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Sealing '66 World Cup victory remains England's finest hour

By Agence France-Presse in Paris | China Daily | Updated: 2016-07-30 07:44

On 50th anniversary of historic win, scoring hero Hurst relives the glory

Saturday marks 50 years since English soccer's finest hour, when Alf Ramsey's side beat West Germany 4-2 in the controversial 1966 World Cup final at Wembley.

It was England's first and only World Cup triumph and, not surprisingly, is still recalled with passion and fondness.

 Sealing '66 World Cup victory remains England's finest hour

After 50 years, Geoff Hurst still has no doubt Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst made the right call in awarding England one of the most hotly-contested goals in soccer history in the 1966 World Cup final victory over Germany.

The late Bobby Moore lifted the trophy, while Geoff Hurst became the only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final which was full of controversy - some of which still burns.

When England opened the tournament, the prospect of winning it appeared remote.

A scoreless draw with Uruguay in its first game saw the host squad widely criticized, and its matches did not start to be sold out until the knockout stages.

Comfortable victories over Mexico and France saw England safely through to the quarterfinals, where Hurst's late header eliminated 10-man Argentina in a bruising encounter at Wembley.

The South Americans' skipper, Antonio Rattin, was sent off for "violence of the tongue," and Ramsey described the Argentina players as "animals".

Two goals from Bobby Charlton then helped the host edge Eusebio-inspired Portugal 2-1 in the semis, setting the stage for the thrilling final at Wembley on July 30, 1966.

In front of 96,000 fans, Hurst dominated against West Germany, canceling out Helmut Haller's early opener, and Martin Peters' 78th-minute volley appeared to have won it for England.

Even though Wolfgang Weber tallied late to force extra time, Hurst grabbed what proved to be the winner.

The West Ham United striker's shot hit the underside of the crossbar and didn't appear to cross the line, but Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst consulted with linesman Tofiq Bahramov and awarded one of the most hotly-contested goals in soccer history.

In Hurst's mind though, he still has no doubt it was the correct call.

"I turned away to celebrate, but it wasn't kidology - it was 2-2, in the World Cup final," he wrote in the Mail on Sunday last week.

"For me the clinching piece of evidence is Roger Hunt, wheeling away, instinctively, to celebrate.

"If you're not sure, you try to put it in - and Roger didn't. It might have saved all this debate if he had, but I'm glad he didn't."

Hurst added his third goal in the dying seconds, and the game, watched by an estimated 32 million television viewers, went down in English sporting folklore.

Despite several controversies throughout the competition helping it on its way to glory, England has not had as competitive a team since.

The best chance it had of repeating the feat was probably four years later in Mexico with largely the same side, but it blew a 2-0 halftime lead to lose to West Germany in the quarterfinals.

Then there were the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96 heartbreaks to German teams in semifinal penalty shootouts.

The 1966 World Cup remains the only time England has played in a major final.

Two weeks ago Sam Allardyce became the 12th manager since Ramsey was fired in 1974 to be tasked with leading England to international triumph, after Roy Hodgson was the latest to come unstuck in an embarrassing Euro 2016 exit to unheralded Iceland.

Perhaps all the failures in the last half-century have helped keep recollections of the 1966 final so vivid.

Few are more poignant than those of Tina Moore, the wife of the England captain who died of cancer in 1993 at the age of 51.

"I can still see Bobby climbing the steps, wiping his hands so as not to soil the Queen's white gloved hand," she said.

"I recall laughing and thinking only Bobby would do such a thing, forever the gentleman."

(China Daily 07/30/2016 page11)

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