Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

The Controversial World Cup of 1966

World Cup 1966

England’s victory in the 1966 football World Cup is etched in history as one of the most celebrated events in 20th century British sport. Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick, the disputed third goal, and the famous line of the commentator, “They think it’s all over!” have become legendary. However, behind the scenes, controversy brewed, and widespread popular hostility towards England, particularly in South America, emerged.

South America’s Discontent

South America had a strong footballing tradition, having won four out of the seven World Cup tournaments prior to 1966. Uruguay had triumphed twice, while Brazil had also emerged as champions twice. However, in the 1966 World Cup, both Brazil and Uruguay failed to make an impact, leaving Argentina as the sole representative from South America in the quarter-finals.

Allegations of Rigging

The discontent in South America stemmed from the belief that England, as the hosting nation, had rigged the entire tournament, with the assistance of West Germany. Much of the criticism was directed at the referees, with Brazilian matches officiated by English officials and the England vs. Argentina match refereed by a German. The latter match was marred by hostility, with the England manager referring to the Argentine players as “animals.” Furthermore, the West Germany vs. Uruguay match, which had a British referee, resulted in two Uruguayans being sent off.

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British Diplomacy and Secrecy

The controversy surrounding the 1966 World Cup even caught the attention of British diplomats. Usually concerned with matters of trade, tourism, and military affairs, the diplomats found themselves unsure of how to handle this football-related issue. Diplomatic messages surrounding the tournament were classified as secret, with some documents remaining undisclosed beyond the normal 30-year period.

South American Dominance

The dominance of South American nations in World Cup football cannot be denied. To date, they have won eight out of the 18 tournaments, with Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil emerging as the most successful teams. European nations such as Italy, West Germany, France, and Germany have made valiant attempts to challenge this dominance, with varying degrees of success.


The World Cup of 1966 was not just a footballing affair, but it had far-reaching implications for international relations. The controversy surrounding England’s victory sparked protests, accusations, and a flurry of diplomatic messages. While the tournament remains a remarkable milestone in English football history, it also serves as a reminder of the passion and sometimes contentious nature of football on the world stage.


Q: Did England really rig the 1966 World Cup?
A: The allegations of rigging have been the subject of much debate and controversy. While South American countries and their supporters believed the tournament was fixed, there is no concrete evidence to prove these claims.

Q: How did England respond to the accusations?
A: England maintained their innocence and denied any wrongdoing. The controversy did not deter them from celebrating their victory and cherishing the historic moment.

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Q: How has South American dominance in the World Cup changed over the years?
A: While South American nations still hold a formidable record in World Cup history, the competition has become more balanced over time. European nations, as well as teams from other continents, have made significant strides and have become strong contenders for the prestigious title.

For more information about football history and statistics, visit Pesstatsdatabase.