in the quarter finals with a stirring comeback and would lift the cup in 1974 and 1990. England still haven’t even made a final since 1966 with sides that had promised to have the spirit of 66 but without about 66% more ego. Cohen’s son Ben Cohen would be part of the history making the England Rugby side that won the World Cup in 2003.

One of THE iconic moments in the World Cup and one that ushered in a golden era of the competition that made it global phenomenon it is today. This was also a time when London was swinging and England was on a roll following the post war period of rationing and rebuilding with the baby boomers coming in to their own. A scrappy game at times on a rainy afternoon but a fitting dramatic end to a tournament that had seen the North Koreans shock, the Italians pelted with fruit, Eusebio show the world his greatness and England win for the first and only time. You’d think after 48 years they would’ve shut up about it by now.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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