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How England won the 1966 World Cup

On Monday, Gareth Southgate's England team will begin their bid to do what no Three Lions squad has managed to do in over half a century when they start their campaign for World Cup glory against Iran.

This article was originally published on 19 November 2022

England's national team have come close in recent years, reaching the semi-finals in Russia in 2018 and then making a home final at Euro 2020, but success remains confined to one particular group of English players who are revered like no other.

The names of the heroes of 1966 are still etched in the memories of those lucky enough to witness England's sole World Cup win, and the story has since been passed down the generations. Here's how they did it.

What: World Cup
Where: Qatar
When: November 20-December 18
How to watch: Live on BBC and ITV
Odds: Brazil 7/2, Argentina 11/2, France 7/1, England 8/1, Spain 8/1

Ramsey's hosts top group to tee up quarter-final tie

Since rejoining FIFA in 1946, England had participated in four previous World Cups to little success, infamously losing 1-0 to the USA in Belo Horizonte at Brazil 1950 before exiting thanks to defeat against Spain in the final group-stage match.

The 1954 tournament saw an improvement as England made the quarter-finals, losing out to two-time champions Uruguay. After a group-stage exit in 1958, they would fall again at the quarter-final stage in 1962 as a Garrincha-inspired Brazil beat them 3-1 on the way to the trophy.

The build-up to the 1966 tournament, held in England, was dominated by the news that the Jules Rimet Trophy had been stolen - the iconic cup later held aloft by Bobby Moore was found by a black and white collie named Pickles.

On the pitch, however, Alf Ramsey's hosts were far from dramatic in the early stages of the tournament.

Instead, they were efficient in the group stage, holding old rivals Uruguay to a goalless draw and seeing off Mexico and France with back-to-back 2-0 wins - three relatively low-scoring contests illustrating football's tactical advancements compared to previous tournaments.

Wins over Argentina and Portugal see England make the final

Marshalled by the stylish Moore and the more agricultural Jack Charlton, England's defence held firm again in the quarter-finals as they enjoyed a 1-0 victory over Argentina, a country which would go on to become one of England's biggest rivals on the World Cup stage.

Jimmy Greaves, the prolific Tottenham striker, was injured in the win over France and would play no further part in the tournament as his replacement, a certain Geoff Hurst, popped up with the winning goal at Wembley.

Another of England's icons, Bobby Charlton would play the starring role in the semi-final - as Ramsey's 'wingless wonders' secured a 2-1 victory over Portugal and their superstar forward Eusebio, who scored a remarkable nine goals to take home the Golden Boot.

Hat-trick hero Hurst steals the show with help from the linesman

Greaves was fit for the final but Ramsey opted to name an unchanged team against West Germany - Banks, Cohen, Wilson, Charlton, Moore, Stiles, Ball, Peters, Charlton, Hurst and Hunt the men who were about to write their names in English football folklore.

For all the buzz around the hosts' chance to win the World Cup, it was West Germany who took the lead at Wembley through Helmut Haller, but the Bologna forward's 12th-minute strike was cancelled out six minutes later by a well placed Hurst header.

The Three Lions looked well on their way to glory with 12 minutes of normal time remaining as West Ham's Martin Peters capitalised on some slapdash defending from Horst-Dieter Hoettges to poke the ball home.

However, West Germany responded as Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute left to play.

Extra-time followed and it was Hurst who sealed victory in controversial circumstances in the 101st minute as the striker received a pass from Alan Ball, rifling a shot on to the underside of the crossbar and back down in the direction of the goalline.

After much deliberation between Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst and 'Russian' linesman Tofik Bahramov, who was actually from Azerbaijan but had Soviet citizenship, the two concluded that Hurst's effort crossed the line, prompting furious protests from West Germany.

Hurst would go on to put the result beyond doubt in the final minute of extra-time. As people began to swarm the pitch, the striker thumped the ball into the roof of the net - an effort that the hat-trick hero later admitted was an attempt to boot the ball as far into the crowd as possible.

The final moments of the match would become synonymous with Kennth Wolstenholme's iconic "They think it's all over… it is now" line, before Moore received the Jules Rimet Trophy from Queen Elizabeth II. He is still the only England captain to lift the World Cup.

England aiming to put an end to 56 years of hurt in Qatar

Harry Kane will hope he can replicate Moore's feat in the Qatar final on 18th December. The Three Lions are 8/1 to win the World Cup with Brazil 7/2 to scoop the trophy for the sixth time.

England are just 1/3 to make the perfect start to the tournament by beating Iran on Monday. The draw is a 15/4 chance with Iran priced at 10/1.

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