From the Vault: Hurst's hat-trick wins the World Cup

On this day in 1966 England won the World Cup. Read Hugh McIlvanney's original Observer match report and share your memories ...

Bobby Moore passes the World Cup trophy to manager Alf Ramsey
Bobby Moore passes the World Cup trophy to manager Alf Ramsey. Photograph: Popperfoto/Gett Images

The latest in our series of classic reports was published on Sunday July 31 1966, the day after England became world champions. This report was written by Hugh McIlvanney, the chief sports correspondent of The Observer between 1962 and 1993. The piece, some 2,145 words long, would have been filed in the moments after the final whistle and at points you can sense McIlvanney's journalistic instincts wrestling with the glorious emotion of the moment. In the circumstances, it's an exceptional piece of reportage.

The greatest moment in the history of English football came at 5.15 this afternoon when Geoff Hurst shot the magnificent goal that made certain of the World Cup. It was Hurst's third goal, England's fourth, and, coming as it did in the final seconds of extra time, it shattered the last remnants of German resistance.

Germany had equalized with the last kick in the regular 90 minutes, and they had gone within inches of repeating the blow in extra time when Seeler lunged in on a headed pass by Held. But Moore took the ball coolly out of defence and lifted it upfield to Hurst 10 yards inside the German half. The referee was already looking at his watch and three England supporters had prematurely invaded the pitch as Hurst took the ball on his chest.

At first he seemed inclined to dawdle out time. Then abruptly he sprinted through on the inside-left position with a German defender pressing him. As Tilkowski prepared to move out, Hurst swung his left foot and drove the ball breathtakingly into the top of the net.

The scene that followed was unforgettable. Stiles and Cohen collapsed in a tearful embrace on the ground, young Ball turned wild cartwheels, and Bobby Charlton dropped to his knees, felled by emotion.

Almost immediately it was over and the honour that had escaped England for so long had been won. Soon the players, who had forgotten the crippling weariness of a few minutes before, were hugging and laughing and crying with Alf Ramsey and the reserves, who must go through their lives with bitter-sweet memories of how it looked from the touchline.

No failures

"Ramsey, Ramsey," the crowd roared and in his moment of vindication it was attribute that no one could grudge him. Eventually, Moore led his men up to the Royal Box to receive the gold Jules Rimet trophy from the Queen, and the slow, ecstatic lap of honour began "Ee-aye-addio, we've won the Cup," sang the crowd, as Moore threw it in his arc above his head and caught it again.

England had, indeed, won the Cup, producing more determined aggression and flair than they had shown at any earlier stage of the competition. In such a triumph there could be no failures, but if one had to name outstanding heroes they would be Hurst, Ball, Moore and the brothers Charlton.

Hurst, who just a month ago appeared to have only the remotest chance of figuring in the World Cup, had emerged as the destructive star of a feverishly exciting game, becoming the first man to score a hat-trick in the final. Ball, who looked like a boy, had done the work of two men. Moore, showing again that he is stimulated by the demands of the great occasion, played with an imaginative self-confidence that made it unnecessary for anyone to ask who was the England captain.

Beside him Jack Charlton was a giant of a player. And through the whole performance there ran the inspiration of Bobby Charlton. In the first half, when the foundations of England's victory were being laid, it was his relentless but unhurried foraging, his ability to impose his experience and his class on the team's play that counted most.

Pride in defeat

Every one of the others responded superbly and if some were sometimes short of inspiration, none ever lacked courage or total commitment. Of course the Germans were on the field too, and they let England know about it often enough. They may regret now that they set Beckenbauer to mark Charlton, for the young half-back had little opportunity to exploit his attacking genius until it was too late. Held and Haller, with tremendous early assistance from Seeler, did plenty of damage, but ultimately it was Tilkowski and his defenders who were left to save Germany.

They tried mightily, but in the end England's spirit broke them. Germany had already won the World Cup, England had not, so they had a right to accept defeat with pride. They did, and the crowd cheered their lap of honour almost as much as England's.

