Send us a message

Interested in being a part of the team? Get in touch with us today.
Dec 072013

untitled Classic Football Theater: The 1966 World Cup Final, England versus West Germany


Quick Introduction: A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to the BBC World Football Phone In, one of the best programs on international football. The panelists were asked the question, “What is your favorite World Cup?” As eloquent as always, the panelists ran through some of the greatest matches of all time. Brazil versus the Netherlands, 1976. Argentina versus the Netherlands, 1976.  England versus Argentina, 1982. As the panelists were running down these classic matches and some of the all-time great players, I realized something: I have never seen any of these matches. Although I have watched countless World Cup, Premier League, and Champions League matches my viewing experience dates back to right around 1994. Sure I have seen a few matches here or there or the highlights of a couple of games but never the full 90 minutes. And I would imagine I am not the only one.

To kick start this series I have chosen one of the true classics of soccer, the 1966 World Cup Final between England and West Germany. With the game being played at-now Old Wembley Stadium, the stakes are incredibly high for this match. Although this is not where the England-West Germany rivalry started, it certainly poured gas on the fire. Keep in mind that many of the players, the coaches, and the fans either served or were alive during World War II.

Although you do not hear as many curse words as you do in a match today, you can hear the intensity of the crowd as minute goes by. A simply electric crowd for the first ever World Cup Final to go to extra time.

Also, if you have any suggestions on quality matches worth reviewing, please include them in the comment section below!

Link to the match: The match can be found here. A big thanks to Youtube.

Lineups(Defenders and Midfielders are Right to Left:)

West Germany: (4-2-4) Coach: Helmut Schon;  Goalkeeper: Hans Tilkowski (Borussia Dortmund;) Defenders: Horst Dieter-Hottges (Werder Bremen,) Wili Schulz (Hamburger SV,) Wolfgang Weber (F.C. Koln,) and Karl Heinz Schnellinger (A.C. Milan;) Midfielders: Franz Beckenbauer (Bayern Munich,) and Wolfgang Overath (F.C. Koln;) Forwards: Helmut Haller (Bologna,) Uwe Seeler (Hamburger SV,) Siegfried Held (Borussia Dortmund,) and Lothar Emmerich (Borussia Dortmund.)

England: (4-1-3-2) Coach: Alfred Ramsey; Goalkeeper: Gordon Banks (Leicester City;) Defenders: George Cohen (Fulham,) Jack Charlton (Leeds United,) Bobby Moore (West Ham United,) and  Ray Wilson (Everton;) Defensive Midfielder : Nobby Stiles (Manchester United;) Midfielder: Alan Ball (Everton,) Bobby Charlton (Manchester United,) and Martin Peters (West Ham United;) Forwards: Geoff Hurst (West Ham United,) and Roger Hunt (Liverpool.)

Love of country is certainly in the air in this match. As soon as the BBC Production begins, I feel like I need a cup of tea and some Yorkshire scones. The entire match, from the Union Jack flags waving to the loud singing of “God Save the Queen” to the actual Royal Family showing up as a viewer you get how much this means to the United Kingdom. This atmosphere is unlike any other World Cup match that I have ever seen, much less a final. There is less style to the lead up to the match, but the substance is stronger.

But aside from the fans cleaning up their language for the queen (during a couple of moments in the game you can hear fans say “show off” as opposed to saying “sod off”) this was probably one of the best crowds that I have ever heard in a World Cup match.  The one funny thing that I found during the pregame warm up was the BBC getting a close up of the Queen during “God Save the Queen.” For those wondering, no she did not sing, “God Save Myself.” I am still not quite sure what the BBC was looking for her to do but she looked a little embarrassed to have people singing to her.

When the lineups were announced, one of the first things that I noticed was the sheer number of legends in this match. Of course the first name that pops off of the list of players for the West Germans is Franz Beckenbauer. Der Kaiser during his career would lead West Germany to the 1974 World Cup and the 1972 European Championship. He was having a pretty good World Cup, scoring 4 goals including  one to hold off the Soviet Union in the semi-finals. But he was only 18 in this match so he is very much the understudy of this German team playing second fiddle to the likes of Karl Heinz Schnellinger ,Uwe Seeler, and Helmut Haller(6 goals.) The spine of this West German team (Siegfried Held, Lothar Emmerich, and Hans Tilowski) played for Borussia Dortmund which had just won the 1966 UEFA Cup Winners Cup and finished second in the Bundesliga.

