To celebrate the 50th anniversary of England’s World Cup victory, we’re serialising the wonderfully comprehensive new book 1966 and Not All That throughout July. Published by Repeater Books, 1966 and Not All That includes contributions from award-winning writers David Goldblatt, Simon Kuper, Philippe Auclair and Amy Lawrence, among others. An exclusive discount code for readers of The Set Pieces can be obtained at the bottom of the article.
Note: Match reports are penned by journalists from each of England’s opposing countries.
Portugal v England Match Report, 26 July 1966
Venue: Wembley Stadium
POR: Pereira (GK), Conceicao, Baptista, Carlos, Festa, Coluña (C), Graca, Simões, Augusto, Eusébio, Torres
ENG: Banks (GK), Cohen, Wilson, Charlton. J, Moore (C), Stiles, Ball, Charlton. R, Hurst, Peters, Hunt
Final score: Portugal 1 England 2
Goals: Eusébio, 82 (pen); Charlton. R, 30, 79
After this game the memory of the Portugal team will live on in England for a long time. At the end Eusébio’s tears say it all: the Portuguese were defeated with honour intact.
We may try to justify the defeat with the fact that our team was playing against the host nation. But that alone is not sufficient to ease the wounded pride of Eusébio and the other courageous Portuguese players. The two best attacking sides of the competition came face to face, and the best defences too. At the end of what is widely acknowledged as the best game of tournament, a 2-1 win for England was fair.
Portugal played nervously at the kick-off. Eusébio was marked closely by Nobby Stiles, denying him the chance to showcase his talent. Instead it was England who created the best opportunities.
In the 31st minute a long ball from the English left wing flew directly into the Portuguese penalty area, where Roger Hunt made a run for it, chased by defender José Carlos. The cross was cleared by José Pereira, but it wasn’t enough. The ball landed directly at Bobby Charlton’s feet and, with a combination of fast reflexes and a powerful shot, he rocketed it into the back of the net. 1-0 to England with 14 minutes to go until half-time.
When the whistle blew for the break Portugal had failed to mount a single effective attack. The strategy was to try to get high balls on to the head of Torres — the “Tower.” But every time the tactic failed because of resilient defending by Jack Charlton and Bobby Moore. Gordon Banks had kept a clean sheet in every game so far, and on this evidence this didn’t look likely to change in the semi-final.
The first Portuguese attack of any note finally took place shortly after half time. Simões managed a successful run down the right side and, looking for Eusébio, his pass hit the hand of Nobby Stiles. The Portuguese claimed a penalty, but the French referee waved away their protests.
Only three days before, Portugal had overcome a three-goal lead for North Korea in the quarter-final to claim a memorable 5-3 victory. And in Eusebio, they had the 1966 World Cup’s top scorer. One can only speculate what coach Otto Gloria said to his players during at the interval, but the result was visible on the pitch.
The team began to play with much more energy and purpose, although the tactics remained largely the same, with long and high balls up to Torres to knock down. Portugal’s captain, Coluña, was too busy tracking Bobby Charlton to provide Eusebio with the supply he craved.
Now there are just 15 minutes remaining and England are on their way to the final. Both teams are showing signs of fatigue. But, even then, the game doesn’t slow down.
After a fleeting Portuguese attack, England clear a long pass up-field to Hurst, who manages to shrug off the defenders before laying the ball neatly to Bobby Charlton for the midfielder to rifle home his second and make it 2-0. There was no way Portugal’s goalkeeper could stop the shot at such close range and England are now confident of victory.
As the Portuguese contemplate near-certain defeat they are reminded of the words of João Havelange, President of the Brazilian Football Confederation, in Lisbon, when the Brazilian team made an impromptu stopover on their way home after being eliminated.
“I saw manoeuvres with the intent to change the spirit of our sport,” he complained, mentioning that the match between Portugal and England was initially planned to be played at Goodison Park before it was ‘transferred’ to Wembley. Is it possible that there would have been a different scoreline if Portugal had played at Goodison, the same place where they put five goals past North Korea?
What we do know is that when Bobby Charlton scores his and England’s second, the game looks all but over. The crowd is singing “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In”, but two minutes later a high ball for Torres finally achieves the desired result. Simões once more crosses the ball and Torres sends it goalwards, only for Jack Charlton to stop it with his hand.
Unlike Stiles’ earlier handball, there is no way England can escape the penalty. Eusébio calmly scores his eighth goal of the tournament and Banks concedes for the first time. The solemnity of the moment is captured when Eusebio goes to pick the ball out of the net and, before jogging back to the centre spot, gently taps Banks as though he were apologising.
The match isn’t over though and England aren’t yet in the final either. With seven minutes to go, Portugal can still get an equaliser,to take the game into extra time. England aren’t shaken though and could have made it 3-1 when Charlton strikes again, but this time he is denied thanks to the defending of José Carlos.
Then, on the counter-attack, Simões scares the English defence enough to force a corner kick. There are five minutes left to be played when the captain Coluña directs a header at goal. The Portuguese claim for another handball, but this time the incident is not as visible to the French referee – and who would want to be the man who gave two penalties against England at Wembley?
The game is over and, as Eusebio walks off the pitch in tears, journalists from all over the world agree – it’s the best match so far in the tournament.
This is an edited extract from 1966 and Not All That published by Repeater Books.
This new book includes original writing on 1966 from contributors including David Goldblatt and Simon Kuper, an oral history of the tournament compiled by Amy Lawrence, and new thinking on what 1966 meant then and now. Just £8.99 from Philosophy Football there’s an exclusive £1 discount for The Set Pieces readers. To pick up your copy for £7.99, quote coupon code ‘The Set Pieces’ at the checkout.