The FIFA World Cup 1966, held in England, stands as one of the most iconic and memorable tournaments in the history of international football. This edition of the World Cup was significant not only for its footballing achievements but also for the cultural and historical context in which it took place. England, the birthplace of football, hosted the tournament for the first time, and the event was marked by a blend of thrilling matches, controversial moments, and memorable performances. This article delves into the various facets of the 1966 World Cup, exploring its significance, key moments, and lasting impact on the sport.

FIFA World Cup 1966 Final

Background and Preparation

The decision to award the 1966 World Cup to England was made in 1960, and it was a fitting choice given the country’s rich footballing heritage. England had been one of the pioneers of the sport, and hosting the World Cup was seen as an opportunity to showcase their organizational capabilities and passion for the game. The Football Association (FA) embarked on extensive preparations to ensure the tournament’s success. Stadiums across the country were upgraded, and a significant promotional campaign was launched to build excitement among fans.

The tournament featured 16 teams, divided into four groups of four. The participating teams included some of the world’s footballing powerhouses, such as Brazil, Italy, Argentina, and West Germany, as well as emerging teams like Portugal and North Korea. The format was straightforward, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout stages.

Group Stage Drama

The group stage of the 1966 World Cup was filled with drama and excitement. One of the most surprising outcomes was the early elimination of Brazil, the reigning champions. Despite having the legendary Pelé in their squad, Brazil struggled in their group, losing to Hungary and Portugal. Pelé, who was subjected to rough treatment by opposing defenders, was injured and unable to make a significant impact. This early exit of the champions was a major talking point and set the stage for a new champion to emerge.

In Group 1, the host nation England faced Uruguay, Mexico, and France. England topped the group with two wins and a draw, showcasing their defensive solidity and attacking prowess. West Ham United’s Bobby Moore, the England captain, was particularly impressive, demonstrating leadership and composure in defense. England’s progress was seen as a positive sign for the tournament, generating immense excitement among the home fans.

Group 2 saw West Germany emerge as the dominant force, winning all their matches against Argentina, Spain, and Switzerland. Uwe Seeler and Helmut Haller were instrumental in their success, scoring crucial goals and leading the team with their experience. West Germany’s performances marked them as strong contenders for the title.

FIFA World Cup 1966 Highlights

One of the biggest surprises of the group stage was North Korea’s progress from Group 4. The North Koreans, relatively unknown in the footballing world, stunned Italy with a 1-0 victory, thanks to a goal from Pak Doo-ik. This victory not only secured their place in the quarter-finals but also became one of the most memorable moments in World Cup history. The underdog story of North Korea captured the imagination of fans worldwide.

Quarter-Finals and Controversies FIFA World Cup 1966

The quarter-finals of the 1966 World Cup were marked by intense matches and controversial moments. England faced Argentina in a match that would be remembered for its physicality and contentious refereeing decisions. The game, played at Wembley Stadium, was fiercely contested, with both teams displaying aggressive tactics. The defining moment came when Argentina’s captain, Antonio Rattín, was sent off for dissent by German referee Rudolf Kreitlein. Rattín’s dismissal led to heated protests from the Argentine players and officials, and the match continued amid a charged atmosphere.

Despite the controversies, England managed to secure a 1-0 victory, with Geoff Hurst scoring the decisive goal. England’s manager, Alf Ramsey, famously referred to the Argentine team as “animals” in his post-match comments, a statement that added fuel to the already tense relations between the two nations. The match remains one of the most controversial in World Cup history and highlighted the intense rivalries that can develop on the international stage.

Another thrilling quarter-final clash saw Portugal take on North Korea. The match, played at Goodison Park in Liverpool, witnessed an extraordinary comeback by Portugal. North Korea took an early 3-0 lead, stunning the Portuguese team and their supporters. However, Eusebio, one of the tournament’s standout players, orchestrated a remarkable turnaround. Eusebio scored four goals, leading Portugal to a 5-3 victory and securing their place in the semi-finals. His performance was widely hailed as one of the greatest individual displays in World Cup history.

