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.

Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst/ Project Manager - Financial Services

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client in the Financial...


Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: SENCO Greater Manchester

Art & Design Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

Year 5/6 Teacher - Wrexham

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Year 5/6 Teachers needed in WrexhamWe ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits