In July 1966, the country that invented football finally got the chance to host football’s most prestigious tournament.
On the pitch, England had struggled to make an impression at previous World Cups. They decided not to compete in the three World Cups played before World War II so the 1950 World Cup in Brazil was their debut.
They headed into it as one of the favourites, but went home early after they were humiliated by the USA in their second game and then lost to Spain.
1954 saw England improve in terms of results and performance and reach the quarter finals, yet they didn’t win a game in Sweden in 1958. England progressed to the quarters again in 1962, however few onlookers in Chile were impressed.
All this left them with a very underwhelming record prior to the 1966 World Cup, England had only recorded 3 wins in 14 matches. A time for new ideas and renewed hope.
In 1963 that renewed hope came when the FA appointed Alf Ramsey as England manager. Ramsey had made his name in English football with minnows Ipswich Town. He had guided the Suffolk club through the divisions and remarkably won the First Division at their first attempt.
Ramsey achieved this without having much talent at his disposal, instead he was using innovative tactics and formations that would revolutionise the English game in time for the 1966 World Cup.
Ramsey started the 1966 World Cup playing a lopsided 4-3-3 (one winger) in the group games, which earned them two wins and a draw without conceding a goal. Ramsey then decided on a 4-4-2 formation (without wingers) in a shape similar to a diamond for the knockout stages.
This is where Charlton would push on from midfield while the equally important Stiles would drop back and pick up the creative players on the opposing sides. This ploy worked perfectly as England made their way past Argentina and to the semi-final.
In the semi-final they faced free-scoring Portugal with superstar Eusebio at the peak of his powers. Again it would see the importance of Charlton and Stiles. Stiles kept Eusebio quiet allowing Charlton to roam forward.
After half an hour England find a breakthrough when a ball is launched forward in the direction of Roger Hunt…
What Happened Next?
Bobby Charlton scored again before his brother Jack conceded a penalty, which Eusebio duly converted to make it a nervous final few minutes.
England met West Germany in the final and they came from behind to win 4-2 in extra-time with Geoff Hurst becoming the first player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final – a record he still holds today.
England v Portugal – Full Match