Helmut Haller: Footballer who scored against England in 1966

He played the game with a certain panache and a sense of theatre, which made him a star

Helmut Haller was one of Germany's most revered football heroes, best remembered in England for opening the scoring against the hosts in the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley, and fêted in Italy for helping to lift League titles with Bologna and Juventus.

The stocky Bavarian cut a distinctive figure on the field, his thick, bright blond hair swept back from a broad forehead, his solidly constructed frame seemingly at odds with his obvious athleticism and the range of expansive skills he deployed as an old-fashioned goal-scoring play-maker, an attacking midfielder in modern parlance.

Then there was his charisma. Haller played the game with a certain panache, a sense of theatre which, allied to his deft precision with the ball at his feet, made him a star.

Augsburg was the city of his birth and his death, and also of the beginning and the end of his football career. Clearly gifted as a boy, he enlisted with his local club at the age of nine in 1948, making his senior entrance in 1957, then graduating to the international stage with West Germany under the aegis of the renowned, innovative and long-serving coach Sepp Herberger, in 1958. Haller featured in the first of three consecutive World Cup final tournaments in Chile in 1962, assisting the Germans' passage to the quarter-finals, where they lost 1-0 to Yugoslavia.

That year, too, his club career gained impetus when he joined Bologna, where his productive combination with the prolific Danish centre-forward Harald Nielsen proved a colossal factor in the club gaining their first Serie A crown since the Second World War, in 1963-64.

During his six-year sojourn with the Rossublu Haller emerged as a talent both dynamic and sophisticated. Though he always had to watch his weight, he was a deceptively brisk mover. There was a flair and vision about his passing which, when he was at his dominant, decisive best, enabled him to command a midfield. He was a natural finisher, too, adept at wrong-footing a goalkeeper with a subtle, almost imperceptible feint before shooting, usually along the ground, often into a corner of the net.

When Haller arrived in England in 1966 he was a mainstay of Helmut Schon's efficient and frequently entertaining side, at his most effective operating behind a potent strikeforce of Uwe Seeler, Sigi Held and Lothar Emmerich, and slightly in advance of the elegant, creative Wolfgang Overath and the brilliant young Franz Beckenbauer. His six goals made him the tournament's second-highest scorer, behind the great Portuguese, Eusebio, who struck nine times. Haller's tally included a brace against Switzerland at the group stage, two more in the quarter-final victory over Uruguay (some historians attribute one of these to Held) and another in the 2-1 last-four victory over the Soviet Union.

And finally there was that Wembley strike which threatened to ruin a glorious summer afternoon for a nation transfixed by the increasingly enthralling exploits of the home team. It happened after 13 minutes and it came as a rude shock to England fans after Alf Ramsey's men had made a promising start.

There seemed to be no danger when Held delivered a cross and Ray Wilson rose unchallenged to make a routine headed clearance. But somehow the ultra-consistent, supremely polished Wilson, recognised widely as the best left-back in the world, got it wrong, nodding to the feet of Haller, who was lurking unmarked in the inside-right position 12 yards from goal.

The German controlled the ball instantly and hit a low cross-shot which bisected goalkeeper Gordon Banks and centre-half Jack Charlton to put the visitors in front.

Now unfolded a contest replete with drama and controversy which ended with England's 4-2 triumph, thanks largely to a Geoff Hurst hat-trick, but for Haller that was not the end of the matter. When the final whistle sounded he picked up the ball, which he kept as a souvenir for the next 30 years, before giving it to Hurst – to whom football tradition dictated it belonged – when he returned to England for the European Championships of 1996.

By the time of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Haller had entered his thirties, and he made his international farewell in the Germans' opening game against Morocco, during which he was replaced by Jurgen Grabowski. His 33 caps had yielded 13 goals and he had been one of the team's most high-profile members for most of his tenure.

Back on the club scene, in 1968 Haller transferred to Juventus, with whom he shone for five years alongside the likes of Pietro Anastasi, Roberto Bettega, Franco Causio and Fabio Capello. In Turin he played his part in winning Serie A championships in 1971-72 and 1972-73, and he was involved in losing the 1973 European Cup final 1-0 to Ajax in Belgrade, and the two-legged 1971 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final to Leeds United on the away-goals rule.

In 1973 Haller returned to a revamped Augsburg club, with whom he remained until his retirement in his 40th year in 1979, apart from a fleeting stint with Schwenningen in 1976-77.

Later he coached amateur clubs and ran a fashion shop. He had been in failing health for some years before his death.

Helmut Haller, footballer: born Augsburg, Germany 21 July 1939; played for Augsburg 1957-62, Bologna 1962-68, Juventus 1968-73, Augsburg 1973-76, Schwenningen 1976-77, Augsburg 1977-79; capped 33 times by West Germany 1958-70; married three times; died Augsburg 11 October 2012.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering