Best World Cup Player of the Decade Part 3: the 1960s

The third in the series offers a critical evaluation of the teams and players from the nineteen-sixties.

The 1960s

Two tournaments were held in the sixties, Brazil retaining the Jules Rimet trophy in Chile (1962) and England winning on home soil (1966).

Brazil returned to the world stage in 1962 with a squad that included nine players from the successful 1958 campaign. Pele was amongst them but he didn’t last long after suffering an injury in an early game. Not this seemed to affect the Brazilians much, with Pele’s replacement Amarildo soon scoring twice against a Spanish side that included ex-Hungary maestro Ferenc Puskas.

In other groups hosts Chile beat Italy 2 – 0 in a game is remembered more for pugilism than football. Two red cards and some ugly fighting saw it dubbed the 'Battle of Santiago'. Italy and Spain departed.

Elsewhere, the strong Communist bloc contingent of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Hungary all made the quarter finals. Now the stage was set for Garrincha to show off his skills. The so-called Little Bird helped destroy England in the quarter final before adding two more to his tally in the semi against the hosts.

Czechoslovakia beat Hungary and Yugoslavia to become the second and last Eastern European communist state to reach the final. Despite taking an early lead they were no match for the Brazilians, who ran out 3 – 1 winners. Garrincha and four other players shared the Golden Shoe.

Four years later and the hosts in 1966 were England. The tournament was littered with surprise, misfortune and controversy; the surprise being a North Korean outfit which put Italy out and took a 3 – 0 lead against Portugal before losing 5 – 3; the misfortune was Brazil’s as they saw Pele chopped and hacked down in games against Bulgaria and Portugal before crashing out; and the controversy came from England’s third goal in the final against West Germany.

Hosts England had a difficult run to the final, facing and beating Argentina in an ill-tempered quarter final and Portugal in the semi. Contrast this with a West German side which included a young Franz Beckenbauer, scored 15 goals, played against nine men in quarter and semi final matches, and never seemed in trouble throughout the tournament.

However they arrived at the final, both sides served up a classic which is mired in controversy to this day. While we will probably never know whether Hurst’s shot came down behind the goal line or not, the match itself is still worthy of a special place in footballing history. England 4 – West Germany 2.

Portugal's Eusebio took the Golden Shoe for his nine-goal haul.

The choice of Best World Cup Player Of The 1960s is a difficult one. Hurst’s three goals in the 66 final were a remarkable feat. If he had scored more in the earlier rounds or played in 1962 I might have picked him. Instead, I chose a Brazilian forward who was past his best in 1966 but still managed to score for the third successive tournament. Pele achieved the same feat in the same match (the 2 – 0 defeat of Bulgaria) and is obviously a candidate for this accolade. However, for playing throughout the 1962 tournament, unlike Pele, the honour goes to: Garrincha

The series continues soon with Best World Cup Player Of The Decade Part 4: the 1970s.

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