From the English perspective, Leeds United fans will immediately recognize the name of Captain Jack Charlton. Charlton is perhaps better known as the manager of Ireland during the early 1990’s, but in the 1960’s he was part of a Leeds team that twice finish first in the English first division, which is now known as the Premier League. His impression on this match was felt from the first blow of the whistle, controlling possession in the midfield, relaying instructions from Manager Sir Alfred Ramsey, and help setting up two of England’s three goals. The partnership that Charlton had with his brother, Jack, and Midfielder Bobby Moore was quite special and was the catalyst for England’s success through the World Cup. In 2009, the International Federation of Football Statistics and History named England goalkeeper Gordon Banks as the second greatest goalkeeper in the 20th century, which I think sums up his career.

The one legend though that does not seem to live up to the hype is old Wembley Stadium. While the stands and the architecture are certainly very nice, the pitch looks like a mess. Even in the days of low definition black and white television you can see the different spots on the ground where the pitch had been torn up by a previous match. To be fair, lawn care has improved dramatically in the past fifty years so this could be an instance of comparing today’s product to the past. But the pitch definitely was a factor in the game, causing players to slip and fall on numerous occasions. Players also did not have interchangeable cleats like they do in the modern so that played a role as well. But Wembley was not in the best condition for this game.

Within the first ten minutes of the match, my expectations for this match had already been met and exceeded. One of my major concerns coming into this match was that I was going to be bored with the pace of the match. I kept thinking that play was going to look like something out of the 1930’s with slow, stodgy play. Instead, play started off at breakneck pace. Both teams were able to build directly from the midfield and distribute out to their wings with relative ease.  In the early minutes, both teams are playing this like a boxing match delivering attacks and counter-attacks. West German goalkeeper Hans Tilowski made an excellent stop in the 6th minute denying Geoff Hurst off of a right-footed attempt.

Early in the matchThere are some differences in how the game is played from today.  The players are much smaller and you do not see as many midfield crosses as you do now. But the passing was much, much better then. This was evidenced by the first goal of the match. Although Helmut Haller’s strike was a textbook example of finishing off one’s right foot some credit should go to Beckenbauer for his right footed cross that delievered the ball to Haller’s feet. While other players were looking for openings to get passed their defenders, Franz would often in this go straight at the English defense. For example, in the 29th minute, Beckenbauer took the ball on the counter-attack and used his speed to blow straight past England Defender Peter Cohen. But rather than take an awkward shot, which many players now would do, he delivered a pinpoint pass Emmerich on a dime that the striker almost puts away.

For the next twenty minutes, the Germans would control most of possession. The main problem with the English attack is that they like to make the long pass to the outside. But with the German defense playing man v man, there is very little room for the English forward to break out.  The one advantage that the English have over the Germans is in goal. Gordon Banks was having a splendid World Cup to this point, only allowing in 3 goals during the tournament. His West German counterpart Hans Tillowski was also having a good tournament. In the 30th minute, his poor play nearly cost the Germans the lead when he bobbled a save off a superb strike from Bobby Moore. The BBC commentator for the match, Kenneth Wolstenhome held true to the English tradition for not mincing word when he said “The goalkeeper in this tournament has been quite terrible.”

But England did have one good opportunity during the first half to score and they made the most out of it. In the 18th minute, Forward Geoff Hurst headed in a free kick off of the foot of Moore to even the match up. The German defense was caught napping on the play as Hurst had no one covering him inside the box. It was a poor challenge by the German Central Defender Wolfgang Overath that gave England the opportunity. Although the tackle would be considered tame by today’s standards, the rules of professional tackles were a bit different back then.

Although England was behind, never once did I hear the fans give up. Whether the team was up, behind, or even, they continued to sing “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In” and other songs throughout the match. But perhaps what I find the most ironic is the use of musical instruments. I wonder what the purists of the game, who gave South Africans so much grief over the use of the vuvuzelas during the 2010 World Cup, would think when they hear bells and accordions being played during one of their countries most important matches ever.

As the second half began, and the game still tied, you could see that the momentum of the game started to shift. Seller, who had room aplenty to move around in the first half and create chances, was now being tackled or taken down every 5 minutes. To make up for this change in pace the Germans started doing something very unprofessional they started to dive. When Haller dropped to the ground in the 56th after a small, innocent tackle by an English defender, Wolstenhome made the comment that “Haller plays in Bologna where he obviously enrolled in the dramatic arts.”

Meanwhile on the English attack, Jack Charlton and Bobby Moore were finally getting space to open up the German defense. What is interesting is that in the first half is that the English were playing a much more up tempo style but not seeing the results. But by being patient and waiting to take their chances, they achieved a higher level of results in the second half. Their hard work paid off in the 78th minute Martin Peters was able to give England the lead by a score of 2-1. Peter’s goal was a result of two things: excellent buildup by England and luck. The goal was set up by a splendid stutter step by Hurst which tangled Overath. Although Hottges was able to get ahold of the ball he Baggio-ed the kick, hitting it directly up into the air where it landed on Peter’s feet for an easy goal. Peter’s goal was also special because it would be the first time that a German team had ever given up more than one goal in a World Cup match.