Semi-Finals and the Rise of England

The semi-finals set the stage for two intriguing matchups: England vs. Portugal and West Germany vs. the Soviet Union. England’s match against Portugal was another test of their credentials. The Portuguese team, led by Eusebio, posed a significant threat with their attacking prowess. The match, played at Wembley Stadium, was a closely fought contest. England took the lead through Bobby Charlton, who scored twice to put his team in a commanding position. Despite a late penalty from Eusebio, England held on to win 2-1, securing their place in the final. Bobby Charlton’s performance was instrumental, and his goals underscored his importance to the team.

In the other semi-final, West Germany faced the Soviet Union in a tactical battle. The match, held at Goodison Park, was a demonstration of disciplined football from both sides. West Germany emerged victorious with a 2-1 win, thanks to goals from Haller and Beckenbauer. The Germans displayed their characteristic efficiency and resilience, setting up a highly anticipated final against England.

The Final: England vs. West Germany

The final of the FIFA World Cup 1966 , held on July 30 at Wembley Stadium, remains one of the most iconic matches in football history. The atmosphere was electric, with a capacity crowd of nearly 100,000 fans in attendance. England, playing on home soil, were buoyed by passionate support, while West Germany aimed to spoil the party.

The match began with both teams displaying attacking intent. West Germany took the lead in the 12th minute through Helmut Haller, who capitalized on a defensive error to score. England responded quickly, with Geoff Hurst equalizing just six minutes later. The match was finely poised, with both teams creating chances and playing with intensity.

In the second half, England took the lead through Martin Peters, who scored from close range in the 78th minute. However, West Germany refused to give up and equalized in dramatic fashion. In the 89th minute, Wolfgang Weber scored from a goalmouth scramble, sending the match into extra time.

The Controversial Goal

Extra time saw one of the most debated moments in World Cup history. In the 101st minute, Geoff Hurst received a pass from Alan Ball and unleashed a powerful shot that hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced down. The ball landed on the goal line, and there was immediate confusion about whether it had crossed the line. The referee, Gottfried Dienst, consulted with the linesman, Tofiq Bahramov from the Soviet Union, who indicated that it was a goal. The decision stood, and England took a 3-2 lead. This controversial goal, often referred to as the “Wembley Goal,” has been the subject of intense debate and analysis for decades, with many arguing about whether the ball fully crossed the line.

England’s Triumph

With West Germany pushing for an equalizer, England seized the opportunity to seal their victory. In the final moments of extra time, Geoff Hurst scored his third goal, completing a hat-trick and making the score 4-2. His third goal, coming as fans began to stream onto the pitch, was a powerful left-footed strike that ensured England’s triumph. Hurst’s hat-trick remains the only one ever scored in a World Cup final.

As the final whistle blew, England were crowned world champions for the first time in their history. The scenes of celebration at Wembley Stadium were unforgettable, with fans and players alike rejoicing in the historic achievement. Bobby Moore, the England captain, received the Jules Rimet Trophy from Queen Elizabeth II, a moment that has been immortalized in photographs and footage. England’s victory was a source of immense national pride and marked the pinnacle of their footballing history.

Legacy and Impact

The 1966 World Cup had a profound impact on the sport and left a lasting legacy. England’s triumph brought a sense of validation to their status as a footballing nation and inspired a generation of players and fans. The tournament showcased the tactical evolution of the game, with teams emphasizing disciplined defending and strategic play. The introduction of new talent, such as Portugal’s Eusebio and England’s Bobby Charlton, highlighted the emergence of a new era of footballing stars.

The controversial moments, particularly the “Wembley Goal,” added to the drama and mystique of the tournament. The debates and discussions surrounding these incidents have become an integral part of World Cup folklore, illustrating the passionate nature of the sport.

From a broader perspective, the 1966 World Cup demonstrated the power of football to unite and inspire. The tournament brought together teams and fans from diverse backgrounds, fostering a sense of global camaraderie. The matches were broadcast to a wide audience, enhancing the visibility and popularity of the sport.

