World Cup final 1966: Ramsey selection headache as Hurst stakes starting claim
Robbie Purves | July 29, 2016
As England head into their first ever World Cup final 36 years after the competition’s birth, Three Lions manager Alf Ramsey has a selection dilemma on his hands.
Hurst to partner Hunt?
In the group stage, Ramsey’s rampant men were drawn against Mexico, France and 1930 champions Uruguay. Tottenham’s Jimmy Greaves started all three games without scoring a single goal and missed England’s quarter-final to Argentina thanks to a cut sustained during the final group match against the French, which required 14 stitches.
Greaves is now in real danger of missing out on the biggest match of his career, despite being prolific on international duty. Coral have the Three Lions odds-on at 4/7 to defeat the West Germans and lift the Jules Rimet Trophy, so be sure to support your country and pop a few shillings on Bobby Moore and the boys.
In the absence of Spurs striker Greaves, West Ham United’s Geoff Hurst has proven a reliable forward for Ramsey. In the violent quarter-final against Argentina, Hurst filled Greaves’ berth and scored the only goal of the game, sending host nation England through to the semis.
With the nation’s leading goalscorer still out, Hurst kept his place in a win over Portugal and may be in the running to start three straight games, with Ramsey unlikely to risk Greaves, despite the public’s outcry.
Goal-getter Greaves has always craved a World Cup final start, as a teenager he maintained that given a a chance in the final, he would hit a hat-trick. Ramsey will hope going with Hurst, which is the likely choice, won’t backfire on the manager that took over in 1963, after claiming the top division title in his second season in charge of Ipswich Town – who netted more than 100 goals.
Hungry Hurst to hit heights?
Hurst only made his international debut this year, but has proven capable at international level. On top of his game winning striker against Juan Carlos Lorenzo’s Argentina, Hurst provided an assist for Bobby Charlton in the semi-final.
If Hurst starts, he will come up against West Germany’s top shot stopper Hans Tolkowski. The 1965 German Player of the Year and last season’s DFB Pokal winner should come into the final with confidence, with the internationally inexperienced Hurst possibly overawed by the occasion.
However, Ramsey have revolutionised the way England play. His Wingless Wonders are devoid of flank players, after he began dropping them in favour of attacking midfielders. The system has proved fruitful thus far and has baffled full backs.
In a victorious World Cup warm-up against reigning European Champions Spain, Manchester United’s Bobby Charlton said: “The Spanish fullbacks were just looking at each other while we were going in droves through the middle”.
So, Helmut Schon’s full backs, Werder Bremen right back Horst-Dieter Hottges and AC Milan’s left back Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, could be in for a torrid time.
If Ramsey’s plan proves successful, expect goals galore – with Hurst 15/1 to hit an unlikely hat-trick.