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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


When England Beat The World And It Wasn’t 1966 (Part 1)

Written by on February 10, 2011 | 6 Comments »
Posted in England, History and Books

A few weeks ago Alex Horne, General Secretary of the Football Association announced that a special Home International series might take place to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the organization.

Buried in the reports and quotes was the possibility of games against the likes of Brazil as well.

Impressive stuff but not up to the level of the celebration match that took place to mark the centenary of the FA back in 1963.

It is fair to say that we have never seen such an array of talent to match the Rest of the World team that took the field against England that day.

The game was played on Wednesday October 23 and kicked off in the afternoon for reasons I have never been able to discover. Alf Ramsey (not Sir Alf until few years later) had been named as the new England boss almost exactly a year before although he never took over until early in 1963.

His tenure got off to a bad start with England being thumped by France 5-2 in a European Championship match.

When you consider that Ramsey made a bold prediction about England winning the 1966 World Cup you can guess the reaction from the media to being so easily defeated by the French.

It did not get any better in the next match when Scotland come to Wembley and won 2-1 courtesy of two goals from Jim Baxter – some would argue the best performance ever put on by Baxter and certainly better than the more famous 3-2 win in 1967.

However, by the time the centenary game came around Ramsey’s team was beginning to find their feet and had put together a four game winning run.

It is easy in the context of today to look at a fixture created to celebrate an anniversary and to dismiss it as nothing but a a kick about. That wasn’t the case back then.

Apart from the Home Internationals Ramsey had no competitive fixtures to focus his preparations on so when the best of the world came calling it was taken very seriously.

The Rest of World line up is nothing short of astonishing. In goal Lev Yashin was considered to the greatest goalkeeper of his generation and perhaps even the best who has ever played the game.

He won an Olympic gold medal, a European Championship in 1960 and was to play in three World Cups. He was a great innovator and his style was widely copied and we still see his impact today.

The right-back Djalma Santos was to play in four World Cups for Brazil and had already helped to win it twice.

On the other side of the defence Karl-Heinz Schnellinger was destined to another four time participant at the World Cup Finals. He would finish fourth, third and as a runner up but he would never win the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Schnellinger initially made his name with Cologne but in 1963 he become one of the first West German players to appear in Serie A.

He joined Milan in 1965 and went on to win Serie A, the European Cup, the European Cup Winners Cup and the Intercontinental Championship.

The half-back line was provided by Czechoslovakia who had finished as runners up to Brazil in the 1962 World Cup Finals in Chile.

Svatopluk Pluskal played in the 54, 58 and 62 World Cup Finals and spent most of his club career with Dukla Prague.

Jan Popluhar was a ball playing defender known for his passing and reading of the game and is regarded as one of the greatest Slovakian players of all time.

Josef Masopust is probably the best known of the trio having won the European Player of the Year trophy in 1962.

Captain of Czechoslovakia Masopust played in midfield for his country for 12 years and for his main club Dukla Prague for 16 seasons.

To be continued

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6 responses to “When England Beat The World And It Wasn’t 1966 (Part 1)”

  1. That was a pretty good side! It’s also interesting how different the England team is from the eleven that won in 1966.

    As for playing in the afternoon, I know that although Wembley got floodlights in 1955, England didn’t play a full international under them until November 1963 (a month after this game).

    The only logical reason I can think of for this (and often the best starting point) is that the English FA were slow to embrace change, but whatever the reason I bet a lot of people were “too ill” to work that day.

  2. Russell

    I have always had it in my head that Milan v Benfica in European Cup Final played in May 1963 was played on a Wednesday afternoon but I have found anything definitive. Your comment regarding an international under lights would make sense.

    I am not positive of this but I think that afternoon games in midweek might have been more common than is remembered.

    Again, I stand to be corrected but the Czechoslovakia v Scotland WCF play off game in 61 at Heysel and Italy v Scotland WCQ in Naples in 1965 were also midweek afternoon games.

  3. Russell – I am guessing that many store still closed Wednesday afternoons.

  4. Bobby- yes, maybe Wednesday afternoon closing was the norm. so wednesday afternoonn fixtures weren’t that rare.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ogo Sylla, bobbysoccerrep. bobbysoccerrep said: When England beat the world and it was not 1966 […]

  6. Theo van Arshavregas says:

    Bobby & Russell,

    It was commonplace for shops to be closed Wednesday afternoons in England back then? Why would shops close down for half the day as a regular course of business? I’ve heard of, and experienced, all day Sunday shop closings. But why half of Wednesdays?

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