The 1966 FIFA World Cup, the eighth staging of the World Cup, was held in England from 11 to 30 July. England was chosen as host of the 1966 World Cup in Rome, Italy on 22 August 1960, over rival bids from West Germany and Spain.
Thirty-one African nations boycotted the tournament to protest a 1964 FIFA ruling that required the three second-round winners from the African zone to enter a play-off round against the winners of the Asian zone in order to qualify for the World Cup, as they felt winning their zone was enough in itself to merit qualification. They also protested against the readmission of South Africa to FIFA in 1963, despite its expulsion from CAF due to the Apartheid Regime in 1958.
South Africa was subsequently assigned to the Asia and Oceania qualifying group before being disqualified after being suspended again due to pressure from other African nations in October 1964. Despite this, after FIFA refused to change the qualifying format, the African teams decided anyway to pull out of the World Cup until at least one African team had a place assured in the World Cup, something which was put in place for the 1970 FIFA World Cup and all subsequent World Cup finals.
The format of the 1966 competition remained the same as 1962: 16 qualified teams were divided into four groups of four. Each group played a round-robin format. Two points were awarded for a win and one point for a draw, with goal average used to separate teams equal on points. The top two teams in each group advanced to the knockout stage.
In the knockout games, if the teams were tied after 90 minutes, 30 minutes of extra time were played. For any match other than the final, if the teams were still tied after extra time, lots would be drawn to determine the winner. The final would have been replayed if tied after extra time. In the event, no replays or drawing of lots was necessary.
The 1966 World Cup had a rather unusual hero off the field, a dog called Pickles. In the build-up to the tournament, the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen from an exhibition display. A nationwide hunt for the icon ensued. It was later discovered wrapped in newspaper as the dog sniffed under some bushes in London. The FA commissioned a replica cup in case the original cup was not found in time. This replica is held at the English National Football Museum in Manchester, where it is on display.
The draw for the final tournament, taking place on 6 January 1966 at the Royal Garden Hotel in London was the first ever to be televised, with England, West Germany, Brazil and Italy as seeds.
The opening match took place on Monday 11 July. With the exception of the first tournament, which commenced on 13 July 1930, every other tournament (up to and including 2018) has commenced in May or June. The final took place on 30 July 1966, the 36th anniversary of the first final. This remains the latest date that any tournament has concluded. The reason for the unusually late scheduling of the tournament appears to lie with the outside broadcast commitments of the BBC, which also had commitments to cover Wimbledon (which ran between 20 June and 2 July) and the Open Golf Championship (6 to 9 July).
1966 was a World Cup with few goals as the teams began to play much more tactically and defensively. This was exemplified by Alf Ramsey’s England as they finished top of Group 1 with only four goals, but having none scored against them. They also became the first World Cup winning team not to win its first game in the tournament. Uruguay were the other team to qualify from that group at the expense of both Mexico and France. All the group’s matches were played at Wembley Stadium apart from the match between Uruguay and France which took place at White City Stadium.
In Group 2, West Germany and Argentina qualified with ease as they both finished the group with 5 points, Spain managed 2, while Switzerland left the competition after losing all three group matches. FIFA cautioned Argentina for its violent style in the group games, particularly in the scoreless draw with West Germany, which saw Argentinean Rafael get sent off and suspended for the next match.
In the northwest of England, Old Trafford and Goodison Park played host to Group 3 which saw the two-time defending champions Brazil finish in third place behind Portugal and Hungary, and be eliminated along with Bulgaria. Brazil were defeated 3–1 by Hungary in a classic encounter before falling by the same score line to Portugal in a controversial game. Portugal appeared in the finals for the first time, and made quite an impact. They won all three of their games in the group stage, with a lot of help from their outstanding striker Eusebio, whose nine goals made him the tournament’s top scorer.
Group 4, however, provided the biggest upset when North Korea beat Italy 1–0 at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough and finished above them, thus earning qualification to the next round along with the Soviet Union. This was the first time that a nation from outside Europe or the Americas had progressed from the first stage of a World Cup: the next would be Morocco in 1986.
