The events within a FIFA World Cup™ Final have a habit of transcending the football world to become iconic cultural moments in their own right. Pele holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft for a third time in 1970, Mario Kempes’ brace earning Argentina a maiden title in 1978 and Zinedine Zidane doing likewise two decades later all stand out as occasions whose impact has permeated wider society.
Arguably few have resonated as intensely among a national psyche as England’s triumph in 1966, however, with that triumph remaining a moment in history that holds immense weight for the nation half a century later. Every legend needs a leading protagonist, and appropriately for a moment of English football folklore it is a knight of the realm: Sir Geoff Hurst.
The record-holder for the most goals in a World Cup Final, he remains the only man to have scored a hat-trick during its climax. Securing the hosts a 4-2 win over West Germany in dramatic fashion, having been pegged back by an 89th-minute equaliser, Hurst scored twice in extra-time – including the latest ever strike scored in a final.
FIFA.com examines this life-changing occasion for Hurst as we take a closer look behind his World Cup records.
England’s 1966 hat-trick hero was born in December 1941 with football in his blood - his father was a former player - and joined West Ham United as an apprentice aged 15. Hurst made his first competitive appearance for the Hammers in February 1960, initially starting out as a midfielder. Ron Greenwood, a future England manager, was appointed in 1961 and converted Hurst into a striker. After finding his form in front of goal for the Irons, Hurst went on to win the 1964 FA Cup, scoring in the final against Preston North End, before lifting the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup a year later.
With his success at club level and developing a reputation as a reliable goal-getter, it wasn’t long before Hurst’s national team came calling and in 1966, he made his senior England debut in a February friendly against West Germany, the team he would go on to score his famous hat-trick against five months later.
While called up to England’s 1966 World Cup squad, Hurst initially found himself behind Jimmy Greaves and Roger Hunt in the pecking order, not featuring until the quarter-finals. An injury to Greaves in the final group stage game presented Hurst with the opportunity to stake his claim, however, and the West Ham man started in the last eight against Argentina, scoring the only goal of the game in a 1-0 victory. The rest, as they say, is history.
After bagging the historic hat-trick in the 1966 Final and lifting the World Cup, Hurst also claimed bronze at the 1968 UEFA European Championship. After leaving West Ham in 1972, the 49-time England international went on to feature for Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, Cork Celtic and Seattle Sounders, as well as having a loan spell at Cape Town City. After hanging up his boots, Hurst had managerial spells at Telford United, Chelsea and Kuwait SC, and was knighted in 1998.
Before the 1966 finale, the concluding game at the preceding seven World Cups had seen just four players score more than once. Italy’s Gino Colaussi was the first player to score a double in a World Cup Final, with his brace helping Gli Azzurri seal their second global title against Hungary in 1938. Helmut Rahn repeated the feat, also against the Magyars, in 1954 before Vava and Pele each grabbed two in the 1958 climax in Solna.
Nobody had yet taken that extra step, to claim the match ball in the world’s biggest game – until a July afternoon at Wembley Stadium in 1966.
Hurst’s first was an equaliser in the 18th minute, after Helmut Haller had stunned the predominantly English crowd by opening the scoring, and was the kind of goal that England’s No10 relished – a real poacher’s effort. Bobby Moore, the Three Lions’ legendary captain, lofted the ball into the penalty area before the forward evaded the German defence to nod past Hans Tilkowski from close range.
The West Ham United striker had to wait until extra time for his now infamous second. Receiving a ball in the German penalty area after an Alan Ball cross from the English right, Hurst swivelled and slammed an effort at goal. It rose past Tilkowski before the ‘keeper could react, smashed against the underside of the crossbar, bounced down and away from goal. The referee’s assistant Tofik Bakhramov flagged, and the goal was awarded. The Azerbaijani’s decision has gone down in footballing folklore, with his country’s national stadium renamed in his honour after his death in 1993.
The goal that saw Hurst secure his record is ingrained in the mind of every English football fan, whether they were alive in 1966 or not. Into the 120th minute, England were 3-2 up thanks to Hurst’s second, and the crowd were already in celebratory mood, with some fans beginning to stream onto the pitch. England’s No10 received a long ball from Moore, shifted the ball onto his left foot into the German penalty area and slammed an effort past Tilkowski. Header, right-foot, left-foot - a ‘perfect hat-trick’ for Hurst, and for England, to seal their maiden World Cup crown on home soil.
“The first goal was probably the most important. We were 1-0 down and getting back into a game quickly is very important, plus it was a goal created on the training ground between my captain Bobby Moore and myself. To have taken something you’d worked on since you 15, 16 and 17, then fast-forward to a World Cup final, it was quite fulfilling to score a goal like that."
“Nobody said we would win the World Cup, but we had tremendous character in the team, a great manager and I think many teams – with Germany scoring the equaliser – could have crumbled. The momentum was with Germany but because of the strength and character of the team we quickly brushed it off.
“Alf Ramsey said something that will stick in my mind forever. The players were sitting down after the whistle went for normal time and Alf said: ‘Get up, nobody sits down, you don’t want to show the German team that you’re tired. You’ve beaten the Germans once, go and beat them again.’ And, of course, we did.
“I will tell everyone within world football, the ball [for my second goal, and England’s third] was at least one metre over the line. Full stop. With a serious answer, I hit the ball on the half-turn and fell over, so I had a very poor view. The ball actually bounced behind Tilkowski, so with my view I didn’t see it. But at 24 years of age and you’re 2-2 against Germany, you want to believe more than your life’s worth that the ball has crossed the line.
“[For my third goal] the honest answer is, as I got to the edge of the area I was thinking that the game was nearly over and I would just hit it with everything I’ve got left in my left foot. If it went beyond the bar, beyond the stand and into the crowd, by the time the ball boy got it back to Tilkowski and he’s kicked it up the field the game has got to be over. But as you all know I miss-hit it and it flew in!”
“My father-in-law wasn’t really a football person, but attended the game with my wife and he forecast before the game that I’d score three, so I wish I’d bet on that – I think the odds would have been pretty good!”