No.4: Geoff Hurst’s Final Hat-trick (England, 1966)
You don’t envy managers ahead of a World Cup final. For the players in the squad, it’s set to be the biggest occasion of their entire life. But the boss can only pick 11 players and ahead of such a vital game, big decisions have to be made.
Ahead of the World Cup final in 1966, Alf Ramsey made a very big call.
At Wembley in front of a 96,924 strong home crowd, he named a team without wide men. In the modern day, it’d almost resemble a diamond, with Nobby Stiles at the base, Alan Ball and Martin Peters in front of him, and Bobby Charlton pushing forward. They’d soon come to be know as the “wingless wonders”.
England were set to tackle West Germany in the final, a side that had been on an upward curve since their triumph in 1954. Galvanised by their inspirational skipper Franz Beckebauer, the Germans made it through to the final after winning all but one of their five games, conceding just two goals in the process.
But the England team had also won four of their games, conceding just one goal en route to the final. The centre-back duo of Bobby Moore and Jack Charlton had been formidable at the back for the Three Lions, and a such, the final looked set to be quite the cagey affair. Things didn’t turn out quite like that, though.
The Germans stunned the Wembley crowd early on, as Helmut Haller pounced on a loose ball inside the England box to put his team in front. That paved the way for a frantic 90 minutes that saw Ramsey’s team come out and attack West Germany.
They weren’t behind for long; after 18 minutes Geoff Hurst glanced home a header to level things up. The scored remained tied after a back-and-forth contest up until the 77th, when Peters must have thought he’d won it for England with a strike from eight years out.
But in the last minute, the German side—in somewhat typical fashion—struck a late equaliser through Wolfgang Weber to send the tie into extra time. What happened from that point onwards remains the most iconic spell of soccer in the history of the English game:
What happened next?
“And here comes Hurst. He’s got… some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over. It is now!”
Those were the legendary words offered spoken by commentator Ken Wolsthenholme as Hurst raced through to score his third and England’s fourth, effectively sealing the World Cup for his country.