Thursday, January 15, 2009


1966 Observations, Part 3

The final of the 1966 World Cup was a dramatic, enjoyable match, rich in turning points and subtle shifts of the initiative, yet all that most fans seem to remember about it these days is England’s third goal – the one that “didn’t cross the line”.

So let’s deal with that little matter first. Even with a slow-motion replay, let alone with the naked eye, it’s impossible to give a definitive answer. One could argue that the Russian linesman, Bakhramov, was wrong to uphold the goal given the doubt that must have existed.

There is, however, a feature of the goal that is hardly ever touched on: Roger Hunt, not offside, was moving into the six-yard area as Geoff Hurst took his fateful shot, and could probably have applied the finishing touch had he wanted to. Instead, he immediately turned around and began celebrating, clearly certain that the goal would stand. Foolish on his part, perhaps, but a point worth remembering.

But enough on that. What of the rest of the game?

In my view, Germany lost the game largely because Franz Beckenbauer was sacrificed to the job of shadowing Bobby Charlton. After his two goals in the semi-final, it’s understandable that German coach Helmut Schoen was keen to keep a close watch on Charlton. But Beckenbauer, who looks dangerous every single time he moves into attack, was surely not the right man to do it.

If Schoen had deployed an extra man in midfield, allowing Beckenbauer to get forward, and perhaps jettisoned the ineffectual left-winger Lothar Emmerich instead, I’m inclined to think that the Germans could have won the game. In most respects, they look the better side.

The game begins with an early goal apiece. Helmut Haller finishes neatly after a weak clearing header from England’s left-back Ray Wilson, and then Geoff Hurst scores with a deft header from Bobby Moore’s free kick.

For much of the rest of the game, England look prosaic in midfield, compared to Germany’s classy trio of Beckenbauer, Haller and Wolfgang Overath. Charlton is a nonentity on this occasion, Alan Ball doesn’t come to life until the second period, and Martin Peters, a sort of early exponent of total football (like Ball), never really gets a grip on the game. Having said that, it’s Peters who volleys home England’s second, twelve minutes from the end.

Charlton finally breaks free of Beckenbauer a few minutes from time, latching onto a pass from Hunt, but makes a dreadful hash of his shot. Germany then score a messy goal from a free kick, and it’s extra time.

By this time Schoen has made an interesting tactical switch: Siggi Held, the centre-forward, has started moving over to the left. And on one occasion, in the first period of extra time, it looks like bearing fruit: Held goes on a tremendous run down the flank, and could easily have gone down for a penalty under a late challenge by Jackie Charlton. Instead, he stays on his feet, makes his way nimbly to the by-line and cuts the ball back sharply…to no-one.

After England score the controversial goal a few minutes later, the Germans never really look like coming back into it, although Held is unlucky to be called back for a foul on another promising left-wing incursion. In the last minute, a long ball from Bobby Moore sends Hurst through on the left, Overath is too exhausted to reel him in, and a thumping left-foot shot beats the German keeper Hans Tilkowski at his near post.

So, to return to my general assessment: if England weren’t the best side in 1966, who deserves that accolade?

Hardly the Germans, whose opponents were reduced to nine men in both of their prior knockout games. The Portuguese? Perhaps, despite their defeat by the eventual champions. Theirs was an exciting team, a little weak in defence, but a powerhouse in attack, mainly thanks to Eusebio.

I’m tempted to vote for Hungary, a couple of whose games at the event I’ve been able to watch. They were very unlucky to lose to a bruising, hard-running Russian side in the quarter-finals, and they played magnificently to beat Brazil in the opening round.

In the end, though, England faced testing opposition in the knockout phase and made it through. They had slices of luck in terms of decisions, but the massive bias of legend is hardly there.

Not one of the World Cup’s truly great teams, but legitimate champions.

"Germany then score a messy goal from a free kick, and it’s extra time." Wasn't there a German handball involved there? If so it's enough to cancel out the fortune of the third English goal.

I tend to think of WC legitimacy also in terms of the period surrounding it rather just the tournament itself. England finished third in the 1968 Euros (their best or equal best Euro campaign), were quarter-finalists in WC 1962 and with what you've said elsewhere about England in 1970 in mind, I think they probably deserved a WC on home soil during a revitalised decade for English football. And how much more convincing would they have been had they had Duncan Edwards?

Of course the Hungarians didn't do too badly in general around then either.

Looking forward to similar kinds of WC tournament/winner reviews if you can get around to them!
..."Germany then score a messy goal from a free kick, and it’s extra time." Wasn't there a German handball involved there? If so it's enough to cancel out the fortune of the third English goal...

I don't think so. There's a lot of pinball (Emmerich into Haller's back, out to Held, who crosses, rebounds off Schnellinger's arse to Weber at the far post), but I can't see a handball at any stage. Bit difficult to tell though.

Glanville in his WC book has a different version, that the original free kick shouldn't have been given. But that's nonsense, it's a clear foul by Jackie Charlton on Held.

...Looking forward to similar kinds of WC tournament/winner reviews if you can get around to them!...

If I can complete my Brazil 1970 collection, I just might. :-)

And yup, I still reckon (from the few games I've seen) England 1970 (plus Lee, Bell, Newton, Mullery etc.) were a better side than England 1966. But Germany and (of course) Brazil had improved in the meantime too.
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