1962: On-pitch violence follows earthquakes in Chile
Chile had been contentiously given the 1962 World Cup finals even though the country was still recovering from a dreadful series of earthquakes. It was precisely because they had nothing, insisted Carlos Dittborn of the Chilean FA, that they should have the tournament.
It can hardly be said that they made a success of it. Apart from a new national stadium in Santiago, facilities were primitive. Ticket prices, insanely high for a depressed population, meant that many matches were played in near-empty stadiums. And with only four centres available - Santiago, Arica, Vin Del Mar and Rancagua - the distances left no time for play-offs and replays. So the organising committee decided goal average should count in the first phase, and if teams were still level the drawing of lots would decide. "It meant nobody took risks," the late Johnny Haynes recalled, "and it led to a lot of nastiness." Soon, from all four centres came reports of violent play and serious injuries.
Less than a week after the opening matches it was announced that there had already been more than 40 casualties among the 16 finalists. A headline in the San Santiago newspaper Claron read, "World War". Summoned to appear before the World Cup organising committee, the 16 managers were warned that further rough play could lead to expulsion from the finals. "We weren't involved, but I'd never known anything like it Haynes added. "I've never been more pleased to be out of a place."
After England's elimination by Brazil, for whom Garrincha was unplayable, critics singled out Haynes, arguing that his style was obsolete. The debate was soon of no consequence: two months later Haynes was pulled from a car crash. His right knee so badly damaged that he did not play for almost a year and was told by doctors that he might never again. Haynes recovered sufficiently to play a further 236 games for Fulham but his international career had ended in 1962.
1966: Ramsey overhaul results in England's finest moment
Having agreed to remain in charge of the England team until his successor was appointed (Jimmy Adamson, his assistant in Chile and Dennis Wilshaw, a former Wolves and England forward were favourites), Walter Winterbottom stressed that the new man must be given absolute power of selection.
"He will have problems enough without having to put up with interference," he said. "There is still resistance to change. If, at all levels, from schoolboy upwards, we played a hundred matches against any other [country] I feel sure we'd win the majority, maybe as many as 80. Mostdefeats would come at the top. Whether that's because our League system is strong or because the game is traditionally physical, I'm not sure. But if England are ever to win the World Cup we've got to take a new direction."
The man chosen was Alf Ramsey. Within three years he transformed the side, giving them a sense of purpose, which along with home advantage gave him the confidence to declare England would win the World Cup.
On a bitterly cold night in December 1965, Ramsey sent out a team without wingers. The 2-0 scoreline could have been trebled. The Spanish full-backs were dragged out of position. Spain's coach Jose Villalonga said "England were phenomenal. Far superior in their experiment and in their players." In fact, England used wingers at the tournament until the defeat of Argentina.
On 17 June, the day before he announced his squad, privately Ramsey had reached a decision, one that would startle the squad and the press. Bobby Moore's development as one of the game's leading central defenders had brought with it an irritating complacency that even big games might not stifle. With perfect timing, Ramsey brought Moore up sharp, replacing him with Norman Hunter for the warm-up opener against Finland. Speculation that the Leeds pairing of Hunter and Jack Charlton might be Ramsey's preferred option had the desired effect. Later Moore wrote, "From that day on I never took my place for granted. Alf was driving it home to me that nobody is indispensable."
The question of whether Ramsey would bring back Jimmy Greaves, who had been injured against France in the group stage, was central to every debate about the final. "I tried to put myself in Ramsey's shoes," the West German coach Helmut Schön told me. "England's performance against Portugal surprised us. They were much improved technically from the previous matches and the combination of Hurst and Hunt, who were both strong and worked hard off the ball, seemed to suit Bobby Charlton.
"Hurst was also good in the air. I would have to try to do something about Charlton but Greaves was still in the picture. He was a brilliant scorer. A quick dribbler with outstanding anticipation, but not a good team player. I felt Ramsey would go with the team that defeated Portugal."
