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1966 World Cup: Football Coming Home After Dramatic Final

The 1966 World Cup in England was the first to have a mascot – Willie the Lion – but the dog Pickles became the hero after finding the Jules Rimet trophy in a garden, stolen four months before the tournament was scheduled to start. Indeed, the World Cup in England stood out due to numerous unexpected results.

For instance, two-time World Cup winners Brazil and Italy did not get through the first round. North Korea beat the Italians and, upon arriving home, were pelted with tomatoes thrown by angry supporters.

Despite having Pelé and Garrincha on their team, the Brazilians did not manage to perform as they did in previous World Championships and also went home early after being steamrolled by Eusébio’s Portugal.

1966 world cup logo

1966 World Cup Facts

Date: 11 July – 30 July, 1966
1966 World Cup Final Score: England – West Germany 4-2

1966 World Cup Final Attendance: 96,924
3rd place: Portugal – Soviet Union 2-1
Teams: 16
Stadiums: 8
Host cities: 7
Matches played: 32
Goals: 89
Attendance: 1,635,000
Top scorer: Eusébio (Portugal) (9 goals)

Pele arrives for the 1966 World Cup

1966 World Cup Background

As with the previous World Cup in 1962, West Germany showed interest again in hosting the event. Only two other countries could beat West Germany: Spain and England.

Of the three countries interested in hosting the 8th edition, Spain withdrew before the FIFA voting started. But it was England who ended up receiving more votes (34 votes) than West Germany (27 votes).

Therefore on August 22, 1960, in Rome, FIFA announced England would host the 1966 World Cup for the first time.

Portugal vs North Korea

1966 World Cup Participants

Seventy-four countries tried to qualify for the 1966 World Cup, the highest number of qualification participants compared to the previous tournaments.

The interesting thing about the 74 countries is that no African countries were included.

The African countries boycotted the qualifications since, to participate in the 1966 World Cup, three second-round winners had to play a play-off against second-round Asian winners first.

The African countries believed the qualification rounds in their continent should be enough to guarantee a spot in the World Championships.

With Africa being absent in the 1966 World Cup, places were allocated to Europe, South America, North America, and Asia.

England supports in front of wembley stadium

This was the sixth WC that didn’t include any African countries. This would forever change in the next tournament in 1970.

England and Brazil automatically qualified since England hosted the 1966 World Cup, and Brazil won the previous tournament..

Nine places for Europe, excluding England, were allocated to the following countries: France, West Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Portugal, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Soviet Union, and Italy. Portugal participated for the first time.

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Three places for South America, excluding Brazil, were allocated to the following countries: Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile.

One place for North/Central America and the Caribbean was allocated to Mexico.

One place for Asia was allocated to North Korea, who qualified for the first time.

North Korea vs Portugal

World Cup 1966 Groups

England ’66 format was the same as in the 1962 World Cup. There were 4 groups with 4 countries each. The countries had to play each other in the group stage. Afterward, each group’s first and second teams would advance to the next round. (Quarterfinals)

The goal average would be used again in case teams have equal points. The goal average would then decide which team goes to the next round. In the Quarter-Finals, the number 1 teams of the groups played against the number 2 teams of other groups.

In the knockout phase, 30 minutes of extra time had to be played in case the match ended in a draw. If the 30 minutes of extra time didn’t change the score, lots would be drawn to determine the winner.

The Final had different rules and had to be replayed in case the 30 minutes extra time didn’t change the tied score. The four seed countries were England, West Germany, Brazil, and Italy. They were kept apart from each other and were placed in different groups.

The group draw could be witnessed on television for the first time.

The groups were as follows:

Group 1Group 2Group 3Group 4
EnglandWest GermanyPortugalSoviet Union
UruguayArgentinaHungaryNorth Korea

1966 World Cup Stadiums

The eight stadiums used were located in seven cities. Two stadiums, Wembley and White City stadiums, were both located in London. Only one match (Uruguay – France) was played in White City stadium. Initially, this match was scheduled to be played in Wembley stadium.

On the day of the match, a regularly scheduled greyhound racing would take place that the owner didn’t want to cancel.

The following seven cities and eight stadiums were used in England:

Wembley Stadium In 1966 World Cup

Wembley Stadium

Location: London
Opened: 1923
Capacity: 100,000
Matches: 9
Status: Demolished in 2003, it was replaced by a new Wembley Stadium, which opened in 2007.

