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Original Issue


With a melodramatic overtime victory against Germany, England won the world soccer championship and set off a celebration unseen since the days of blood, sweat and tears


Through most of last week England was enduring one of her darker hours. The country's finances were faltering. The pound was in such bad shape that Prime Minister Harold Wilson asked for a wage freeze that would chill six million paychecks. Worse, he raised the taxes on strong drink. It was clearly a time for new proof that there will always be an England. And then came Saturday, lovely Saturday, the day the tide turned. Forget finances for now. We'll fight about wages later. Taxes be blasted and everybody drink up! England won the World Cup.

On a historic rainy afternoon, when British upper lips were limp, English Forward Geoffrey Hurst kicked the clinching goal that indisputably defeated West Germany 4-2 in the closing seconds of an overtime and the 93,000 people in Wembley Stadium went daft. Around the British Isles, around the world, a television and radio audience of 400 million was similarly affected. Grown men wept. Horns blared. The Royal Marine Band tootled ecstatically under a canopy of waving Union Jacks. The players embraced one another, and the fans—who ordinarily never do that sort of thing—flooded out onto the pitch.

Decorum was never entirely restored. But then, it likely never will be. The team marched up to the royal box, where Queen Elizabeth waited, in white gloves, to present the trophy. Elizabeth had been, in the closing seconds, as excited as anyone. She had turned to an aide and said, "When will it be over?" while waiting for the whistle to blow. And now Bobby Moore, who was at the head of the English team line, carefully wiped his hands on the bunting so as not to get Her Majesty's gloves dirty and accepted the 12-inch cup that had grown so much bigger in the past weeks.

Beaming at the Queen's side was Prime Minister Wilson, who had—never mind international affairs—rushed back from a conference with President Lyndon Johnson to attend the game. Wilson had been carrying with him for luck a photograph of England's famous 1922 Huddersfield soccer team—about the equivalent of President Johnson flashing a picture of the 1941 Chicago Bears.

The crowd stood and howled happily for nearly an hour after it was all over. The people cheered when the English team made a triumphant tour around the pitch, holding aloft the gold Jules Rimet Cup, emblem of the world championship. They sang, "Ee, eye, addio, England have won the cup," over and over. Then they joined the marine band, singing "When the Reds go marching in" in tribute to the team, which for this game had been forced to change from its traditional white uniforms to red after losing a coin toss to the West Germans.

They finally left, reluctantly, after the team had retired to the dressing room. But crowds in Piccadilly Circus and all across London chanted, "England, England," far into the night, and a few overly stimulated fans paddled about happily in the fountain in Trafalgar Square. It was V-E day all over again, a demonstration infinitely removed from the standard concept of British reserve.

But why not? Most of the world—and the United States is starting to notice—takes its soccer more seriously than any other endeavor. The World Cup comes, like the Olympics, every four years. The buildup for Saturday's victory had started two years back, in a 70-team elimination. By the time the 16 finalists had assembled in England, world tensions were at their peak.

For all the postgame hoopla over heroes, this had not seemed a particularly endearing English team as the tourney began. "A championship team is built on the firm foundation of defense," said Coach Alf Ramsey. He is a soft-spoken man who looks like a mini-copy of Pat O'Brien playing Knute Rockne. His English team certainly had the firm foundation, but in its early games it showed a lamentable lack of scoring power.

But by the time England defeated high-scoring Portugal in the semifinal, Alf and his charges had become the darlings of the British Isles. When they took the field for the final they were greeted by a thunderous roar, and each time they attacked during the game the crowd roared again.

The game itself was almost indecently melodramatic. It was only the second World Cup final in history to be decided in an overtime period—and the only one ever to be tied in the last 30 seconds of regular play.

The West Germans, a big, strong team with more individual talent than England, scored first: Ray Wilson, an English defensive back, made the mistake of heading a ball directly to the feet of Helmut Haller, almost in the mouth of the English goal. The surprised Haller stopped the ball, then hit quickly, caroming the shot off the thigh of an English player and into the net. It was the first goal in the tournament scored from the field against Gordon Banks, the exceptionally competent English goalie.

Six minutes later England evened the score. Hurst got the first of his three goals, this one a header off a free kick by Moore. Then Martin Peters, a tall, slender forward, put England ahead with 12 minutes left in the game when he sent home a goal after a brief scrimmage in front of the German net. The crowd was now convinced that England had won, but the West Germans tied it up, with the assistance of Swiss Referee Gottfried Dienst, an unfortunately whistle-happy official. Earlier in the game, after some of Dienst's calls, the crowd had sung, "Oh, my, what a bad referee!" to the tune of O dear! What can the matter be. But after he had given the West Germans a free kick from about 25 yards out—with less than a minute to play—they simply booed.

He called the penalty on Jackie Charlton, a tall, long-necked defensive player who had climbed up the back of a German to knock a ball away with his head. To the English crowd, it looked as though the German had "made a back" for Charlton, or backed into him as a block. At any rate, in the melee in front of the English goal after the free kick, Wolfgang Weber smacked the ball through Banks, and to the absolute dismay of almost everybody the game was tied 2-2.

Ten minutes into the overtime period, Nobby Stiles, the smallest and one of the best players on the field, passed the ball to Alan Ball, another tiny, red-haired forward. Ball tipped it to Hurst, who slammed it high up against the bottom of the crossbar in the German goal. It came down on the goal line, and there were some agonizing moments for the crowd before a goal was allowed. Dienst suddenly seemed struck with indecision and had to ask Tofik Bakhramov, a Russian linesman, for his opinion. Since Bakhramov can speak only Russian and Turkish, his opinion was not easily understood, but at last he made it clear that he considered the kick a goal. The crowd went wild again.