FIFA World Cup 1966 Match Schedule, Teams, and Scores

Here is a detailed table of the match schedule, teams, and scores for the 1966 FIFA World Cup:

DateStageTeam 1ScoreTeam 2Venue
Jul 11, 1966Group 1England0-0UruguayWembley Stadium, London
Jul 11, 1966Group 3Brazil2-0BulgariaGoodison Park, Liverpool
Jul 12, 1966Group 2West Germany5-0SwitzerlandHillsborough, Sheffield
Jul 12, 1966Group 4Italy2-0ChileRoker Park, Sunderland
Jul 13, 1966Group 1France1-1MexicoWembley Stadium, London
Jul 13, 1966Group 3Hungary3-1PortugalOld Trafford, Manchester
Jul 13, 1966Group 4Soviet Union3-0North KoreaAyresome Park, Middlesbrough
Jul 15, 1966Group 1Uruguay2-1FranceWhite City Stadium, London
Jul 15, 1966Group 3Portugal3-0BulgariaOld Trafford, Manchester
Jul 16, 1966Group 2Argentina2-1SpainVilla Park, Birmingham
Jul 16, 1966Group 4Soviet Union1-0ItalyRoker Park, Sunderland
Jul 16, 1966Group 4Chile1-1North KoreaAyresome Park, Middlesbrough
Jul 16, 1966Group 2West Germany1-0ArgentinaVilla Park, Birmingham
Jul 19, 1966Group 1England2-0MexicoWembley Stadium, London
Jul 19, 1966Group 3Hungary3-1BrazilGoodison Park, Liverpool
Jul 19, 1966Group 4Italy0-1North KoreaAyresome Park, Middlesbrough
Jul 19, 1966Group 2Argentina2-0SwitzerlandHillsborough, Sheffield
Jul 20, 1966Group 1England2-0FranceWembley Stadium, London
Jul 20, 1966Group 3Portugal3-1BrazilGoodison Park, Liverpool
Jul 23, 1966Quarter-FinalEngland1-0ArgentinaWembley Stadium, London
Jul 23, 1966Quarter-FinalPortugal5-3North KoreaGoodison Park, Liverpool
Jul 23, 1966Quarter-FinalWest Germany4-0UruguayHillsborough, Sheffield
Jul 23, 1966Quarter-FinalSoviet Union2-1HungaryRoker Park, Sunderland
Jul 25, 1966Semi-FinalWest Germany2-1Soviet UnionGoodison Park, Liverpool
Jul 26, 1966Semi-FinalEngland2-1PortugalWembley Stadium, London
Jul 28, 1966Third PlacePortugal2-1Soviet UnionWembley Stadium, London
Jul 30, 1966FinalEngland4-2 (aet)West GermanyWembley Stadium, London
FIFA World Cup 1966

Key Matches and Highlights

  • England vs. Uruguay (Group Stage): The opening match ended in a goalless draw, setting a cautious tone for England.
  • North Korea vs. Italy (Group Stage): North Korea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Italy is one of the most memorable upsets in World Cup history.
  • Portugal vs. Brazil (Group Stage): Portugal’s 3-1 win over Brazil, featuring a hat-trick by Eusebio, knocked out the reigning champions.
  • England vs. Argentina (Quarter-Final): A fiercely contested match ended 1-0 in England’s favor, with Geoff Hurst scoring the decisive goal.
  • Portugal vs. North Korea (Quarter-Final): Eusebio’s four goals led Portugal to a dramatic 5-3 comeback victory after trailing 3-0.
  • Final (England vs. West Germany): The final at Wembley saw England triumph 4-2 in extra time, with Geoff Hurst scoring a historic hat-trick, including the controversial “Wembley Goal.”


The FIFA World Cup 1966 remains a defining moment in the history of football. England’s victory, the memorable matches, and the controversial incidents have all contributed to the tournament’s enduring legacy. The success of the 1966 World Cup paved the way for future tournaments, setting standards for organization, competition, and entertainment. For England, it was a moment of unparalleled triumph, a time when

the nation came together to celebrate their love for the beautiful game. The 1966 World Cup will forever be remembered as a landmark event that showcased the magic and passion of football at its finest.