White City Stadium In 1966 World Cup

White City Stadium

Location: London
Opened: 1908
Capacity: 76,567
Matches: 1
Status: Demolished in 1985

Villa Park In 1966 World Cup

Villa Park

Location: Birmingham
Opened: 1897
Capacity: 55,000
Matches: 3
Status: Has gone through many renovations and developments.

Hillsborough Stadium In 1966 World Cup

Hillsborough Stadium

Location: Sheffield
Opened: 1899
Capacity: 42,730
Games: 4
Status: Still exists and is the place where the Hillsborough disaster occurred.

Old Trafford in 1966

Old Trafford

Location: Manchester
Opened: 1910
Capacity: 42,730
Matches: 3
Status: It still exists and is the second largest UK stadium after Wembley stadium.

Goodison Park In 1966

Goodison Park

Location: Liverpool
Opened: 1892
Capacity: 40,157
Matches: 5
Status: It still exists and is one of the world’s first football-specific stadiums.

Roker Park In 1966 World Cup

Roker Park

Location: Sunderland
Opened: 1897
Capacity: 40,310
Matches: 4
Status: Demolished in 1998.

Ayresome Park In 1966 World Cup

Ayresome Park

Location: Middlesbrough
Opened: 1903
Capacity: 40,310
Matches: 3
Status: Demolished in 1997.

1966 Most Memorable Matches

England – Uruguay 0-0

England – Uruguay 0-0

Wembley Stadium, London – Attendance: 87,148

England started slowly by not scoring in their first match. This was the only 1966 World Cup match that England didn’t win.

This match against Uruguay was delayed since 7 English players forgot their identity cards at the team hotel. So a police motorcyclist was sent to collect them. Nevertheless, both teams advanced to the Quarter-Finals.

West Germany – Switzerland 5-0

Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield – Attendance: 36,000

This was the first World Cup of another legendary player. Franz Beckenbauer, nicknamed Der Kaiser (The Emperor), made his first appearance in this grand tournament.

He played every match and scored four times. His first two goals were scored in this match. German players Sigfried Held and Helmut Haller (2x) scored the other three goals. Haller’s 2nd goal was a penalty.

West Germany ended up with the same amount of points as Argentina. West Germany was in first place after using the average goal rule. They scored three more goals than Argentina. Switzerland lost every match and was eliminated.

Portugal – Brazil 3-1

Portugal – Brazil 3-1

Goodison Park, Liverpool – Attendance: 62,000

Although Brazil won both the 1958 and 1962 World Cups, this championship ended differently. The 1966 edition was Brazil’s worst World Cup performance.

This was the last time Brazil was eliminated in the group stage. The last time Brazil lost a WC match was 12 years earlier, in 1954.

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They lost first in the 1966 tournament against Hungary and then against Portugal. António Simões scored the first goal for Portugal. Eusébio, nicknamed O Pantera Negra or The Black Pearl, scored the other two goals. Rildo scored the only goal for Brazil.

Brazil was eliminated, and Portugal and Hungary advanced. Pelé was tackled fiercely and brutally during the group matches. He was so revolted that he vowed never to participate in a World Cup again after Brazil’s elimination.

As we all know, he participated one more time in the victorious 1970 World Championships.

North Korea – Italy 1-0

North Korea – Italy 1-0

Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough – Attendance: 18,000

Another surprise of the 1966 World Cup was North Korea. They became the first non-European and non-South American country to advance to the next round.

They managed this by beating Italy 1-0. North Korean Pak Doo-Ik was the hero by scoring the match’s only goal. North Korea topped the group and advanced with the Soviet Union.

Italy did have its revenge when it came to the 1962 World Cup’s Battle of Santiago. Italy won the group match against Chile 2-0.

Nevertheless, when Italy returned home from its shocking defeat against North Korea, their transport bus at the airport was pelted with fruit and rotten tomatoes by angry Italian fans.

argentina players surrounding the referee in 1966

England – Argentina 1-0 (El robo del siglo)

Wembley Stadium, London – Attendance: 90,000

The infamous rivalry between both teams started in this match. This historic match goes by the name El robo del siglo (the theft of the century) since the only goal scored by English player Geoff Hurst was offside, according to Argentina.

Another interesting fact is that Argentinian captain Antonio Rattín was sent off by the referee but initially refused to leave the pitch. It took 10 minutes and the presence of a Spanish-speaking official to make Rattin leave the field and for the match to continue.

English player Jack Charlton was also cautioned (booked) but found out only the next day when reading the newspaper! These events triggered the invention of yellow and red cards.