You would think that after a goal like this that the Germans would send everything into the English attacking third. But instead they looked to be a bit shell-shocked. West Germany had never given up more than two goals in a World Cup match so it should not be shocking that they were thrown off of their rocker a bit. England, meanwhile, were still taking it to the German defense. They were finally able to stretch the German defense out with Ball making long, deep runs on the left hand side. In the background, I could hear very clearly the fans yelling out We want three!” The game looked like it was completely out of hand until the Germans did something miraculous.

It only takes one small miscalculation to have everything come crashing down.  The English defended valiantly in the last few minutes and looked to have everything wrapped up before an ill-timed foul by England gave Germany one last chance. Although Beckenbauer’s free kick was not great he did get into the box, where England defender missed clearing it out. With the ball in the box and Banks on the other side of the goal Saller buried his shot, much to the sheer shock and horror of the English fans. Extra-time was looming.

In a game where both teams were very even, it makes sense that this game would go to extra time. With this being the first-ever World Cup final to go to extra time, both the players and fans seemed very nervous about it. Bear in mind that there had been no substitutions yet in the match and that the players had played over 90 minutes. Keep in mind during this era teams did not make substitutions during the match so everyone was gassed. The fans themselves still seemed very dejected after such a late goal. Who could blame them? Their team was within seconds of winning their first-ever World Cup. Now, it looks like they may come out of this final with nothing.

Extra-time in soccer is always a difficult thing to predict. Often it comes down to the team that can weather an additional thirty minutes of football. Judging by this match, I would say that England had the edge. Throughout the thirty minutes, Moore and the brothers Charlton would push the German backline on their hind legs, often forcing them to make last-minute clearances or dicey tackles. In the 6th minute, Charlton hit a cracker from outside the 18 that went off of the crossbar, while Ball hit a long curling shot that Tillowski was just able to tip out-of-bounds. The Germans looked gassed- they were barely able to muster a significant shot in the first part of overtime.

Normally, when a kid thinks about scoring a game winning goal, it is a feat of pure genius. But the reality is that it does not matter how you score in the moment. All that matters is that you score. With the moments, waning in the first half of overtime, Hurst hit an innocuous ball off of the inside of the cross-bar and into the goal for the winner. What is interesting about the goal is that it reminds me so much of the goal that Frank Lampard scored that was disallowed against Germany during the 2010 World Cup. Although I doubt anyone has thought about the similarities other than me, it does make you wonder if this was a little payback.

With the lead secured, the English clamped down on defense in the second half playing 1-2 defenders on each German attacker. Having cut off the German midfield, England was able to keep their lead and win their first World Cup. What is so astonishing about the end of the match was how simple the celebration was. Where now you would now see a twenty-minute charade of confetti, medals, and FIFA strutting their feathers, the players seemed much more humble back then. They went up to the bleachers, talked to the Queen and the Duke, took their trophy and then did the lap of honor. It is refreshing to see players act with such dignity and grace.

In the stands it was another story. Fans were crying their eyes out, singing the national anthem, and drinking pints by the dozen. Lane Pryce was in New York drinking with his fellow Englishman. Aside from England, only five teams have ever hosted a World Cup and won it (Uruguay, West Germany, Italy, Argentina, and France) because the expectations can sometimes be too much for a team to handle. England did it with class, both on and off the field.

Does this match hold up? Yes. The historical implications of this match has only grown over time. With many events like this, people look at the past with rose-colored glasses. And perhaps this is true to some degree with this match. The pitch did lend itself to some sloppy moments. And the game tying goal was a result of some poor defense. But the free-flowing nature of both sides allowed this game to feel like a major prize-fight with each team getting in their chances. Being able to watch a game with a minimal amount of negative football (diving, complaining, and referee interference) was a breath of fresh air.

Beyond the trophy, I can see why the English hold this team in such high regard. They played such a tough, exciting brand of football that you rarely see these days. This was an England team that would never settle for draws or moral victories. I think what makes English fans so upset now about the quality of their squad is that there is an English model out there that does succeed. It was the model that helped them win the 1966 World Cup.

Sean Maslin

Writer for Global Football Today and Blatter's Blotter. Lifetime D.C. United, Newcastle United, and Washington Warthog fan. Can be reached at @SeanMaslin on twitter or at

 Leave a Reply



Refresh Image


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>