It’s that time again! The greatest show on earth is upon us. Ahead of the Fifa World Cup in Russia, we look-back at the 20 tournaments before and the standout aspects from them.

Next up, when football returned to the country that gave the world the game 103 years earlier – England.

England 1966

The World Cup came home... the cup was stolen... the cup was then retrieved by a dog... the cup finally made its way to the captain of the England football team, handed over by the Queen at the Wembley.

England 1966 was, by most accounts, a memorable tournament for various reasons.

There was the aforementioned dog. There was Eusebio. There was Pele, who was once again targetted physically, so much so that he reportedly swore never to play in a World Cup again after Portugal eliminated Brazil. (He would and it was glorious). There was North Korea. And, there was, of course, Sir Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick in the final.

The England team under the tactically astute Alf Ramsey advanced in solid if unspectacular style to the semi-finals, where they faced a Eusebio-inspired Portugal, who had eliminated an ageing Brazilian side with a 3-1 victory in the group stage.

Two brilliant efforts by Manchester United’s Bobby Charlton put paid to the Portuguese 2-1 at Wembley.

West Germany, coaxed by new find Franz Beckenbauer, defeated the Soviet Union at Goodison Park to take their place at the home of football for the final.

Helmut Haller put the Germans ahead but Geoff Hurst equalised before half-time. Martin Peters looked to have clinched the cup for the hosts until Wolfgang Weber snatched a dramatic late equaliser to force extra time in a final for only the second time in history.

Hurst scored twice in the additional period to become the only player to score a World Cup final hat-trick. His second goal was highly controversial, bouncing down off the crossbar and, according to the linesman, over the line.

But the tournament top scorer remained Eusabio with nine goals, including four to rescue Portugal against North Korea after they had trailed 3-0 in the quarter-finals.

Earlier North Korea produced the shock of the tournament, beating Italy 1-0 in the group stage.

Stats and trivia

  • One of the stories of this World Cup... happened even before the tournament began and had to do with the World Cup itself. The Jules Rimet Trophy got stolen a few months before the tournament began and it involved the best of investigators working around the goal, with Pickles, the dog, emerging the hero. As describes it: “Arguably one of the game’s greatest storylines, involving mystery, intrigue and an unlikely hero, took place away from the floodlights, featuring a church hall, a ransom note and a loyal dog...” If this little snippet intrigued you, then you can read a lot more about that here.
  • Geoff Hurst, to this day, is the only player to score a World Cup final hat-trick. 
  • England were the first team who failed to win their first match of the tournament (a dour 0-0 draw against Uruguay) and went on to lift the trophy. Italy did the same in 1982, while Spain won the trophy after losing their match in 2010.
  • The first World Cup to have an official mascot – Willie, the lion. Leave it to England, eh?
  • Pele and Garrincha, with their goals in against Bulgaria in the opener, became the first players to find the net in three successive Fifa World Cups.
  • 25-year-old (and 109 days) Bobby Moore was, then, the youngest captain to lift the World Cup trophy. He would later be emulated by Daniel Passarella who was 78 days younger when he led Argentina to the title in 1978.
  • Tournament top-scorer: Eusebio - Portugal (9 goals)
  • Total number of goals scored in the tournament: 89 (2.8 goals per match) 

For your viewing pleasure

A memorable (or forgettable, if you are a Germany fan) final


A feature on Bobby Moore...

Official poster


With AFP and inputs