At the end of the match, the coach of England, Alf Ramsey, refused for the players to swap T-shirts with the Argentinian players. He described the Argentinians as “animals.”

Eusebio scoring a header against north korea 1966

Portugal – North Korea 5-3

Goodison Park, Liverpool – Attendance: 51,780

Another legendary match was for Portugal and Eusébio. He played a fantastic performance and is considered one of the legendary World Cup stars.

This match against North Korea is considered one of the tournament’s most entertaining matches. First, there was North Korea which scored three goals in 25 minutes.

The goal scorers Pak Seung-Zin, Li Dong-Woon, and Yang Seung-Kook thought, together with the team and country, that this would be a guaranteed win. They were wrong.

Eusébio scored the first goal for Portugal two minutes after North Korea’s third goal. But it didn’t stop there. He scored three more goals. The score was 4-3 now. José Augusto scored the final goal of the match, resulting in Portugal advancing to the Semi-Final.

1966 World Cup Semi Finals

West Germany – Soviet Union 2-1

West Germany – Soviet Union 2-1

Goodison Park, Liverpool – Attendance: 38,300

West Germany unexpectedly defeated Uruguay 4-0 in the Quarter-Final. Uruguay blamed the referee for sending off two players and not recognizing a handball on the goal line.

Nevertheless, 4-0 is an impressive score. Helmut Haller scored the first goal, and Franz Beckenbauer scored the winning goal. Forward Valeriy Porkujan scored for the Soviet Union in the 88th minute, but this wasn’t enough.

West Germany advanced to the Final, which didn’t happen since 1954. The Soviet Union has never reached a semi-final again.

England – Portugal 2-1

England – Portugal 2-1

Wembley Stadium, London – Attendance: 95,000

Another tough challenge for England was the match against Portugal. England scored the only goal in the first half, which forward Bobby Charlton scored.

In the 2nd half, Charlton again scored the second goal ten minutes before the final whistle. Eusébio scored a penalty two minutes after England’s second goal but couldn’t find the equalizer.

No Final for Portugal, but they beat the Soviet Union 2-1 for third place. Remember that this is Portugal’s FIRST World Cup!

It was a memorable and fantastic performance from Portugal, with Eusébio ending up as the legendary 1966 top scorer with nine goals.

1966 world cup final teams

1966 World Cup Final

England showed excellent team performance throughout the tournament by winning all the matches. Only their first group match against Uruguay ended in a 0-0 draw.

West Germany entered the Final with a similar result, having only tied their group match 0-0 against Argentina.

This was England’s first game against West Germany in a World Cup.

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The date was July 30, 1966. It was in the famous Wembley stadium in London where the Final was held between England and West Germany. Ninety-eight thousand attendees were present in the stadium.

It was the second World Cup Final for West Germany and the first for England. Two goals were already scored within the first 20 minutes of the first half.

The first goal was scored by German player Helmut Haller (12′) and the second by English player Geoff Hurst who scored with the head (18′). The score of 1-1 didn’t change till the 78th minute of the match.

England International Geoff Hurst in 1966 world Cup final

It was England again which scored, with this time Martin Peters as the goal scorer. Only a few minutes left before the referee ended the match, and England would become the champion of the world.

However, West Germany trying to equalize as fast as they could, finally succeeded in the 89th minute. It was Wolfgang Weber who scored. For the second time in World Cup history, 30 minutes of extra time had to be played.

The following event that happened during extra time is still considered controversial. Again, English player Geoff Hurst scored his 2nd goal of the match (101′), resulting in a score of 3-2.

However, the goal is controversial since it is unclear whether the ball passed the goal line completely. Even the referee wasn’t sure and had to consult the linesman, who said it crossed the goal line.

This linesman is now known as the Russian linesman, with only a few people knowing his real name. The goal, a shot bouncing off the crossbar and hitting the goal line, even got its name now: Wembley-Tor (Wembley Goal) or ghost goal. To this day, people still discuss whether the ball did enter the goal.

West Germany – Soviet Union 2-1

The German defenders started to play more forward since only a few minutes were left before extra time was over. Although the Germans were attacking more and more, England again scored the final goal of the match 1 minute before the end of extra time (120′).

Again, Geoff Hurst scored his hat trick. England has finally won the World Cup. It was Queen Elizabeth II who awarded England (who became known as the wingless wonders due to their narrow attacking formation) the Jules Rimet trophy.