To make sure there could be no doubt about the better team, Hurst added his final goal with the last kick of the game. He broke loose after taking a long pass and bore down on the German goalkeeper with only one other defender between him and the net. He jinked by the fullback and drove the ball high and hard past the goalie, kicking with his left foot. His first goal he had scored with his head, his second with his right foot.

Thus, the World Cup tournament, which had begun and proceeded with acrimony and accusations, ended happily. Even the Germans seemed content. "It is not so bad to finish second to a great team," their manager said. "We have the right to lose, you know."

By the time competition had reached the quarterfinals, it had become clear that this was not to be a festival of fine soccer and goodwill to all. The strong Italian side had been put out in the biggest upset since the United States defeated England 1-0 in 1950. Then North Korea, a mystery team ignored by everybody, defeated the Italians 1-0 and qualified for the quarterfinals.

The Italians went home, trying to sneak into Genoa unnoticed—only to find a crowd of several hundred people waiting, armed with elderly tomatoes. The team was greeted with cries of "Assassins!" and volleys of tomatoes, most of them better aimed than the Italian shots at the goal had been.

When Brazil, the defending champion, was eliminated by Portugal before it could reach the quarterfinals, a Brazilian girl jumped over the side of her cruise ship in an earnest endeavor to kill herself; she was fished out of the sea alive and weeping. A West German fan, watching his team winning an early match on TV, hanged himself in exasperation when his set went on the blink.

The soccer, moreover, had been largely dull and uninteresting, as most of the sides concentrated on defense. Only Portugal, with the tournament's strongest offense, and little North Korea, with nothing to lose, seemed to care at all about scoring. Their meeting in the quarterfinals produced by far the most exciting game of the tournament up to that time. The North Koreans burst into a 3-0 lead, to the vast astonishment and delight of the spectators, only to lose 5-3 when Eusébio Ferreira da Silva, Portugal's answer to Brazil's Pelé, scored four goals.

England's quarterfinal match with Argentina was notable more for its repercussions than for the uninspired 1-0 English victory. First, the Argentine captain was banished for disputing an official decision; then the temperamental Latins disputed further, and, when it was all over, three Argentinians were suspended from future play. The nation was warned to mind its temper or it could not come back. (Alf Ramsey then huffed something about Argentine animals, and he drew a reprimand.)

The Argentinians went home as national heroes and began to organize a world cup of their own for South American countries, since by the end of the quarterfinals all the Latin American teams were out of the competition. Uruguay, playing West Germany, had lost 4-0, after two of its better players were sent off the field by the English referee. This prompted the South American press to hint darkly that the whole thing was a dastardly Anglo-Saxon plot.

Curiously, in all of these charges and countercharges of foul play, no one had mentioned the name of Nobby Stiles. Norbert, as he was christened, was the popular choice for dirtiest player in the tournament before play even started. Eusébio, the Portuguese star who was guarded by Stiles in the semifinal match against England, asked that the referee pay particular attention.

Nobby, a defensive back for Manchester United when he is not playing for England, is the most unlikely-looking villain in sports. He stands a rather wispy 5 feet 4, and with his horn-rimmed glasses and buck teeth he looks more like a bewildered rabbit than the most frightening defender in soccer. He is a changed man when he takes the field.

"I don't know what it is," says Jackie Charlton. "He takes out 'is bridgework and slips in 'is contact lenses and looks at you and it's bloody frightenin'. You don't know if the bloke is hypnotizin' you, or plannin' to go for your throat with 'is fangs."

Against the Portuguese, Nobby did, indeed, shadow Eusébio, although he functioned as a sweeper, or jack of all trades, in the excellent English defense. Eusébio, who had scored four goals against the North Koreans, scored just one against England, and that was on a point-blank penalty shot that had nothing to do with Nobby.

England beat Portugal 2-1 on two goals by Bobby Charlton, who was proposed (by a Swedish newspaper) for knighthood. Eusébio left the field in tears, but he had no complaints about Nobby, who had played a clean game.

Indeed, this one game did much to take away the bad taste of the poor soccer and poorer sportsmanship of the previous matches. In the semifinal the night before in Liverpool, West Germany had eliminated Russia 2-1 in a monumentally dull game enlivened only by the German histrionics whenever they considered they might have been fouled.

Stiles, on the day before the final, worked out with his mates at Roehampton, at the Bank of England Athletic Field, where English national sides traditionally practice before an international game. Although Nobby is only 23 he has 19 caps, which means that he has competed against international competition 19 times. An actual cap, with a small tassel on top, is awarded a player for each international game in which he participates.

"It ain't the same at all," said Nobby, his pale rabbit face solemn. "It ain't like league play, even in the big game. The tension is so bad. You know if you make a mistake, it ain't just your club you're 'urting. You're 'urting the whole nation, like."

And with currency, wage and tax troubles, the nation was in no mood to be hurt the next day. Everything—national pride and prestige—seemed to hinge on the 11 men.

When Hurst's final goal did it, Stiles pulled his red uniform shirt out of his shorts and skipped deliriously about the pitch. A broad grin bared the fangs where his front teeth used to be. He had been, through it all, one of the strongest players in England, throwing his small body into the attack, defending with abandon and helping direct the action.

Later, in decorous blue suit with a red carnation in his buttonhole, he smiled once more, this time with teeth. Had he been worried when the game went into overtime?

"Worried? No," said Nobby. "We 'ad come too long a way to lose it on the last 'urdle, 'adn't we?"


In tense overtime period, England's red-shirted Geoffrey Hurst lies on ground at left as his kick bounces off the crossbar atop the goal, setting off a desperation leap by West German Goalie Hans Tilkowski and setting up moments of suspense over whether the point would be allowed.


Surrounded by teammates—and the cheers of an adoring public—England's Captain Bobby Moore waves the small but mighty World Cup.