World Cup Russia 2018
LAST week we looked at the agony of England, perennially picking the ball from the net after a disastrous penalty shootout ended another Cup run.
Not quite this time, but what about that one glorious day when the Three Lions roared; when the whole nation roared as captain Bobby Moore held aloft the Jules Rimet trophy on home soil.
How it must have felt to be taking it from the hands of Her Majesty herself.
It almost wasn’t going to happen. Well before the first kick-off England manager Alf Ramsey was under fire for his choice of players as well as his tactics.
He’d ditched the committee selection process and made it his own, picking doughty, hard-workers like Bobby Charlton and Moore, cited by Pele as the greatest defender he’d faced.
As the Cup kicked off at home, with the stolen trophy scandal still stinging the nation’s pride, it appeared as though Ramsey’s critics were going to have their day. England failed to score a goal in their opening match against Uruguay, leaving the 87,148 fans in Wembley Stadium frustrated.
Things improved slightly four days later when they returned to Wembley to knock off Mexico 2-0, but Ramsey was under pressure in the final round game following defender Nobby Stiles’ working class tackle on France’s Jacques Simon.
There were calls for Stiles’ head, but Ramsey stayed true and was rewarded when the Mancunian ensured Portuguese goal freak Eusebio had a barren semi-final. That pitted England against West Germany in the final.
West Germany started their campaign with a glorious 5-0 demolition of Switzerland, tied with Argentina, then ensured top spot of their group with a 2-1 win against Spain.
They slammed Uruguay 4-0 in the quarter-finals and knocked off the Soviets in the semis.
They scored first blood against the English when Haller scored after just 12 minutes. But there’s nothing like a home crowd to cheer you on, and Geoff Hurst answered five minutes later.
England took the lead after 78 minutes, but again the West Germans surged back and levelled 10 minutes later.
Then it became the Hurst show, first for a controversial strike that hit the crossbar and bounced back, only for a linesman to confirm that it had bounced behind the goal line.
One up, Hurst made it a foregone conclusion in the dying moments of the game with another goal – his hat-trick.
England had won, and nobody there on the day would ever forget the image of Nobby Stiles dancing on the pitch, Cup in one hand, false teeth in the other.