England became the fifth country to win and the third country to become World Cup champions as a host country (first was Uruguay in 1930, 2nd was Italy in 1934).


English player Geoff Hurst became the only player and last player so far to have scored a hat-trick in a World Cup Final.

And West Germany? This was the first Final of many to come which were lost. However, they got their revenge four years later by beating England in the Quarter-Finals with extra time.

But it was many years later, in the 2010 South Africa World Cup, that a similar event occurred. Coincidentally enough, England again scored a similar Wembley-Tor (ghost goal) against Germany in the round of 16. But this time, although it was a clear goal, the referee thought otherwise.

What Was The Final Score: 4-2
Who Scored The Winning Goal In 1966: Geoff Hurst
1966 World Cup Final Goal Scorers: England: Geoff Hurst x 3, Martin Peters – Germany: Helmut Haller, Wolfgang Weber
1966 World Cup Final Goal Times: Haller 12′, Hurst 18′, Peters 78′, Weber 89′, Hurst 101′, Hurst 120′

bobby moore receives the 1966 jules rimet trophy from the queen

New Kids On The Block

The 1966 World Cup tournament’s leading player and top scorer with nine goals, Eusébio managed to lead Portugal to third place, their best finish to date. Another name that stood out in the world championships was that of German player Franz Beckenbauer.

At twenty, the Kaiser started mesmerizing the planet and steered West Germany into the final.

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It was time for the inventors of football, England, to win. After not showing much interest in the first editions of the World Cup, being embarrassed in 1950 with a defeat to the United States, and playing supporting roles in 1954 and 1962, the English team made the most of the home advantage, and with a golden generation made up by Bobby Moore, Alan Ball, Geoff Hurst, and Bobby Charlton, finally won the Jules Rimet trophy.

Eusébio winning the 1966 golden boot

Brazilian Disappointment

Having won the World Cup in 1958 and 1962, Brazil arrived in England as hot favorites, mainly because they still had Pelé and Garrincha. Their first match seemed to confirm this favoritism.

In Liverpool, the home of the Beatles, Pelé and Garrincha scored the goals of Brazil’s 2-0 victory over Bulgaria. It was the last time they played together. And Brazil never lost with Pelé and Garrincha on the pitch. However, in the 1966 World Cup, their winning streak would end after the first match.

A vicious tackle in Brazil’s first match took Pelé out of the second match against Hungary. The result was Brazil’s first defeat in World Cups in 13 matches, a disastrous 3-1.

Brought back for the match against Portugal, Pelé was viciously fouled throughout the game and did not manage to stop Portugal, which beat Brazil 3-1 with two goals from Eusébio. As a result, the team that had conquered the world in previous World Championships was out of the tournament.

bobby moore receives the 1966 jules rimet trophy from the queen

Who Owns The 1966 World Cup Football

The football used in the final is now owned by the Mirror Group, Eurostar, and Virgin. It has been loaned to the National Football Museum. The iconic orange ball instantly catches the attention of museum visitors, who reminisce about the tournament and final. For so many people, it is a very special piece of history.

Immediately after the final, German forward Helmut Haller took possession of the ball. According to him, the first goal scorer of the match keeps the match ball as tradition dictates. A campaign was launched by the Daily Mirror newspaper ahead of the 1996 Euros to return the ball to England.

The ball is now very fragile. Due to its orange color, it is light-sensitive and starting to fade in color. The public can still see the ball up close in Manchester.

1966 world cup mascot

1966 Mascot

The First World Cup to introduce a mascot: the 1966 edition in England had this privilege. From this tournament on, FIFA would introduce a mascot for each upcoming World Championships.

With the introduction of a mascot, FIFA started to emphasize marketing highly. Together with the mascot, the logo and the World Cup song were used to promote the soccer festival and to show the world the experience is fun for everyone.

A mascot represents the hosting country’s culture, traditional values, flora, or fauna. Merchandise emphasizing the mascot, such as key rings, T-shirts, mugs, and figures, would be made available to enhance the World Championships awareness.

The 1966 mascot goes by the name World Cup Willie and is a lion, a typical symbol of the United Kingdom. However, even the English team has the nickname The Three Lions.

World Cup Willie wears a Union Flag jersey and shoots the Slazenger 25 Challenge football.

1966 WC song

1966 World Cup Song

The song was about the mascot World Cup Willie, ‘who is everybody’s favorite for the Cup.’