Wembley was charged with an atmosphere I had never known before. Long before the teams appeared the crowd was chanting and singing. When the band of the Royal Marines, who had played a tune for each of the 16 competing nations, came to play the national anthem it was sung as it may never be sung again. Deutschland Uber Alles boomed out in its wake and the battle was on.

The Germans began rather nervously, standing off from the tackle and letting England's forwards move smoothly up to the edge of the penalty area. Charlton and Peters were able to work the ball along the left at their leisure and there was anxiety in the German defence before the cross was cleared.

Charlton wandered purposefully all over the field, bringing composure and smoothness wherever he went, again comparisons with di Stefano seemed relevant.

One of Hunt's few imaginative passes set Stiles clear on the right and his high cross beat Tilkowski before Hottges headed it away. The ball was returned smartly by Bobby Charlton and Tilkowski had so much difficulty punching it away from Hurst that he knocked himself out.

The goalkeeper was prostrate, the whistle had gone and the German defenders had stopped challenging by the time Moores put the ball in the net. The crowd cheered in the hope that next time it would be the real thing.

Jack Charlton, carrying the ball forward on his forehead with a skill that would have done credit to his brother, moved swiftly out of defence and his finely judged diagonal pass let Peters in for a quick powerful shot from the edge of the penalty area. Tilkowski, diving desperately to his left, punched the ball round the post. Hurst met Ball's corner on the volley but sent it much too high.

At that point Weber chose to give one of the agonized performances that have been the German hallmarks in the competition, but Mr Dienst quickly let him know he was fooling nobody.

Peters emphasized the eagerness of the England attack by surging in from the right to shoot the ball only 2ft wide from 25 yards.

Then, stunningly, in the tenth minute England found themselves a goal behind. And it was a goal that anyone who had watched their magnificent defensive play earlier in the tournament could scarcely believe. Held glided a high cross from the left wing and Wilson, jumping for the ball in comfortable isolation incredibly headed it precisely down to the feet of Haller, standing a dozen yards out and directly in front of Banks. Haller had time to steady and pivot to turn his right-foot shot on the ground past Banks' right side.

The equalizer

It took England only six minutes to reassure the crowd. Overath had been warned for a severe foul on Ball and now he committed another one on Moore, tripping the England captain as he turned away with the ball. Moore himself took the free kick and from 40 yards out near the left touchline he flighted the ball beautifully towards the far post. Hurst, timing his run superbly to slip through the defence, much as he had done against Argentina, struck a perfect header low inside Tilkowski's right-hand post.

Moore held one arm aloft in the familiar gladiator salute while Hurst was smothered with congratulations. It was another reminder of the huge contribution West Ham have made to this World Cup.

Bobby Charlton reasserted himself with a sharp run across the face of the goal from the right and a left foot shot. It troubled Tilkowski but he gathered it at his second attempt. The Germans retaliated through Haller, who was just beaten by Banks in a race for a through pass but the most sustained aggression was still coming from England. Moore, playing with wonderful control and assurance, was driving up among the forwards, joining intelligently with moves initiated by Bobby Charlton.

Unfortunately, however, Charlton could not be in two places at once. Time and again the attacks he conceived from deep positions cried out to be climaxed with his killing power. After Ball had been rebuked for showing dissent he took part in one of England's more effective attacks. Cohen crossed the ball long from the right and Hurst rose magnificently to deflect in another header which Tilkowski could only scramble away from his right hand post, Ball turned the ball back into the goalmouth and the German's desperation was unmistakable as Overath came hurtling in to scythe the ball away for a corner.

Certain to score

Not all the uneasy moments were around Tilkowski, however. First Ball and then Cohen toyed riskily with Held near the byline. Jack Charlton, maintaining the remarkable standard of his World Cup performances, had to intervene with a prodigious sweeping tackle on the ground to get them out of trouble. It cost him a corner and the corner almost cost England a goal. The ball went to Overath and from 20 yards he drove it in fiercely at chest height. Banks beat it out and when Emmerich hammered it back from an acute angle the goalkeeper caught it surely.

When a Wilson header into goal was headed down by Hurst Hunt appeared certain to score. But when the Liverpool man forced in his left foot volley Tilkowski was in the way. Soon afterwards a subtle pass from Charlton bewildered the German defence but Peters could not suite reach the ball for the shot.

