Saturday, November 14, 2009

Greatest World Cup matches: England-Argentina (1966)

England and Argentina have one of the most intense rivalries in world football, surely the only classical cross-continental footballing rivalry. Being two of the most passionate footballing nations in the world, and much more closely associated than many know (indeed, the English brought football to Argentina in the 19th century!), the matches they have played have been intense, passionate and controversial.
The rivalry started with this quarterfinal of the 1966 World Cup. Argentina had progressed with victories against Spain and Switzerland, and a 0-0 against West Germany, while England had defeated Mexico and France, while tying 0-0 with Uruguay.
While West Germany faced Uruguay, England faced Argentina in the quarter-final, and the English referee in the former match took the attention of the match as much as the German referee in the latter match, prompting theories of an Anglo-German conspiracy against the South Americans.
The referee of this match, Rudolf Kreitlein from West Germany, had a call that is still considered one of the strangest in World Cup football, and has led to many in Argentina calling this match the “Robbery of the century”: Argentina’s captain, the Boca Juniors legend Antonio “La Rata” Rattín, was suddenly in the 25th minute expelled from the match, being the first player ever to be expelled in a World Cup (red cards had not been introduced yet). In a long discussion with the referee, Rattin refused to leave, and called for a translator, but it was refused. Mr. Kreitlein argued that he had taken the decision, since he “didn’t like how he [Rattín] was looking at me.”
Of course, the entire match was overshadowed by this incident, but when watching the match again one cannot say that the match was specially violent (nothing in comparison with what Portugal had subjected Brazil to in the first round), and Alf Ramsey’s comment after the match seemed out of place: "It seemed a pity so much Argentinian talent is wasted. Our best football will come against the right type of opposition - a team who come to play football, and not act as animals."
This type of comment only added to the bad faith between the two teams, which Alf Ramsey was only too eager to promote: When looking at the TV pictures of the end of the match, one can see players peacefully congratulating each other and ready to exchange shirts, when an over-excited Ramsey runs onto the pitch to prevent the players from exchanging shirts.
In spite of only ten men for the most of the match, Argentina held on against a superior side, until the West Ham striker Geoff Hurst scored the winning goal on a beautiful header in the 78th minute on a great pass by the young Martin Peters.
Hurst had not played any of the first round matches, but had started against Argentina when Jimmy Greaves was injured.
England was the better team of the two in spite of Argentina playing a fine match. Still, the fact that they were better is certainly overshadowed by the bad refereeing, as much as it would be 20 years later in another World Cup quarterfinal...
To this date, there is nothing but hate between the English and Argentinean fans, which is a pity considering that they are both great teams that have played intense matches with lousy referees.

Match Stats:
  • 23rd July 1966, Wembley Stadium, London
  • Attendance 90,000
  • Referee: Rudolf Kreitlein (West Germany)
England-Argentina 1-0
Goals: 1-0 Hurst (78)

England: Banks; Cohen, Wilson, Stiles, J. Charlton, Moore, Ball, B. Charlton, Peters, Hunt, Hurst
Argentina: Roma; Irusta, Perfumo, Marzolini, Ferreiro, Rattin (RC, 25), Solari, Gonzalez, Ortime, Onega, Mas

1 comment:

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