See Also: The 1962 FIFA World Cup A Historic Tournament

FAQs about the FIFA World Cup 1966

1. Where and when was the FIFA World Cup 1966 held?

  • The 1966 FIFA World Cup was held in England from July 11 to July 30, 1966.

2. Which country won the FIFA World Cup 1966?

  • England won the 1966 FIFA World Cup, defeating West Germany 4-2 in the final after extra time.

3. What was significant about Geoff Hurst’s performance in the final?

  • Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick in the final, the only player to do so in a World Cup final. His second goal, known as the “Wembley Goal,” remains one of the most controversial moments in World Cup history.

4. Which teams participated in the FIFA World Cup 1966?

  • The tournament featured 16 teams: England, Uruguay, France, Mexico, Brazil, Bulgaria, Portugal, Hungary, West Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, Spain, Italy, Chile, Soviet Union, and North Korea.

5. What was the format of the FIFA World Cup 1966?

  • The tournament had a group stage followed by knockout rounds. The 16 teams were divided into four groups of four, with the top two from each group advancing to the quarter-finals.

6. Which player was the top scorer of the FIFA World Cup 1966?

  • Eusebio of Portugal was the top scorer, with nine goals.

7. What was the most surprising result of the FIFA World Cup 1966?

  • One of the biggest surprises was North Korea’s 1-0 victory over Italy in the group stage, leading to Italy’s elimination.

8. What controversy surrounded the quarter-final match between England and Argentina?

  • The quarter-final was marked by the controversial sending off of Argentina’s captain Antonio Rattín for dissent. England’s manager Alf Ramsey’s post-match comments referring to the Argentine players as “animals” added to the controversy.

9. How did the FIFA World Cup 1966 impact the future of football?

  • The 1966 World Cup showcased tactical evolution in football, emphasized disciplined defending, and introduced new stars like Eusebio and Bobby Charlton. It also demonstrated the unifying power of the sport and set organizational standards for future tournaments.

10. What is the “Wembley Goal” and why is it controversial?

  • The “Wembley Goal” refers to Geoff Hurst’s second goal in the final, where the ball hit the crossbar and bounced down. The decision to award the goal, despite debate over whether it fully crossed the line, remains one of the most discussed moments in World Cup history.

11. Which team did England defeat in the semi-finals FIFA World Cup 1966 to reach the final?

  • England defeated Portugal 2-1 in the semi-finals to reach the final.

12. Who was the captain of the England team in the FIFA World Cup 1966?

  • Bobby Moore was the captain of the England team.

13. What was the score in the final match of the FIFA World Cup 1966?

  • The final score was England 4, West Germany 2, after extra time.

14. Which stadium hosted the final match of the FIFA World Cup 1966?

  • The final match was hosted at Wembley Stadium in London.

15. How did the Soviet Union perform in the FIFA World Cup 1966?

  • The Soviet Union reached the semi-finals but lost to West Germany. They finished fourth after losing the third-place play-off to Portugal.

16. What was Alf Ramsey’s role in the FIFA World Cup 1966?

  • Alf Ramsey was the manager of the England team and played a crucial role in guiding them to victory.

17. What was significant about Portugal’s quarter-final match against North Korea?

  • Portugal’s quarter-final match against North Korea was significant for Eusebio’s four goals, leading Portugal to a 5-3 comeback victory after trailing 3-0.

18. Which team knocked out the defending champions, Brazil, in the FIFA World Cup 1966?

  • Portugal knocked out the defending champions, Brazil, with a 3-1 victory in the group stage.

19. How did the early elimination of Brazil impact the tournament?

  • Brazil’s early elimination opened up the competition, allowing new teams to emerge as strong contenders and adding unpredictability to the tournament.

20. What legacy did the FIFA World Cup 1966 leave for England and international football?

  • The FIFA World Cup 1966 left a legacy of national pride for England, tactical advancements in football, and memorable moments that have become an integral part of World Cup history. It also demonstrated football’s global appeal and organizational capabilities.

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