The hectic fluctuating pattern of the first half was stressed again before interval when Overath hit a bludgeoning shot from 20 yards and Banks turned the ball brilliantly over the crossbar.

Bobby Charlton, moving through on Moore's pass early in the second half, fell after being tackled by Schulz, but the claims for a penalty were understandably half-hearted. Cohen was making regular runs on the right wing but his centres were easily cut out.

Mr Dienst was at his most officious but he was entitled to reprimand Stiles after the wing-half had bounced the ball in disgust at a harsh decision. Hunt was crowded out in the last stride as he met a cross from the left, but after 75 minutes he had a hand in England's second goal.

He pushed a pass to Ball and when the winger shot Tilkowski pushed the ball onto the outside of his net. Following the corner Hurst's shot from the left was deflected across goal by Schulz, and Peters, strangely neglected by the German defenders, came in swiftly to take the ball on the half volley and drive it into the net from four or five yards.

A free kick given against Styles was guided accurately above the English defenders by Emmerich, and Weber should have done more than head weakly past. In the last seconds of the 90 minutes the English supporters were silenced by an equalizing goal.

Charlton was doubtfully penalized after jumping to a header and the free kick from Emmerich drove the ball through the English wall. As it cannoned across the face of goal it appeared to his Schnellinger on the arm but the referee saw nothing illegal and Weber at the far post was able to score powerfully.

Wonderful shot

From the kick-off in extra time England swept back into their penalty area. Ball had a wonderful shot from 20 yards edged over the crossbar by Tilkowski. Charlton hit a low drive that Tilkowski pushed against his left-hand upright.

The Gemans looked weary but their swift breaks out of defence were still dangerous. Emmerich moved in on Banks but when he passed Held was slow to control the ball and Stiles cleared. Then Held compensated for this by dribbling clear of the entire English defence and turning the ball back invitingly across goal. But there was nobody following up.

When England took the lead again in the tenth minute of extra time they did it controversially. Ball made an opening for himself on the right and when the ball went in to Hurst the inside forward resolutely worked for a clear view of the goal. His rising right foot shot on the turn from 10 yards was pushed against the underside of the crossbar by Tilkowski and when it bounced the England players appealed as one man for a goal. The referee spoke to the Russian linesman on the side away from the main stand and turned to award a goal. The delayed-action cheers shook the stadium.

Then we were up and yelling and stamping and slapping one another as Hurst shot that last staggering goal. The sky had been overcast all afternoon, but now the clouds split and the sun glared down on the stadium. Maybe those fellows were right when they said God was an Englishman.

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  • luxembourg luxembourg

    30 Jul 2008, 10:42AM

    Move on,that was way back in 1966.Why is it that the English can't stop talking about 1966?I don't hear the Germans talking about 1990.The Italians don't talk about 2006.Greece don't talk about 2004.Luxembourg dont talk about beating the Czech Republic in 1995.Is it English don't believe in the current crop?Three years at university in England and all I kept hearing oh 1966 this and that.

  • Sivori10 Sivori10

    30 Jul 2008, 11:03AM

    This is a really interesting read, particularly in demonstrating the way McIlvanney's style has developed over the years. By the way, if all you can do is make facile and snide comments about a supposed obsession with 1966 (there isn't one, by the way) - don't read the series!

  • signor signor

    30 Jul 2008, 11:22AM

    1966 shouldn't be covered in a series on great English football moments? If you insist.

    Great piece, in any case. "Jack Charlton, carrying the ball forward on his forehead"? And they say the seal dribble is a new thing. On the same lines, I like McIlvanney's less than coy reference to Weber's "agonized performances".

  • Berlinerbob Berlinerbob

    30 Jul 2008, 12:48PM

    well luxembourg, as you are 61 and was in England in 1967, what did you expect them to bang on about?Honestly mate, I think you have the wrong end of the stick here, this is part of a series of reorts from the archives. It gives a a lot of us an insight to journalism then and now and is interesting. You should also note that good old Hugh is not and Englishman.Brilliant journo though, like Patrick Collins (who unfortunately writes for the Mail on Sunday).