It is so far the only official song that is dedicated to the mascot. This English song is sung by British skiffle musician Lonnie Donegan and is named World Cup Willie (Where in this World are We Going).

england bench celebrating the 1966 world cup

Records From The 1966 World Cup

  • Two countries qualified for the first time: Portugal and North Korea.
  • First and last time so far that England won a World Cup.
  • England is the fifth country to win the worldwide tournament.
  • England is the third country to win a World Championship as the host country.
  • England is the first World Cup champion that didn’t win the first World Cup match.
  • The third place for Portugal is the best result ever for a World Cup debutant; Croatia would do the same in the 1998 edition.
  • First World Cup to introduce a mascot.

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  • First time since 1934 that all four semi-finalists are European teams.
  • North Korean Pak Seung-Zin scored the first World Cup goal by an Asian country in the match against Chile (1-1).
  • English player Geoff Hurst is the only player to have scored a hat-trick in a World Cup Final.
  • Mexican goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal played 5 World Cups in a row for Mexico, with the 1950 tournament being his first and the 1966 edition his last (German player Lothar Matthäus did the same from 1982 to 1998).
  • Brazil is the 2nd country that didn’t make it to the second round after winning the previous tournament.
  • For the first time, a non-European and non-American country went to the Quarter-Finals: North Korea.
  • Bulgaria is the first and only country to have scored two own goals in the same championships, which occurred in the matches against Portugal and Hungary.
  • This World Championships had the highest average attendance for 28 years (50,273) until 1994.

dave corrbett and pickles the dog

Did You Know…

  • The Jules Rimet trophy was stolen from an exhibition display four months before the World Cup and was eventually found (wrapped in newspaper in front of the wheel of their neighbor’s car) by a dog named Pickles.
  • First World Cup that was televised live in Europe and other continents.
  • The last television broadcast was in black and white.
  • Extra time had to be played in a Final for the 2nd time in World Cup history.
  • Drug testing was for the first time introduced in a World Cup.
  • Prohibition on the naturalization of footballers was introduced – it was only possible now to play for a country when you have never played for a different country.
  • The World Cup draw was the first to be televised.

Slazenger 25 Challenge match ball

  • Slazenger 25 Challenge match ball was made by a local supplier in England.
  • Slazenger 25 Challenge match ball contained 18 panels (as was used in the 1954 and 1958 World Cup match balls), and both orange and yellow versions were used.
  • FIFA cautioned Argentina, who were using a violent style in the group matches.
  • Portugal would only qualify for their next World Cup in 1986.
  • North Korea would only qualify for their next World Cup in 2010.
  • Switzerland would only qualify for their next World Cup in 1994.
  • Only World Cup where the Final was played on a Saturday.
  • Last time Brazil was eliminated in the first round.
  • Referee Ken Aston who officiated the ‘Battle of Santiago’ match in the 1962 World Cup, invented the red and yellow cards.
  • Uruguay player Pablo Forlán has a son who played in the 2002 and 2010 Uruguay teams: Diego Forlán.
  • France player Jean Djorkaeff has a son who played in the 1998 and 2002 France teams: Youri Djorkaeff.

FIFA Awards At The 1966 World Cup

Golden Ball: Bobby Charlton (England)
Silver Ball: Bobby Moore (England)
Bronze Ball: Eusébio (Portugal)
Golden Boot: Eusébio (Portugal) (9 goals)
Silver Boot: Helmut Haller (West Germany) (6 goals)
Bronze Boot: Valeriy Porkuyan (Soviet Union), Geoff Hurst (England), Ferenc Bene (Hungary), Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany) (4 goals)
Best Young Player Award: Franz Beckenbauer (20 years old) (West Germany)

Bobby Charlton and Franz Beckenbauer

1966 FIFA All-Star Team

The 1966 All-Star Team was the first team that included English and Portuguese players.

It was the first All-Star Team that included Germany player Franz Beckenbauer, who would also appear in the 1970 and 1974 All-Star Teams.

English player Bobby Charlton makes his first appearance as well and will be included again in the upcoming All-Star Team. For Hungary, this is the last time one of their players is included in an All-Star Team.

Gordon Banks (England)

George Cohen (England)
Bobby Moore (England)
Vicente (Portugal)
Silvio Marzolini (Argentina)

Franz Beckenbauer (West Germany)
Mário Coluna (Portugal)
Bobby Charlton (England)

Florian Albert (Hungary)
Uwe Seeler (West Germany)
Eusébio (Portugal)


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