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World Cup Icons: Bobby Moore

An imperious defender and a calming presence on the pitch, Bobby Moore remains the only England captain to have ever held the famous World Cup trophy aloft.

A modest size for a central defender at 5ft 10in tall, Moore relied more on his ability to read the game and intelligent positional play as opposed to possessing any exceptional physical qualities.

In this sense Moore was ahead of his time, a clever defender who played with real class and composure. Such was the level of the West Ham legend’s defensive quality, the legendary Pele has declared the Englishman as the best marker he ever faced.

1966 World Cup

Widely regarded as the best player in West Ham’s history, Moore won the FA Cup in 1963-64 and the UEFA Cup the year after during a golden era for the club.

Made captain of his country aged 23 in 1964, Moore would lead England into a World Cup on home soil two years later. There was complications for the skipper in the lead up to the tournament, however, with a messy contract dispute at West Ham playing out in the press.

England manager Sir Alf Ramsey was forced to intervene, reportedly forcing Moore and West Ham boss Ron Greenwood to sit down and settle their differences before the defender eventually put pen to paper on a new deal before the World Cup got underway.

Much was expected of Ramsey’s charges ahead of the tournament, with England desperate to deliver their maiden World Cup title.

England would progress through the group stages with minimal fuss, with a goalless draw in their opening game against Uruguay followed up by successive 2-0 victories over Mexico and France

In the quarter-finals, a goal from Moore’s West Ham teammate Geoff Hurst was enough to see England overcome Argentina to progress through to the last four.

The semi-finals stage would see one of the world’s best defenders in Moore face up against one of the sport’s most talented strikers in fearsome Portuguese hitman Eusebio. Having already struck an impressive eight goals at the tournament, it’s safe to say Moore and Co were aware of who the danger man would be on the opposing side. 

Managing to keep the Benfica legend quiet for the majority of the game, with Bobby Charlton netting a brace to put England 2-0 up, Eusebio would have his say from the penalty spot in the 92nd minute to set English nerves jangling before ultimately holding on to take their place in the World Cup final.

Geoff Hurst has since revealed in his autobiography that England full-back George Cohen had overheard discussions amongst the England coaching staff about the possibility of dropping captain Moore for the final, to partner Jack Charlton with his Leeds United teammate Norman Hunter in defence.

England’s captain would retain his usual position at the heart of England’s defence for the showpiece, however, playing a pivotal role in a World Cup classic against West Germany.

Going 1-0 down courtesy of a goal from Helmut Haller, Moore’s awareness and sharpness of thought helped England grab a swift equaliser. Fouled midway inside the German half, Moore picked himself up to clip a quick free kick into the path of Geoff Hurst to head home and level the match in a move reportedly worked on in training at their club West Ham.

The West Ham influence in the England team was felt again as midfielder Martin Peters put the Three Lions 2-1 up, before West Germany equalised in the last minute of normal time through Wolfgang Weber to send the match into extra-time.

England would go 3-2 up in extra-time courtesy of one of the most controversial goals of all time. Receiving a cross from Alan Ball, Geoff Hurst swivelled in the box and fired a shot that crashed off the underside of the bar. The referee, unsure whether the ball had crossed the line, deliberated with his linesman before awarding the goal.

One minute before the end of extra-time, England put the game out of sight. With West Germany desperately pushing for an equaliser, the ball broke to Moore at the edge of his own box. With his teammates yelling at him to clear the ball to safety, the ice cool Moore instead opted to play a pinpoint pass into the feet of Hurst in attack, with the striker running through to complete his hat-trick and secure England’s World Cup glory.

Leading his teammates up the Wembley steps to the Royal Box, the photo of Moore being presented the World Cup trophy by Queen Elizabeth II represents one of the tournament’s most iconic images.

An ever-present in the victorious England side throughout the tournament, the 1966 World Cup made Moore a national hero in his homeland and underlined his world-class ability as a player.

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1970 World Cup

The England captain would go on to lead his country at a second World Cup in Mexico in 1970. His preparations for the tournament would be severely disrupted, however, after the West Ham icon was arrested following an accusation of theft by a jeweller in Colombia where England were playing a warm-up game.

Eventually released and cleared to play at the World Cup, holders England won their opening group match against Romania by a goal to nil before facing tournament favourites Brazil. Losing 1-0 on the day to a masterful Brazilian side, Moore was heralded for what has been described as the “perfect tackle” after stopping fleet-footed winger Jairzinho in his tracks.

Swapping shirts after the match, Moore and Pele shared a warm embrace in a show of great sportsmanship. Arguably the most iconic players in the history of English and Brazilian football, this marked one of the most memorable moments in the tournament’s rich history.

Sneaking a 1-0 win over Czechoslovkia in their final group match to set up a repeat of the ’66 final against West Germany in the quarter-finals, England raced into a 2-0 lead at half-time. Moore and Co were to capitulate during the second period, however, eventually succumbing to a 3-2 defeat after extra-time to relinquish their World Cup crown.

Moore retired from international football in 1973, with his 108 accumulated caps a record at the time. He also shares the record of most matches played as England captain, alongside Billy Wright on 90.

Immortalised as England’s World Cup-winning captain of 1966, Moore’s legacy is still firmly enshrined within the country’s football culture to this day.

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