It is a discussion that has been raging for 50 years. Did England’s third goal, the one that put the Three Lions ahead in extra time en route to their 4-2 victory over Germany FR in front of a packed Wembley Stadium in the 1966 FIFA World Cup™ Final actually cross the line? Should that goal have stood?
Geoff Hurst, the hosts’ hat-trick hero who is credited with scoring that infamous third goal, strongly thinks there should be no debate about it.
“I will tell anyone connected with world football, that ball was at least one metre over the line, full stop,” Hurst told FIFA.com confidently. However, the England striker will admit that after he hit the ball, he did not have the greatest view of what transpired in that 101st minute of play.
“I hit the ball on the half-turn,” Hurst explained. “I fell over, so I had a very poor view and the ball actually bounced behind (Germany goalkeeper Hans) Tilkowski, so I didn’t see it…But you want to believe more than your life’s worth that the ball crossed the line. And so that belief has been strongly within to today.
“And I’ve always gone on my team-mate Roger Hunt’s celebration. He wheeled away in celebration when he could have put the ball in the net himself. He shouted ‘It’s a goal’ and I’ve always gone on that.”
That explanation, though, is not good enough for Tilkowski who, to this day, staunchly believes the ball never fully crossed the line. “I am still today 100 per cent sure it was not a goal,” the German No1 told FIFA.com. “I looked back over my left should and I could see clearly the ball wasn’t behind the line. It bounced on the line.”
Unsurprisingly, Tilkowski’s team-mate Wolfgang Weber recounts the situation quite similarly. Germany’s centre-back likely had one of the best views of what actually happened as the No6 was in position to head the ball over the line after it had bounced back off the turf. Having scored the equaliser in the 89th minute to force extra time, Weber was understandably frustrated when the assistant referee signaled to the referee Hurst’s shot was in fact a goal.
“Yes, I had a great view,” Weber told FIFA.com. “That’s why I was so furious after the goal. I pulled down Bobby Charlton’s arms as he was already celebrating. Together with Siggi Heldt and Wolfgang Overath, we ran to the linesman and tried to convince him to take his decision back.
“However, [back in 1966] England was a deserved World Champion and we were a tough opponent,” Weber said. “This is football.”
Fifty years on, Hunt, Hurst, Tilkowski and Weber’s half-century debate would have been settled within seconds.
Following a Frank Lampard strike, coincidentally scored against Germany during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, which crossed the line and was incorrectly ruled out, FIFA approached The IFAB (International Football Association Board) to re-open the discussion. Testing began in 2011 and Goal-Line Technology was approved by the IFAB in 2012.
Since then, it has been successfully implemented across a number of FIFA events, including the FIFA World Cup™, the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, the FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. It has also been used at national level by member associations such as The FA in England and the DFB in Germany, as well as by a number of leagues including the Premier League (England), Ligue 1 (France), Bundesliga (Germany), Serie A (Italy) and selected matches in the Eredivisie (Netherlands), as well as UEFA EURO 2016.
“I welcome Goal-Line Technology,” concluded Weber. “I think the question: goal or no goal? is the most important question in football and this decision should always have the correct answer.”