1966 and Not All That: England 4 West Germany 2

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.

Read the match report for England 0 Uruguay 0 here, England 2 Mexico 0 here, and England 2 France 0 here.

England v West Germany Match Report, 30 July 1966

Kick-off: 15.00

Venue: Wembley Stadium

FRG: Tilkowski (GK), Höttges, Schnellinger, Schulz, Weber, Beckenbauer, Haller, Overath, Seeler (C), Held, Emmerich

ENG: Banks (GK), Cohen, Wilson, Charlton. J, Moore (C), Stiles, Ball, Charlton. R, Hurst, Peters, Hunt

Attendance: 96,924

Final score: West Germany 2 – England 4 (aet)

Goals: Haller, 12; Weber, 90; Hurst, 18, 101, 120; Peters 78

What a dramatic afternoon in London. At Wembley, that cathedral of football, the German national team lost the World Cup final on Saturday, but in another sense, they are also the victors following the huge public outpouring of sympathy for this team, as human beings as much as simply players. It finished 4-2 after Germany had heroically first gone ahead then behind and finally levelled the score as full time almost came to an end. The English only triumphed after extra time, such a cruel way to finish a game and one of their decisive goals was so controversial that not one of the almost 100,000 spectators in the stadium could say with any degree of certainty that it actually was a goal.

Scored by Geoff Hurst in the first half of extra time to make it 3-2, the goal will be the topic of many discussions for years to come. The striker from West Ham United turned and shot high and hard at goal; Germany’s goalkeeper, Hans Tilkowski, may have even got his fingertips to it. The ball thundered against the crossbar and rebounded back down — and the question is whether it bounced on or behind the line. The Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst initially did not think it was a goal, and consulted his linesman, Tofiq Bahramov from the Soviet Union. He had apparently seen the ball behind the line, so Dienst changed his mind and pointed to the centre circle: 3-2 for England.

The English broadcaster BBC had fourteen cameras in use for the final, but none of them recorded the controversial scene from an angle that could remove all doubt. Maybe, in the distant future, it will be possible to place a camera in the goal and thereby resolve such contentious scenes. Until then, however, the referee carries the sole responsibility, and the players must comply.

As controversial as the decision was, the German players accepted it with admirable sportsmanship. Heated protests from the young firebrands Wolfgang Overath, Wolfgang Weber and Franz Beckenbauer were dismissed by the captain, Uwe Seeler, with an energetic gesture that could be interpreted as “Accept the referee’s decision!” It was this sense of fairness that earned the highest respect from the English spectators. On their lap of honour, the German team received almost as much applause as the English did when Queen Elizabeth II presented the captain Bobby Moore with the Jules Rimet trophy.

Yes, this English team, with its outstanding individual talents of Moore, Bobby Charlton and Alan Ball, are worthy World Champions. But Germany were worthy finalists too, a young team that plays wonderful football but also represents our nation in the best possible manner — and that is more than could have been hoped for before this tournament, just twenty-one years after that appalling war that England has not yet forgotten.

It could have been even better. Germany began playing in this final with such a carefree fashion that no one could have guessed that the game was against their bogey team, against whom they had never won a game in the history of international football. The trainer, Helmut Schön, deployed his first-choice team — including the Dortmund goalkeeper Tilkowski, even though he picked up a bad injury to his left shoulder in the semi-final against the USSR.

Again and again, Tilkowski was drawn into aerial battles with an English side that is full of such excellent headers of the ball. After just seven minutes, he went to ground following a duel with Hurst and needed treatment for a couple of minutes. The German players held their breath, because an injury to Tilkowski would not have meant that the Bremen sub goalkeeper Günter Bernard could have entered the fray. The FIFA statutes declare that an outfield player has to take over the goalkeeper’s duties. Germany would therefore have had to complete the game with a numerical disadvantage — in the final of the World Cup. Perhaps FIFA should consider rethinking their own rules, and, for the next World Cup in four years’ time in Mexico, approve the use of one or two substitutes for each team?

Happily, Tilkowski recovered quickly and was called into action two minutes later for a long-range shot from Martin Peters. The players in front of him could sense the security he offered, and were free to push forward. The first chance was missed by an over-hasty Siegfried Held, but the second dangerous situation, in the 12th minute, put Germany into the lead. Held’s cross sailed from the left-half position into the English penalty box, the defender Ray Wilson headed it clear, but only as far as Helmut Haller. The man from FC Bologna shot immediately with his right boot on the turn, and goalkeeper Gordon Banks had no chance as the ball went into the left corner. It was Haller’s fifth goal of the tournament.

It was the first time in the tournament that the English had gone behind, and their response was rather confused. The German team appeared to be in control, and the approximately 10,000 German fans in the stadium sang “Ri Ra Ro, England ist KO!” It was a little premature. The Germans missed a chance to add to their lead, and only six minutes after the opening goal, Overath committed an unnecessary foul on Moore. The English captain took the free-kick himself, aiming directly for Hurst, who was completely unmarked in the penalty box and headed home to make it 1-1. Hurst only made it into the team in the quarter-final, following an injury to their first-choice striker Jimmy Greaves, and he has kept his place ever since. Tilkowski’s appeals for offside were in vain, but unlike a later goal from England this wasn’t clearly an incorrect decision by the referee.