  • MikeyMcC84 MikeyMcC84

    30 Jul 2008, 1:05PM

    After being in Italy during Euro 2008 and hearing nothing but the words "CAMP-IONE DEL MONDO" to the White Stripes, I'm not sure that Italy don't talk about 2006.

    Then again, that was 2 years ago, not 42.

  • Sivori10 Sivori10

    30 Jul 2008, 1:35PM

    There is no obsession with 1966. Those players have been largely forgotten and unheralded. The ones that are still around are only brought out for nostalgia-fests or special occasions. It's all of a piece with the way things are generally. We live in a-historical times; nobody knows or cares about what happened yesterday and in sport nothing has any relevance if it hasn't been shown in colour and from 97 different camera angles. Ask a Brazillian fan to name their 1958 team, or a German to name their guys from 1954 and you'll get chapter and verse. Ask most English football observers or new-style fans to name England's XI in 1966 and they'll answer: Moore, Charlton, Banks, Hurst, errrr...." The Premiership dominates and club football is king. You only hear about 1966 on fora like this. Any obsession is just a figment of the imagination of people who just want to make a certain point.

  • johnny5eyes johnny5eyes

    30 Jul 2008, 2:39PM

    Sivori10Go to any bookshop- look in the sport section and see the mountain of books written on the '66 world cup win. There's a new one out every year - going over the same old territory that's been regurgitated since...1966. Ask any Scots, Irish or Welsh person why they hate the England football team so much - the answer is almost always 'because you keep going on about 1966'. I was born just after the event and have seemingly been bombarded with trivia (a lot of which I sought out admittedly because there was a time I found it interesting) 'till I'm sick of the whole thing. How many times has that 'they think it's all over' clip been shown on TV?I can only think that you don't have much contact with the media to come to the conclusion there's no obsession with '66 in this country.I have no axe to grind, I'm an England fan, it's great that we won the World Cup..(and it's crap that we have not come close to winning anything since) but I am utterly sick about hearing about Russian linesmen and 'people on the pitch' really is time we moved on.You seem to be taking offence that 14 year olds don't know who the full-backs were in a match from over 40 years ago! Not every one is neccesarily obbssessed with football's past- and if they are they will find out eventualy.

  • smifee smifee

    30 Jul 2008, 4:53PM

    Banks (G); Cohen (G); Wilson (R); Stiles (N); Charlton (J); Moore (B); Charlton (R); Peters (M); Hunt (R); Hurst (G).

    You're right mate. Who was the other one?

  • smifee smifee

    30 Jul 2008, 4:58PM

    Jennings(P); Knowles (C); Kinnear (J); Mackay (D); England (M); Beale (P); Robertson (J); Greaves (J); Gilzean (A); Saul (F).

    Just by way of comparison, a typical 1966 club team. And, feck me, who was the other one?

  • LaDude LaDude

    30 Jul 2008, 5:51PM

    Forget England going on about '66, Hammers fans go on more about quotes like this:

    "It was another reminder of the huge contribution West Ham have made to this World Cup."

  • nyeastender nyeastender

    30 Jul 2008, 6:02PM

    Missing a Ball, are we?

    BTW, the gentle allusion to the writhing on the ground by Weber was brilliant. We complain (rightly) about it nowadays, but this German team, and Haller in particular, went to ground at every opportunity and with "appropriate" theatrics.

  • sooterkin sooterkin

    30 Jul 2008, 6:45PM

    luxembourg has a point. We have been plucky losers since 1966 in almost everything. C'mon Tim Tiger! OK, retire then! Best team I ever saw was Leeds in the early 70s especially all the players with first names ending in 'y'. My dad took me and I've hated footie ever since.David Hemmings and Virginia Wade. Daley Thompson and the rowing guy. At least we now have black players/athletes.The Scot short-fuse artist Andy Murray! Now we are all British!

  • smifee smifee

    30 Jul 2008, 6:49PM

    David Hemmings? The actor? Or did you mean David Hemery? The British Olympic gold medal winning 400m hurdler?

