By Ken Pendleton - EUGENE, OR (Feb 23, 2006) US Soccer Players - There are very few matches, if any, that have had a longer lasting impact on the history of soccer than the 1966 World Cup quarterfinal between England and Argentina at Wembley. It will always be remembered for the controversial sending off of Antonio Rattin, the tall, undeniably skillful, but deliberately intimidating, Argentinean captain, by the small German referee, Herr Kreitlein.
True enough - and we will get to that - but two other events that occurred that day also deserve mentioning.
The first was that England manager Alf Ramsey replaced Jimmy Greaves - up to that time, he was the most prolific goal scorer ever for the English national team - with Geoff Hurst. It would prove to be the beginning of the end for the player generally considered to be the best English striker since World War II.
Ostensibly, Greaves was replaced because of the four-stitch gash on his shin that he had received in the previous match against France, but the truth, as manager Alf Ramsey later made quite clear, was that, "He had played in three matches and not scored ... Jimmy Greaves had not shown his true form to substantiate his position in the English team and would not have been selected for the Argentina match."
The decision to insert Hurst paid immediate dividends. He showed tremendous speed off the mark to head home a cross from Martin Peters to score the winning goal against Argentina in the 77th minute and, of course, would go on to net a hat trick in the final against West Germany. In the end, he scored 24 times in the 49 matches he played for England between 1966 and 1972.
Secondly, this match signaled Ramsey's intention to more or less completely abandon wingers. In the first-round matches, against Uruguay, Mexico, and France, he tried three wingers -- John Connelly, Terry Paine, and Ian Callaghan -- but none had done the business. So he opted to play both Martin Peters and Alan Ball as wide midfielders. Retractable wingers, if you will.
Captain Bobby Moore claims that Ramsey "wanted wingers because they give you a way to get round behind defenses, create chances and win games. But the ones who were available didn't have the right attitude, the right temperament ... the right something." More to the point, Ramsey wanted players who would work tirelessly down the flanks, and Ball and Peters would do just that for most of the remainder of his tenure as England boss.
Although Ramsey's decision to jettison wingers still impacts the way English soccer is played, it was his assessment of the Argentineans an hour after England's 1-0 win that had an even greater impact:
"We have still to produce our best football. It will come against the right type of opposition, a team which comes to play football and not act as animals."
Ramsey had no clue that his comment would scar England's relationship with Argentina, in particular, and Latin America, in general, to this day. As Pele put it, "All Latin Americans resented it."
From his point of view, such a disparaging remark was obviously justified by what he had just witnessed. The Argentineans had committed a series of brutal fouls and held up play for eight minutes after Kreitlein gave Rattin his marching orders. After the match, and after Ramsey refused to let George Cohen exchange jerseys, they pounded on the English dressing room door, physically attacked Kreitlein, and urinated in the tunnel.
Argentina, as their defenders hastened to point out, had committed only 19 fouls, which compared favorably to the 33 the English had doled out, but the English players saw a clear difference. Hurst, for example, who was used to the rough and tumble of the English game, likened playing Argentina to walking down a strange dark alley.
"There was an air of cold, calculated hostility about the side that I have never met before, or want to again. Most teams have a hard man or two in the eleven. They had about eight. Even the forwards went about the business of putting opponents away with a sort of frozen detachment that was far, far worse than honest impulsive rage ... At least twice when the ball was nowhere near -- once, indeed, while I waited for a player to get the ball for a throw-in -- I felt a sudden stunning kick on the ankle. Each time I swung around to stare at a ring of blank faces. I never knew who had kicked me."
The fouls were nasty, but Kreitlein might have let them pass. What he could not ignore, however, was how often and how emphatically Rattin protested.
For his part, Rattin later claimed, "I showed him my captain's armband and he said, "Out! Out!" And he sent me off. How did he understand what I was saying? He spoke German and I spoke Spanish. He's a liar. He died a long time ago -- may God keep him in glory up there! But tell God not to let him come down and referee any more games."
Kreitlein thought the language barrier was beside the point: "I do not speak Spanish, but the look on this face was enough."
The English players saw it the same way.
"They were foreign words to me," said Ray Wilson, "but the tone, delivery, and gesticulations that went with them left no one with any doubt this was dissent -- that seems a mild word somehow -- of the worst possible type."
The Argentineans, by contrast, have always felt that this game, and indeed the whole World Cup, was rigged, in favor of the European teams generally and the English specifically.
Rattin implied later that another quarterfinal between European and South Americans was also fixed. "What a coincidence that an Englishman refereed the West Germany-Uruguay match. Uruguay had three or four players sent off as well (actually the number was two, though a third was suspended for six internationals after kicking the referee at the end of the match). And Look! A German refereed the Argentina-England game."
Further, South Americans cite the fact that it was an English referee, George McCabe, who allowed Portugal's Joao Morais to commit an appalling double foul on Pele and that Brazil's two prior first round matches (Pele was injured in the first and lost the second without him) were officiated by Germans. They feel that McCabe did not send off Morais -- even though the fouls were so violent and dangerous that Pele claimed he would never play for Brazil again after seeing tape of them -- because the English and FIFA, which was presided over by an Englishman, Sir Stanley Rous, wanted Brazil eliminated. Subsequently, this distrust and animosity would greatly contribute to Rous eventually being unseated by the Brazilian Joao Havelange as President of FIFA.
Circumstantial as this evidence was, the Argentineans were treated like moral victors when they returned home. President General Juan Carlos Ongania greeted them, and one popular daily newspaper drew an analogy between what occurred in England and the fact that Great Britain possessed the Falkland Islands: "First they stole the Malvinas from us, and now the World Cup." Their own conduct at the end of the match might have been uncivilized, but "if we are animals, they are thieves."