The 1966 FIFA World Cup, the eighth staging of the World Cup, was held in England from 11 July to 30 July. England was chosen as hosts by FIFA in August 1960 to celebrate the centenary of the standardisation of football in England. England won the final, beating West Germany 4–2, giving them their first (and to date, only) World Cup win, and becoming the first host to win the tournament since Italy in 1934.
The 1966 World Cup was the subject of bitter disagreement before a ball was ever kicked. Sixteen African nations boycotted the tournament in protest of a 1964 FIFA ruling that required the champion team from the African zone to enter a playoff round against the winners of either the Asian or the Oceania zone in order to win a place at the finals. The Africans felt that winning their zone should have been enough in itself to merit qualification for the finals. Despite the Africans' absence, there was another new record number of entries for the qualifying tournament, with 70 nations taking part. After all the arguments, FIFA finally ruled that ten teams from Europe would qualify, along with four from South America, one from Asia and one from North and Central America.
The 1966 World Cup had a rather unusual hero off the field, a dog called Pickles. In the build up to the tournament the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen from an exhibition display. A nation wide hunt for the icon ensued. It was later discovered wrapped in some newspaper as the dog sniffed under some bushes in London. The FA commissioned a replica cup in case the original cup was not found in time. This replica is held at the English National Football Museum in Preston, where it is on display.
The format of the 1966 competition remained the same as 1962: 16 qualified teams were divided into four groups of four. The top two teams in each group advanced to the quarter-finals. The draw for the final tournament, taking place on 6 January 1966 at the Royal Garden Hotel in London was the first ever to be televised, with England, West Germany, Brazil and Italy as seeds.
Despite achieving record attendances for the time, 1966 was a World Cup with few goals as the teams began to play much more tactically and defensively. This was exemplified by Alf Ramsey's England as they finished top of Group 1 with only four goals to their credit, but having none scored against them. Uruguay were the other team to qualify from that group at the expense of both Mexico and France. All the group's matches were played at Wembley Stadium apart from the match between Uruguay and France which took place at White City Stadium.
In Group 2, West Germany and Argentina qualified with ease as they both finished the group with 5 points, Spain managed 2, while Switzerland left the competition after losing all three group matches. FIFA cautioned Argentina for its violent style in the group games, particularly against the scoreless draw with West Germany.
In the northwest of England, Old Trafford and Goodison Park played host to Group 3 which saw the two-time defending champions Brazil finish in third place behind Portugal and Hungary, and be eliminated along with Bulgaria. Brazil were defeated by Hungary and Portugal in controversial wins. Portugal appeared in the finals for the first time, and made quite an impact. They won all three of their games in the group stage, with a lot of help from their outstanding striker Eusébio, whose nine goals made him the tournament's top scorer.
Group 4, however, provided the biggest upset when North Korea beat Italy 1-0 at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough and finished above them, thus earning qualification to the next round along with the USSR. Chile finished bottom of the group.
Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and third-place matchThe quarter-finals provided a controversial victory for West Germany as they cruised past Uruguay 4–0; the South Americans claimed that this occurred only after the referee (who was Jim Finney, from England) had not recognised a handstop by Schnellinger on the goal line and then had sent off two players from Uruguay: Horacio Troche and Héctor Silva. It appeared as though the surprise package North Korea might do the same to Portugal when after 22 minutes they were in the lead 3–0. It fell to one of the greatest stars of the tournament, Eusébio, to change that. He scored four goals in the game and with José Augusto adding a fifth in the 78th minute, one of the most incredible comebacks was complete.
Meanwhile in the other two games, Ferenc Bene's late goal for Hungary against the USSR, who were led by Lev Yashin's stellar goalkeeping, proved little more than a consolation as they crashed out 2–1, and the only goal between Argentina and England came courtesy of England's Geoff Hurst. During that controversial game (for more details see Argentina and England football rivalry), Argentina's Antonio Rattín became the first player to be sent off in a senior international football match at Wembley.Rattín at first refused to leave the field and eventually had to be escorted by several policemen. After 30 minutes England scored the only goal of the match. This game, even today, is called el robo del siglo (the robbery of the century) in Argentina.
At this point, all semifinalists were from Europe. The first semifinal between England and Portugal was controversial as well. Liverpool was the original venue for the first semifinal. However, due to intervention of the English officials, the venue changed to Wembley. Bobby Charlton scored both goals in England's triumph against Portugal. Portugal's goal came from a penalty kick in the 82nd minute after a handball by Jack Charlton on the goal line. The other semi-final also finished 2–1: Franz Beckenbauer provided the winning goal for West Germany as they beat the USSR. Portugal went on to beat the USSR 2-1 to take third place.
London's Wembley Stadium provided the venue for the final, and 98,000 people crammed inside to watch. After 12 minutes 32 seconds Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead, but the score was levelled by Geoff Hurst four minutes later. Martin Peters put England in the lead in the 78th minute; England looked set to claim the title when the referee awarded a free kick to West Germany with one minute left. The ball was launched goalward and Wolfgang Weber managed to poke it across the line, with England appealing in vain for handball as the ball came through the crowded penalty area. With the score level at 2–2 at the end of 90 minutes, the game went to extra time. In the 98th minute Hurst found himself on the score sheet again; his shot hit the crossbar, and bounced down and hit the ground either onto or just over goal line. Whether the ball actually crossed the goal line or not has been a matter of discussion for decades, and this goal, known as the "Ghost Goal", has become part of World Cup history. Recent digitally-enhanced footage is said to clearly illustrate that Geoff Hurst's second goal did not cross the line. In the last minute it was Hurst again, who dribbled easily through the German half to net his third goal, just as the gathered crowd invaded the pitch to celebrate with the team, thus cementing the victory for England with another goal. This made Geoff Hurst the only player ever to have scored three times in a World Cup final.
BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme's description of the match's closing moments has gone down in history: "Some people are on the pitch. They think it's all over ... [Hurst scores] It is now!".
England received the recovered Jules Rimet trophy from Queen Elizabeth II and were crowned World Cup winners for the first time.
World Cup Willie, the mascot for the 1966 competition, was the first World Cup mascot, and one of the first mascots to be associated with a major sporting competition. World Cup Willie is a lion, a typical symbol of the United Kingdom, wearing a Union Flag jersey emblazoned with the words "WORLD CUP".