Greaves was passed over, Franz Beckenbauer and Charlton cancelled each other out, and Hurst became the first player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final, the third coming in the closing seconds while Ramsey sat phlegmatically on the touchline.
1970: A much-fancied team melt in Mexican heat
The squad for Mexico looked as strong as in 1966. Banks, Moore, Ball, Hurst, Peters and the Charltons were still there and Stiles was now deputy to Alan Mullery. With Colin Bell and Francis Lee and excellent attacking full-backs Ramsey believed England could retain the World Cup.
When Gordon Banks was taken ill the eve of England's defeat by West Germany, the team physician Dr Neil Phillips was on his way from Guadalajara to Leon by car to sort out accommodation. "The only time I fell out with Alf," Phillips said. "Had I been able to treat Gordon I'm sure he would have played."
Banks' deputy, Peter Bonetti, was no mug but did not inspire the same confidence, causing Ramsey to say, "Of all the players I had to lose it had to be him."
The Seventies: Three Lions disappear from World Cup radar
Little more than two years after succeeding Ramsey - sacked for failing to qualify England to the 1974 tournament - as manager, Don Revie was privately stating he had made a mistake in leaving Leeds. A team lacking leadership or planning lost to Italy in Rome. When Revie accepted a job with the United Arab Emirates before the qualifying games were complete, the task was given to Ron Greenwood, who picked a team which beat Italy in the return, but it was too late. For the second successive time England didn't reach the finals.
The Eighties: Injuries to key players and that handball goal
Although England got off to a flying start at Spain '82, Bryan Robson scoring against France after 27seconds to set up a 3-1 victory, neither team was convincing. Wins over Czechoslovakia and Kuwait followed for England but Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking were still unfit. Glenn Hoddle disappointed his admirers.
Greenwood's 40 years in football came down to a week containing the prospect of leading England into a World Cup final. If England could beat the hosts by two goals they would meet either France or Northern Ireland, the tournament's surprise package in the semi-finals.
At last, Brooking and Keegan put in an appearance; both as substitutes. "We weren't fully fit," Brooking admitted, "but Ron told us that we'd go on if things weren't going well." Brought on in the 63rd minute (Keegan for Tony Woodcock, Brooking for Graham Rix) with the score at 0-0, they squandered England's best chances. They were out.
England qualified for the 1986 finals in Mexico without losing a match. Bryan Robson had dislocated his right shoulder but there was a quick new striker, Gary Lineker, and mobility in midfield. Tactically, however, things went wrong. The use of Mark Hateley supplied by a winger Chris Waddle failed and Portugal began with a victory.
Robson's shoulder then gave out and Ray Wilkins threw the ball at the referee and was sent off. At half-time angry words were exchanged regarding the defensive set-up.
With Poland and Paraguay both beaten 3-0, England came up against Argentina, whose coach Carlos Bilardo had out-thought Bobby Robson before Diego Maradona produced his infamous handball and one of the great goals in World Cup history settled matters.
The Nineties: Robson is so close, but disappointment follows
Bobby Robson was allowed to stay on as England manager for Italia '90 but once again found himself at odds with his players over tactics, finally agreeing to a change in defensive formation ... at the finals. After struggling to get through against Cameroon it was the closest England would get to the final since 1966, going out on penalties against West Germany in the semi-finals.
Robson having left for a club job in the Netherlands, new manager Graham Taylor was soon under fire. England's five qualifying wins included four against Turkey and San Marino. In the decisive match the Netherlands' Ronald Koeman should have been sent off for a professional foul - he later scored from a free-kick. For the first time since entering the World Cup none of the four home countries reached the finals.
England tried other managers: Kevin Keegan, who left after the dire 1-0 defeat by Germany in Wembley's last game; Glenn Hoddle, who indiscreetly published a book revealing private matters between him and the players after elimination by Argentina at France '98; and now Sven Goran Eriksson, who has the best chance of winning the World Cup for England since Ramsey.