    Hello nyeastender - I think it's fair to say you keep me blogging. Yes. A ball was just the ticket.

    And the other team?

  • nyeastender nyeastender

    30 Jul 2008, 6:56PM

    smifee -- are just trying to Spur me on? Was this the support team for the Scottish middleweight champion in his dust up with his fellow countryman, with a certain Mr. Burtenshaw (?) keeping the blows above the belt?

  • theoddgoal theoddgoal

    30 Jul 2008, 6:58PM

    This piece is from the archive and is re-published today because today happens to be the 42nd anniversary of the 1966 Final. So, to all those critics with their rather small minded comments, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation why this piece has been dragged out again.

    Yes, England fans are too often focused on '66 but that is more due to being 1) absolute football nuts and, 2) yearning for the national team to win something meaningful once again than being obsessed with this one win.

    Until the generation who was around to watch that game back on July 30, 1966 has passed, this celebration that has turned itself into a lament will continue.

    I, for one, am more interested in why England can no longer produce a team of the quality of the one at World Cup 66 (or the even better team of World Cup 70). There's great praise in the contemporary media about, say, Ferdinand and Terry, but neither come close to the standard set by Moore and Charlton.

    As in most great teams, the England team of 66 was made up of mainly above average players. And, as in most great teams, it also contained three of four of the best players in the world at the time. Even the England bench on the day had a couple of truly great players (Jummy Greaves for one). Of course, this team also had a truly great manager who wasn't afraid to make difficult decisions, and understood how to get this group of players to play to their strengths.

    Like some others I also appreciated the old style journalism. That last line about "God being an Englishman", written with only a little irony, certainly places it in an age before now. Back in the day many would have said that without any irony at all.

  • Infodavid1 Infodavid1

    30 Jul 2008, 7:09PM

    V. funny you chaps. I watched the game as a five year old in Prague having been driven there by a very-driven father in a red and white Hillman Husky all the way from Bavaria where he didn't want to watch the final. Small black and white television, big memories. Of course, now I have a five year old who thinks the sport I watch on the internet is called soccer.


    They say that A. Ball had a fantastic game. I don't remember.

  • smifee smifee

    30 Jul 2008, 7:16PM

    No, nyeastender, not Keith Burkinshaw. It was a team put out by Billy Nic.

    I don't know the boxing incident you refer to.

    Spur u on? I thought you were a gooner...

  • nyeastender nyeastender

    30 Jul 2008, 7:25PM

    Burtenshaw was the ref in the game where Big Dave picked up Battling Billy by the scruff of the neck after a tackle that would have resulted in a straight red these days, and another for retaliation.

    McKay was coming back from two leg breaks, one, I'm sorry to say against MU. McKay maintained that Bremner had gone for the leg that had been broken.

  • nyeastender nyeastender

    30 Jul 2008, 7:34PM

    Sorry to come in again -- Alan Ball had a good game but an incredible extra time. Lord knows where he got the energy, but he ran the German lads ragged, and they were already pretty knackered.

  • Deyna Deyna

    30 Jul 2008, 7:41PM

    I understand the English obssession with '66 - its natural. What I really _don't_ understand is the Scotch/Irish obssession with our obssession with '66. Why do they let it irk them so?

    Smiffee I think Venables could be the odd man out. (Or is he a year early?)

  • Dublinspurs Dublinspurs

    30 Jul 2008, 9:01PM

    Smifee,Your typical team is nearly the spurs 67 cup final. No sure what it has to do with 66 and all that but the missing men are Mullery at 4 and Mackay at 6, not Beal who was injured and Venables at 10.

    You missed out Ball in the post before.

  • smifee smifee

    30 Jul 2008, 10:47PM

    Thanx guys.

    Didn't know the name Burtenshaw, but you've probably guessed that. Thanx for the info. I couldn't for the life of me work out you were referring to the Mackay/Bremner bust-up.

    Venables, yes. And for the 1967 final. And yes, Mullery for Beale at Wembley. Thanx.

    As to what it has to do with "all that", I posted the England WC team and a typical club team from 1966 in response to Sivori10's comment at 1:35 pm.