Quarter-finals, semi-finals, and third-place match:
The quarter-finals provided a controversial victory for West Germany as they cruised past Uruguay 4–0; the South Americans claimed that this occurred only after the referee (who was Jim Finney, from England) had not recognised a handball by Schnellinger on the goal line and then had sent off two players from Uruguay: Horacio Troche and Hector Silva. It appeared as though the surprise package North Korea would claim another major upset in their match against Portugal at Goodison Park, when after 22 minutes they led 3–0. It fell to one of the greatest stars of the tournament, Eusebio, to change that. He scored four goals in the game and Jose Augusto added a fifth in the 78th minute to earn Portugal a 5–3 win.
Meanwhile, in the other two games, Ferenc Bene’s late goal for Hungary against the Soviet Union, who were led by Lev Yashin’s stellar goalkeeping, proved little more than a consolation as they crashed out 2–1, and the only goal between Argentina and England came courtesy of England’s Geoff Hurst. During that controversial game (for more details see Argentina and England football rivalry), Argentina’s Antonio Rattin became the first player to be sent off in a senior international football match at Wembley. Rattín at first refused to leave the field and eventually had to be escorted by several policemen. After 30 minutes England scored the only goal of the match. This game is called el robo del siglo (the robbery of the century) in Argentina.
All semi-finalists were from Europe. The venue of the first semi-final between England and Portugal was changed from Goodison Park in Liverpool to Wembley, due to Wembley’s larger capacity. This larger capacity was particularly significant during a time when ticket revenue was of crucial importance. Bobby Charlton scored both goals in England’s win, with Portugal’s goal coming from a penalty in the 82nd minute after a handball by Jack Charlton on the goal line. The other semi-final also finished 2–1: Franz Beckenbauer scoring the winning goal with a left foot shot from the edge of the area for West Germany as they beat the Soviet Union.
Portugal went on to beat the Soviet Union 2–1 to take third place. Portugal’s third place remains the best finish by a team making its World Cup debut since 1934. It was subsequently equaled by Croatia in the 1998 tournament.
London’s Wembley Stadium was the venue for the final and 98,000 people attended. After 12 minutes 32 seconds Helmut Haller put West Germany ahead, but the score was leveled by Geoff Hurst four minutes later. Martin Peters put England in the lead in the 78th minute; England looked set to claim the title when the referee awarded a free kick to West Germany with one minute left. The ball was launched goal-ward and Wolfgang Weber scored, with England appealing in vain for handball as the ball came through the crowded penalty area.
With the score level at 2–2 at the end of 90 minutes, the game went to extra time. In the 98th minute, Hurst found himself on the score-sheet again; his shot hit the crossbar, bounced down onto the goal line, and was awarded as a goal. Debate has long raged over whether the ball crossed the line, with the goal becoming part of World Cup history; Ian Reid and Andrew Zisserman claim to prove that the ball did not cross the line. England’s final goal was scored by Hurst again, as a celebratory pitch invasion began. This made Geoff Hurst the only player ever to have scored three times in a World Cup final. BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s description of the match’s closing moments has gone down in history: “Some people are on the pitch. ‘They Think it’s all Over’ … [Hurst scores] It is now!”.
England’s total of eleven goals scored in six games set a new record low for average goals per game scored by a World Cup winning team. The record stood until 1982, when it was surpassed by Italy’s twelve goals in seven games; in 2010 this record was lowered again by Spain, winning the Cup with eight goals in seven games. England’s total of three goals conceded also constituted a record low for average goals per game conceded by a World Cup winning team. That record stood until 1994, when it was surpassed by Brazil’s three goals in seven games. Spain again lowered the record to two goals by conceding them during the group stage and then shutting out its four knockout stage opponents by 1–0 scores.
England received the recovered Jules Rimet trophy from Elizabeth II and were crowned World Cup winners for the first time
In this World Cup edition, the national anthems were played only in the final. They were not played in the earlier matches because the organisers (Fifa and the FA) feared that North Korea’s presence – a socialist country that is not recognized by United Kingdom – in the World Cup would cause problems with South Korea. An office memo of the Foreign Office months before the finals stated that the solution would be “denying the visas to North Korean players”.
With nine goals, Eusébio was the top scorer in the tournament. In total, 89 goals were scored by 47 different players, with two of them credited as own goals.