The hosts celebrated cool Britannia by winning the Jules Rimet Trophy for the only time in their history.
Hosts capture first trophy
It was the Swinging Sixties, The Beatles and Carnaby Street.
Britannia had never been so ‘cool’ and so logically England won their first – and only – Jules Rimet Trophy.
Firstly, there was almost no trophy to win.
In a bizarre parallel of a vanishing FA Cup nearly half a century earlier, the famous tiny gold statue was stolen just before the event while on display.
It was found under a bush by a dog named Pickles and relieved FA officials made sure it was never taken out of their sight again.
England went into the tournament under the urbane and stubborn Alf Ramsey.
They opened their campaign with a dull 0-0 draw against Uruguay and were greeted by a barrage of criticism.
Ramsey was personally attacked for sidelining the best striker in the country, Jimmy Greaves, for the converted attacking midfielder Geoff Hurst. Ramsey was to have the last laugh.
Ramsey’s unwavering belief was further tested after England’s unimpressive 2-0 group win over France when the combative anchorman Nobby Stiles was censured for a horrendous tackle on an opponent.
FA chiefs, always keen to be seen as squeaky clean, approached Ramsey to leave the Manchester United star out.
Ramsey refused, ensuring spectators of the final were allowed to glimpse Stiles’ eccentric jig of delight along the touchline at the final whistle.
The hosts were still not the big attraction in 1966.
Brazil were here, bidding for an unprecedented third title and with a certain Pele in their team.
But other teams had taken notice and Pele was crudely hacked down in their opening game with Bulgaria.
He was never the same again and when he hobbled through much of their final game with Portugal, their hopes had gone.
The Portuguese boasted the new star themselves in Eusebio, a striker built like a light-heavyweight boxer, with a ferocious shot in his right foot.
West Germany were making low-key progress towards that famous final, remaining unbeaten in their group games, while the biggest shock in the early stages was in Group 4.
Li Dong-woon scored North Korea’s winner over Italy and caused a minor earth tremor around Rome.
The Italians arrived home early to enormous abuse from the public.
The quarter-finals pitted England against Argentina and started an amazing World Cup saga against the South Americans.
Pacey with the ball and speedy with their mouth, the Argentines spent most of the 90 minutes arguing and play-acting until moaning skipper Antonio Rattin was sent off by an intensely irritated referee.
Geoff Hurst gave England the lead and then they had to ward off an attacking onslaught that Argentina should have set about earlier in the game
The Germans and the Soviet Union cruised into the semi-finals while Everton’s Goodison Park staged an absolute thriller in the other quarter-final where Portugal came back from three goals down to beat the totally unfancied Koreans 5-3.
The sense of excitement was now fever pitch in England as Eusebio and Portugal lined up against them for the semi-final.
Two goals from Bobby Charlton, one a trademark piledriver, settled the issue while the defence played manfully to give the lethal Eusebio barely a sniff of a chance.
West Germany now lay in wait after a certain Franz Beckenbauer disposed of the Soviets and one of the most famous days of the century was about to happen.
On July 30, the sun shone and a nation seemed draped in the Union Jack.
But the unflappable Ray Wilson headed a harmless cross straight to the lurking Helmut Haller and England are one down and the fairytale ending was acquiring a nightmare feel.
But England were a spirited unit. Goals from Hurst and West Ham colleague Martin Peters turned the match around.
It was now 2-1 but there was just a minute to go when England centre-back Jack Charlton was penalised for a push out on the left.
Charlton trotted back to his own area muttering and when the ball was swung over, a clearance was missed and, in what seemed to be slow motion, the ball ran free to Wolfgang Weber who fired into the roof of the net.
The 100,000 crowd in the stadium and several millions huddled around black and white TV sets stared in disbelief as the referee blew the final whistle seconds later.
The national grid felt a massive surge as 10 million kettles were put on while everyone waited for 30 minutes of extra-time to begin.
Two men were to dominate the match – Hurst and the linesman Tofik Bakhramov.
In the first period, Hurst turned and shot against the underside of the bar only to see the ball bounce down close to the line and out again.
With the referee unsure, the linesman from the Soviet Union nodded his head to confirm the ball had definitely crossed the line.
Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. But to make sure in the dying minutes, the sublime Bobby Moore picked out Hurst with a pass from his own area and saw his West Ham pal gallop 40 yards to slam an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
England had done it and Hurst had scored the first hat-trick in the final.
All 11 players and Ramsey became household names and England were on top of the world at last.
Player of the tournament: Bobby Moore
Pele had arrived to claim the mantle but was quickly eclipsed by the panther-like Eusebio. Garrincha supplied the Brazilian style for a couple of games and Beckenbauer’s quality strike against the Soviets marked him out as a star of the future.
But the man of 1966 was Bobby Moore. Golden-haired, Moore was a craftsman among artisans. He had little pace but a brain that always put him in the right place to intercept. If ever a player could be truly called a general on the pitch, it was Moore.
Goal of the tournament: Garrincha’s free-kick
Charlton, Eusebio and Beckenbauer all supplied blockbusters but Garrincha’s free-kick against the Bulgarians was something to behold. Bent with the outside of the right foot over the corner of the wall, it bulleted into the top corner with a bemused keeper Naidenov rooted to his line. It instigated a generation of free-kick specialists.
Match of the tournament: Portugal-North Korea
Patriots would say the final but in truth the Portugal-North Korea quarter-final was one of the greatest anywhere…ever!
The Koreans came to the tournament straight from a Communist military training camp. They were small in stature, but ruthlessly fit and superbly drilled.
They boasted one of the characters of the tournament in goalkeeper Chan-myung, nicknamed, quite realistically, ‘The Cat’.
With the spring-heeled Chan-myung leaping around his area like a circus acrobat, the Koreans took a 3-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes.
The capacity crowd were being treated to an amazing match especially when Eusebio grabbed two goals back before half-time for the Portuguese.
But the Koreans had a fatal flaw. They could defend the 38th Parallel in their own land but could not cope with Eusebio’s sheer power and the aerial threat of striker Jose Torres.
They were bombarded with a stream of crosses in the second half and crumbled allowing Eusebio to claim a record four goals in the 5-3 extravaganza.
Eusebio rightly became one of the world’s great strikers and the North Koreans simply disappeared off the footballing map.
But they left a legacy in contesting one of the greatest World Cup matches ever.
England qualified automatically for the tournament as they were the hosts. The Three Lions came through a potentially difficult group at the finals, although their first match versus Uruguay ended in a 0-0 stalemate.
England earned their first win against the Mexicans as goals from Bobby Charlton and Roger Hunt sealed three points.
And the hosts secured top spot in Group 1 with a 2-0 victory over the French as Hunt netted either side of half-time.
England then faced Argentina in the quarter-finals and Geoff Hurst’s 78th minute goal proved decisive.
They faced a tricky test versus a Eusebio-inspired Portugal but booked their place in the final with a 2-1 victory with Charlton hitting two goals.
Then came the memorable showpiece at Wembley versus West Germany. Helmut Haller put the Germans in front but England equalised through Hurst.
Martin Peters scored what appeared to be a winning goal only for Wolfgang Weber to score dramatically in the 89th minute.
In extra-time came that goal that was deemed to have crossed the line before Hurst completed his hat-trick and sealed England’s first and only, to date, World Cup trophy.
Northern Ireland fell short in their attempts to qualify for the tournament as they finished runners-up behind table-toppers Switzerland.
Wales also came second in their qualifying group as they finished four points behind leaders USSR.
Scotland were made to rue a final game loss versus the Italians in qualifying Group 8 as they finished two points behind the Azzurri.