    'Fess up nyeast. Am i wrong or r u a gonna?

  • smifee smifee

    30 Jul 2008, 10:55PM

    Oh. Sorry deyna. I meant to answer your question.

    The Scottish aren't obsessed with 1966 so much as 1967.

    What fixates Scots is why England were still called world champions after Scotland stuffed them in 1967 (Scotland also stuffed Europe for good measure).

    My abiding memory of 1966 is Pele hobbling on the touch-line. They got Eusebio too.

  • nocod nocod

    30 Jul 2008, 11:13PM

    I've seen a few highlights over the years but only watched the game in it's entirety six months ago. It was a fantastic experience and the differences from today's football leapt out straight away. The ball was a heavy lump wannit? And all the players did phenominally well to keep going, the fatigue dripped from the telly. And the pace, there was so much more time to savour the best bits as the players lacked the energy to close down and snipe at the tendons, though that didn't apply to Stiles, so scholes-like.Ball was master of the day. Is it true when asked many years later what he was screaming to Hurst, moments before his third (second?) goal, very aware that it wouldn't have gone down well in previous years, he admitted he'd said, " Give us the f**king ball you greedy c**t. " ?The match made such an impact that I was half surprised not to find a report in the papers the next day. This flashback article has filled a gap and is much appreciated.

  • Deyna Deyna

    31 Jul 2008, 8:43AM

    smifee"My abiding memory of 1966 is Pele hobbling on the touch-line. They got Eusebio too"

    Fair enough; but remember that England's best player - Jimmy Greaves - was injured for the final as well.

  • pierrelemer pierrelemer

    31 Jul 2008, 10:06AM

    DeynaFair enough; but remember that England's best player - Jimmy Greaves - was injured for the final as well.

    No, this implies that he would've been a first choice selection which is not true; he was dropped, or perhaps more accurately, Hurst retained, after his performance against Argentina.

    I remember the whole thing from the mind numbing boredom and disappointment of the opening match against Uruguay to the fantastic contest against Portugal - now that was a game to remember. boby Charlton and Beckenbauer almost cancelled each other out in the final - we were to learn to our cost fpour years later the consequqnce of removing Bobby Charlton from the pitch and giving the Kaiser licence to roam.

    The most apposite point to bring forward was firstly Sir Alf's damn near revolutionary 4-3-3 England side, a formation not employed by many (if any?) domestic sides but the one that he chose to get the best out of his squad and to give his team the best chance of success. Much is made of hat-tricks, Charlton's screamers and a Russian linesman, but England's success was due entirely to the ability of the manager to select players that would play to the system that he insisted on and the ability and application of the players themselves to perform. Which they did, magnificently.

    You wouldn't think this was really too much to ask for but sadly we've not managed it since 1970 when we had an almost equally good side but came up against ones that were better on the day.

    After that, it's been a sorry combination of lack of courage in appointing the right man at the right time, lack of talent, misplaced domestic arrogance and today's bunch who deserve to be lined up against a wall for their underachieving self regard. When it comes to ability, Only Banks, Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore were easily a class above the current England squad. But the dedication, attitude and application of those players under Sir Alf leaves today's players unworthy to wear the shirt by comparison.

  • smifee smifee

    31 Jul 2008, 11:38AM

    Oh sh*t.

    Ok. Here goes.

    I'm not one of those that thinks Greavsie injury had any significant effect on the England team. Indeed, when Ramsay did not pick him after his return to fitness there were a few mutterings but most people accepted Hunt was doing too well to be dropped.

    Pele, Eusebio were irreplaceable. Brazil, good enough to win in '62 and in '70, didn't get out of their group in '66.

  • nyeastender nyeastender

    31 Jul 2008, 11:37PM

    Smifee -- If I remember right, Pele was hacked by the Koreans and others. Eusebio played in the semi.

    It is alleged (and, shame on me, I forgot to ask him when I met him years later) that Jack Charlton asked Ramsey how he managed to get in the team as he was not the best centre half in England. Ramsey's response was that he picked the best team, not necessarily the best players (sorry for the paraphrasing).

    Bit late to jump in, I know.

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