How do you win a tournament without actually winning it?
The answer to that lies in England’s two World Cup triumphs – one each in cricket and football.
The English have an illustrious history of inventing sports and an equally awful record of actually winning at those sports.
Somewhere between losing a World Cup final and winning one lies a zone as gray as the British skies. And this zone - for lack of a better term - appears to have been colonised by the English.
On Sunday, 14 July, when the world watched England lift the ICC World Cup in London, an eerie parallel revealed itself with events that unfolded in the same city on a July day 53 years ago.
The dubious circumstances under which England was adjudged the winner of the cricket world cup is matched, perhaps, by the equally controversial circumstances that gifted the country its first and only football World Cup triumph back in 1966.
Let’s explore the incident at the FIFA World Cup final of 1966 and the ICC World Cup final of 2019 and the eerie similarities between the two most controversial finals in the respective sports.
On the Line But Not Past it
The similarities do begin with the fact that both, the FIFA World Cup 1966 as well as the ICC World Cup 2019 were played in England. Both went into extra time (well Super Over for cricket) and neither, many would argue, has given us a clear winner.
ICC World Cup 2019
The objective a cricket match is simple: score one run more than your opponent to win the match. Did England do it? Short answer – No.
Long answer – England failed to do it not once but twice. Eoin Morgan’s boys ended up with identical runs on the board as New Zealand once during the normal run of play and then during the super over.
England were on finishing the line but spectacularly failed to get over it.
FIFA World Cup 1966
Speaking of spectacularly failing to get over the line – the 1966 finals between England and West Germany saw the same thing but literally so.
The two countries drawn at 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes of play forced the match into extra time. After 10 minutes of nail-biting extra time action came the moment that has since rightfully been dubbed the most controversial moment at the World Cups. (Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ wasn’t in a final).
In the 101st minute, Alan Ball puts in a cross to forward Geoff Hurst inside the box. Hurst swivels and fires a shot that crashes into the top crossbar of the German goalpost and falls right below before being headed clear by German defender Wolfgang Weber.
Did the ball actually cross the goal line?
Countless replays later there is still no consensus on this question. According to FIFA, law 10 states that “A goal is scored when passes over the goal line”. There is no conclusive evidence to prove that the ball had crossed the line completely.
In fact, a study in 1996 by Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science concluded that the ball was 6 centimeters from being a goal.
The English players immediately raise their hands in celebration while the Germans launch a spirited protest. The referee initially is undecided. A moment of uncertainty ensues. The Azerbaijani linesman, Tofiq Bahramov, however, deemed that the ball had crossed the line and the referee goes with it.
England go 3-2 up and the Germans are furious.
The final eventually ends 4-2. A moment of madness and confusion has led to five-and-a-half decades of cries of injustice, unfairness and the most debated moment in football folklore.
A Fair Final?
Kane Williamson’s New Zealand now know what Uwe Steeler’s German side felt. While the agony of defeat and the ecstasy of victory in sports are two sides of the same coin, how does one account for the feeling of being unfairly and arbitrarily denied a victory in a World Cup final?
After the manner in which New Zealand were denied the opportunity to have their name engraved on the ICC World Cup trophy, a similar debate as the one from 1966 has already been ignited.
The decision to decide the winner on the basis of number of fours hit is objectively as arbitrary as naming a fielding position ‘silly point’. However, a new revelation now that an overthrow by the Kiwis in the 50th over may have awarded the English an extra run – a run that, if not awarded, would have meant New Zealand winning by 1 run.
At 48.3 overs, the umpires called a total of six runs for England, two that were run and four from the boundary – and England were able to level the scores on the final ball of their innings, taking the game to a Super Over.
But it now appears that the umpires may have got the scoring wrong, as according to the laws of the game, England should have been awarded five, not six runs.
Who knows how the final at Lord’s would have ended if the extra run had not been awarded England’s way? Who can say how the 1966 finals would have concluded had England not been awarded the goal?
Be it 1966 or 2019, be if football or cricket – the question for the English to introspect on once an all too familiar dust has settled is:
England may well have won the World Cup but are they really world champions?
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