It was now an open game. The diminutive Seeler leaped higher than the tall English defenders to meet a cross from Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, but Banks parried his header. At the other end, Tilkowski reacted just as well to a header from Hurst. Then it was the Germans’ turn again: in the space of a few seconds Overath and Lothar Emmerich were denied by Banks. Then Tilkowski threw up his fists to punch away a shot from Liverpool’s Roger Hunt, and just before the end of the first half Seeler forced Banks into another risky parry from a long-range shot.

In the second half, there were not as many high-class moments, but the English took more and more control. This was perhaps a result of a risky tactical move by Helmut Schön. The trainer had tasked the young Beckenbauer, the star of the tournament, with keeping an eye on the English playmaker, Bobby Charlton. The twenty-year-old from Munich performed his duties well, but didn’t completely neutralise his opponent. It was, however, decisive that Beckenbauer’s artistry was missing in the attack. He had made the No.4 shirt famous all over the world, but in the final he played well within himself. Schön would have been better advised to entrust Beckenbauer with the role of Hamburg’s Willi Schulz, who was allowed to play as a central defensive figure but without an opponent to mark. As such Beckenbauer would have been in a much better position to put his technical and strategic talents to good use.

Now England went into the ascendancy with the intelligence of Bobby Moore, the ferocity of Nobby Stiles and the improvisation of Alan Ball. The German team gave their best, but Helmut Haller and Wolfgang Overath were tiring, Beckenbauer was occupied with defensive tasks, and, if that weren’t enough, Lothar Emmerich on the left wing was a dead loss. The Dortmund man scored possibly the most spectacular goal of the tournament in the first round against Spain, but was anonymous in the semi-final against the Soviet Union.

The English superiority was becoming more and more evident, and twelve minutes before the end, they finally took advantage. In comparison to what had come before, it was a rather banal moment. Hurst took a shot from the edge of the box, but Bremen’s Horst-Dieter Höttges was in the way. What he had planned as an unceremonious clearance ricocheted into the path of Martin Peters, and the midfielder from West Ham United had an easy task to tuck the ball in from close range for a 2-1 lead.

Was that the decisive action of the game? No. One more time the German side pushed forward with energy that they didn’t know they had. They were a little lucky that Hunt, Charlton and Peters missed their chances on the counter-attack, and then they had one last opening. The English protested angrily when referee Dienst awarded a ninetieth-minute free-kick after a foul by Jack Charlton on Siegfried Held. Emmerich thundered the ball at the goal, it took a deflection and fell to Held, who forced it into the centre, where suddenly Wolfgang Weber appeared – Weber of all people, whose job it is to prevent goals rather than score them. The man from Cologne slid the ball into the goal on his eighteenth international appearance.

Goalkeeper Banks protested wildly — he had seen a handball by Schnellinger — but Dienst would not be influenced. Shortly afterwards, he blew the final whistle and gave the teams five minutes to catch their breath before extra time.

Were the English shocked? Possibly. But the Germans, in particular, were exhausted. The game had completely taken it out of them, and the short break before extra time said it all about the teams’ energy levels. While the weary Germans Höttges, Weber, Schnellinger and Beckenbauer received massages, the English were already scurrying around the pitch as though they couldn’t wait to get started again. And so the game resumed.

The history books will note that the endeavours of this German side cost them a great deal. In extra time, it was really only the English team that was capable of playing. Their first chance was missed by the little redhead Ball — his shot was turned over the bar by Hans Tilkowski. Then, Bobby Charlton was unlucky to only hit this post. And then, the inevitable happened — even if it was highly controversial.

It was once more that rascal Ball, who slipped free on the right-hand side and crossed to Hurst while running at full speed. Willi Schulz was just a little too far away to intervene, and could only watch as Hurst stopped the ball, turned towards the goal and shot. And then… who knows? The ball hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced up. Weber headed it away but the Englishman Roger Hunt was already celebrating and wasn’t at all concerned with chasing the rebound.

Goal or no goal? In the press box, every reporter crowded around the BBC’s screen, but they couldn’t see anything. In America, there are slow-motion replays at American-football and ice-hockey games — television images that repeat and slow down the action. Football hasn’t come that far yet, so we can but speculate. The referee Dienst awarded a goal, and that was that.  

The German team didn’t create a single chance in extra time. England simply had more energy and scored a fourth goal in the last minute, and once more it was Geoff Hurst. The game was as good as over, and some fans had run onto the pitch — an irregularity, of course, but it didn’t make any difference. England are worthy World Champions, Uwe Seeler and co represented Germany outstandingly, and all that remains is hope for the future. The next World Cup will be in 1970 in Mexico, and nothing would be sweeter than seeing Germany meet England again — preferably in a knockout game.

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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.

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