Since its launch in 1930, the FIFA World Cup had grown in stature to become clearly the world's senior international football tournament.
After the Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen while on display in London, the hosts triumphed again when it was recovered by a dog called Pickles under a bush in a suburban front garden in south London a few days later.
Pel? was again battered, this time by Bulgaria and Portugal as Brazil's bid for a third consecutive title faltered. England, shrewdly managed by Alf (later Sir Alf) Ramsey, beat West Germany 4-2 after extra time in a thrilling final at Wembley, when Geoff Hurst made history with a hat-trick, including the most controversial goal ever scored. Did the ball really cross the line after bouncing down from the crossbar? The debate still rages.
An enormous popular success in England and elsewhere, the FIFA World Cup took on another dimension in 1966. On the pitch, the host nation England ran out the winners, leaving some of their opponents feeling hard done by.
With 16 African nations declaring forfeit even before a single match had kicked off, the 1966 FIFA World Cup qualifiers did not get off to the best of starts. The Africans' protest was the result of a new FIFA rule stipulating that the winners of the Africa zone must then beat the winners of either the Asia or Oceania zone in order to reach the 1966 finals. The Africans believed that winning their zone should have been enough to go straight through to the finals. This 1964 ruling was eventually overturned four years later in Africa's favour. Meanwhile, with 70 teams taking part in the qualifiers - another new record - FIFA decided that ten teams should qualify from Europe, four from South America, one from Asia and one from North and Central America.
Notable first-time qualifiers were the Portuguese, who reached the finals despite being drawn in the same group as Czechoslovakia, finalists four years earlier. The English, in front of their own crowd and the cameras of the BBC, were, needless to say, among the tournament favourites. Playing proficiently and without conceding a goal, they won through to the quarter-finals, drawing 0-0 against Uruguay, winning 2-0 against Mexico and 2-0 again against France. But the big news of the first round was the elimination of the title-holder, Brazil. After beating Bulgaria, Pel? and his team-mates went down to Hungary and then the surprise team, Portugal. And once again Pel? was a victim of over-physical play on the part of defenders. Injured against Bulgaria, he missed the Hungary game before again being carried off against Portugal.
Champions on home soil
Among those qualifying for the second round were the North Koreans, who surprised everybody by knocking out the Italians and then taking a 3-0 lead over the Portuguese in the tournament's most dazzling match. Portugal fought back and eventually triumphed (5-3), with Eusebio supplying four of the goals. The rest of the tournament, however, failed to maintain this momentum. The English, who had the distinct advantage of playing all their games at Wembley, eventually won the title, beating Germany (4-2) after extra-time in the final, and Captain Bobby Moore led this team to the royal box to receive the trophy from Queen Elizabeth II.
Did You Know?
Probably no event in the history of the World Cup has caused so much discussion, between fans as well as on an official level, as the so-called "Wembley goal" that set England on the way to victory when Geoff Hurst made it 3:2 in the final against Germany.
Hardly a year goes by without some new technology being used to prove once and for all that the ball was (or maybe was not) really behind the line. The Swiss referee Gottfried Dienst, who made his decision after consulting his Russian linesman, is still remembered by football fans all over the world, fondly by England fans, less so by their German counterparts...
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