Any Englishman, whether or not he was even born then, will swear to you that the ball actually crossed the line in the 1966 World Cup final. In Germany, of course, you can expect a different answer.
Even Geoff Hurst’s autobiography begins with the question, “Was it a goal?” when discussing his second goal in the 1966 FIFA World Cup final.
Yet what is not in doubt is that 30 July 1966 was the day England became world champions. And they did so after one of the most dramatic finals, featuring a West German equalizer with the last kick of normal time and the only hat-trick ever scored in a FIFA World Cup final.
1966 World Cup Full Match Review
The 1966 World Cup final, the last to be broadcast in black and white, had proved rich in color and incident, with starring roles for two new names on the world stage: Portugal forward and Golden Shoe winner Eusebio, and Korea DPR, the unexpected conquerors of Italy.
In the final reckoning, though, the hosts and their great rivals West Germany, made it through. Wembley was the venue for a contest that pitted two all-time greats – Bobby Charlton, England’s semi-final hero against Portugal, and West Germany’s prodigious young libero Franz Beckenbauer – against each other.
Yet, in the end, they neutralized one another, and it was a little-known center-forward on the bench for England’s three group matches who wrote his name in the record books.
Looking back, Geoff Hurst’s inclusion was in doubt until the eve of the 1966 World Cup final. The West Ham United player had made his international debut just five months previously and only stepped into the starting XI for the quarter-final against Argentina due to an injury to star striker Jimmy Greaves.
The 24-year-old scored the only goal on the day, and manager Alf Ramsey kept faith in his abilities.
On the other hand, Helmut Schon erred on the side of caution by ordering Beckenbauer to follow Bobby Charlton.
Early Injury Concerns
If there were early frowns on the West German bench when goalkeeper Hans Tilkowski required treatment after a collision with Geoff Hurst, they gave way to smiles on 12 minutes when Helmut Haller silenced the Wembley crowd with the opening goal.
From a hopeful ball lofted into the England box from the left by Sigi Held, full-back Ray Wilson misdirected his header at Helmut Haller, and the midfielder pounced to drill a cross-shot low to Gordon Banks’ right for his sixth goal of the tournament.
England had never lost to their opponents, and they took just six minutes to find a reply in the 1966 World Cup final. Wolfgang Overath tripped Bobby Moore some 40 yards from goal, and the England captain spotted Geoff Hurst unmarked in the area.
A perfectly flighted free-kick by the West Ham defender was met by the head of his club colleague, and England was level.
Both heavyweights had landed punches, and now the game was in a rhythm – frenetic perhaps, but rhythm nonetheless. As the game ebbed and flowed, both ends had chances. In first-half stoppage time, Gordon Banks got his fingertips on a shot by livewire forward Uwe Seeler after making a superb double save from Wolfgang Overath and Lothar Emmerich.
For England, Roger Hunt shot straight at Hans Tilkowski after Hurst’s flick had set him up at the far post.
Second Half Of 1966 World Cup Final
The second half offered a mirror image of the first, with the goals coming once again within a quarter of an hour of the whistle – this time, it was the final whistle.
The West Germans kept England subdued for much of the second period, yet with both defenses tiring, the match sparked back into life as spaces opened up around Wembley’s vast expanses. Then, with 12 minutes remaining, England was the first to capitalize.
After Alan Ball’s corner was only half-cleared to Geoff Hurst, he sent in a shot from outside the box. The ball struck Horst Hoettges and spun up into the air, and as it came down, Martin Peters lashed it into the net from close range.
With the clock ticking down, England looked to deliver the killer blow but failed to take advantage of a three-on-one breakaway, Hunt passing to Bobby Charlton, who shot wide.
Ramsey’s men were left to rue that miss when, in the 89th minute, the West Germans forced an equalizer.
After Jack Charlton was penalized for a push some 30 yards from goal, Lothar Emmerich’s free-kick was deflected through to Held on the left of the six-yard box, and he turned the ball across goal, where it struck the back of Karl-Heinz Schnellinger and ran towards the far post.
There, in space, was Wolfgang Weber to slam it beyond Ray Wilson and Gordon Banks and into the back of the net. For the first time, the FIFA World Cup final was going into extra time.
First Time For Extra Time In Final
With Alan Ball, the youngest player on the pitch at twenty years old, England fought hard not to let their disappointment show at the start of extra time in thr 1966 World Cup final.
After Bobby Charlton struck a post, the ball’s cross in the 101st minute found Hurst in the area with enough time to turn and shoot. The ball beat Hans Tilkowski, clattered against the underside of the bar, and bounced down.
But had it crossed the line? Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst ran over to the touchline, and suddenly all eyes were on the Soviet assistant referee, Tofik Bakhramov of Azerbaijan, with whom the final decision lay.
Seconds later, red shirts were running jubilantly back to the halfway line while those in white continued their protests. The goal had been given.
Last 15 Minutes
The second half of extra time saw West Germany throw their last energy reserves into the search for an equalizer. In the closing seconds, as England snuffed out their opponents’ final attack and broke upfield, the legendary British commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme observed that: “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over.”
At that very moment, Hurst burst down the inside-left channel and rifled the ball into the top corner. “It is now!” Wolstenholme added.
Sir Geoff, as he was to become, later admitted that he had let fly with the aim of sending the ball as far into the Wembley stands as possible to kill precious time.
Instead, he had completed a unique World Cup final hat trick. England was on top of the world after winning the 1966 World Cup final.
Some Interesting Facts From 1966 World Cup Final
- With 32.30 million viewers, the 1966 World Cup final is the most watched event on British television ever.
- Since Hurst’s second goal was controversial, in Germany, a goal resulting from a shot bouncing off the crossbar and hitting the line is called a Wembley-Tor (Wembley Goal).
- The song “Three Lions,” the unofficial anthem of England’s football team, is dedicated to the 1966 World Cup final victory.
- In 2009, 10 Downing Street hosted a ceremony to award medals to England’s winning squad that didn’t receive them in 1966.
- Fans created the “Two World Wars and One World Cup” chant after England won the 1966 World Cup final.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!