We know England won the World Cup in 1966, in Scotland we find it hard to forget it, and despite the ” revenge ” which was our 3-2 win at Wembley in the Home Internationals of 1967, we have 1966 etched on our sporting psyche north of the border but here are some things we are sure you DIDN’T know about the 1966 World Cup.
1. Not all the games were televised.
Only 16 teams took part in the 1966 World Cup finals and you would have thought with both BBC 1, 2 and ITV on the air at the time all the matches would have been featured. Not so ! Infact the Quarter Final matches all kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday and both BBC 1 and ITV decided it was only England v Argentina that was worth live coverage. Final score 1-0 to England against a particularly forgettable visiting side who fouled and protested their way through the fixture.
2. Greyhounds more important than football
It had been planned to play a couple of England’s First Round Group Qualifiers at White City Stadium in London but this plan was ditched after the stadium put a prestige Greyhound meeting ahead of England’s opening match of the 1966 World Cup forcing the FA to commision Wembley for ALL of England’s home games after a dispute with White City’s owners.
3. None of the other British teams made it through qualification.
Northern Ireland narrowly finished second in their group, behind Switzerland, but ahead of the Netherlands. Wales finished second in their group, behind the Soviet Union.
Scotland went in to their last qualifying games, a home and away double-header with Italy, knowing that a win and a draw would be enough to see them head south of the border for the finals.
They won the first match in Glasgow, but a 3-0 defeat in Naples in December 1965 meant Italy, not Scotland went to the World Cup. The Scots would have to wait until 1967 to “Win The World Cup”.
Across the Irish sea the Republic of Ireland had a curious qualification programme.
They were drawn in a group with Spain and, puzzlingly, Syria. Syria withdrew, so the group simply consisted of home and away matches between the Republic and the Spanish. Ireland won 1-0 at home. Spain thumped the Irish 4-1 in Seville.
But goal difference wasn’t used to separate teams in this qualification tournament, and so the two teams met again in a play-off. Held in Paris in November 1965.
Spain edged past the Irish 1-0
But, why did Syria withdraw? Well…
4. Africa boycotted the 1966 World Cup.
Fifa’s original plan was that the 15 nations from Africa and the Middle East taking part would be put into 6 groups. The 6 group winners would then play-off to reach a final round, where three of them would play in a group with the winners of the Asia/Oceania contest for one spot at the finals. Confused? Yes, we are too.
Angry at not having a direct route guaranteeing one African team at the finals, everybody from the continent decided to withdraw in protest.
Meanwhile, North Korea and Australia ended up being the only teams taking part in the Asia/Oceania bit of qualifying. A 9-2 aggregate win saw North Korea on their way to England, and that famous 1-0 victory over Italy at Ayresome Park.
In many ways it was maybe better that Scotland did not qualify for England ’66 as they would have been up against the North Koreans. Given our later failures to beat so called minnows in the World Cup finals like Peru,Iran,Costa Rica and Morocco it would have been the biggest hurt of all for a Scotland team featuring Law, Baxter, Jinky Johnstone and John Greig to lose to unknowns. [ by the way, we also huffed and puffed before eventually beating Zaire 2-0 in 1974 and New Zealand 5-2 in 1982, allowing them to pull the score back to 3-2 after we led 3-0 ]
5. The ” Other ” Commentator
BBC TV Commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme wrote his name into sports and indeed broadcasting history with the line ” They think it’s all over..it is now ” as Geoff Hurst fired home England’s 4th goal in the final against the then West Germany as some people ran onto the pitch in the dying seconds of the game.[ Hurst completing a memorable hat trick ] On ITV the commercial channel’s commentator Hugh Johns said ” It’s there…it’s three..it’s three for Hurst !! ” It wasn’t quite on the same level as the Beeb’s bit of sporting poetry so in the clash of the commentators [ both live at the same time on the day of the final ] it finished Kenneth 1 Hugh 0 and England 4 West Germany 2.