Sky gave World Cup final the Monday Night Football analysis

icon englandflag5 January ~ Sky gave the 1966 World Cup final the Monday Night Football treatment on January 4 with bags of stats, Jamie Carragher’s hovering fingers and an allegedly scientific verdict on whether the ball was over the line or not.

What struck me, rather than Carragher, was what an attacking match it was from beginning to end. There were 87 attempts on goal, though just 21 on target, quite evenly split between England and West Germany. George Cohen slashed wildly, Martin Peters shot on sight, England missed a three-on-one situation at 2-1 and Bobby Charlton hit the post at 2-2 in extra-time, which I’d forgotten.

The fluidity of England’s positional play was astounding: Alan Ball on both wings, Nobby Stiles in both boxes, Bobby Moore and Cohen often quite far up the pitch and even Jack Charlton going on the overlap in extra-time. Total football eight years ahead of its time.

As one of the pundits pointed out “wingless wonders” didn’t really do England justice, with 40 crosses put in, often whacked at Geoff Hurst at the far post, from one of which he nearly scored. “Wingerless wonders” maybe, but there was plenty coming from the flanks. And Bobby Charlton had time and space to be on the ball in the classic play-maker role with Franz Beckenbauer not so much in his face as on the edge of his shadow.

Moore’s greatness was statistically validated with a “best on the pitch” pass completion rate of 93 per cent, two goal assists and a couple of goal-saving interceptions. It’s been the fashion to decry the achievement of 1966 – dodgy refs, home advantage, Russian linesman, Pelé kicked out, World Cup Willie and all that – but I tell you that final was one of the best, and most attacking, England performances I’ve seen in years.

The broadcast of the match was dated too, largely in an agreeable way. Sky were using ITV footage with the commentary of Hugh Johns, younger and more lively than I recall him, assisted in the pundit slot by Dave Bowen, the Wales manager. Bowen spoke just twice, I think. The scarcity of action replays was very noticeable to the modern eye and so too was the welcome absence of cut-aways to the manager’s bench.

Commentator Johns didn’t start going on about cramp and tired legs until it was absolutely necessary – extra time, third game in eight days on a heavy, cutting pitch, with no substitutes allowed. One striking aspect in the commentary, however, was the continual denigration of Hans Tilkowski, the West German goalkeeper, who was heavily clattered by Hurst in the seventh minute (no foul given, so it couldn’t have hurt Johns seemed to reason) and who thereafter frequently chose to punch away.

Revisiting the game more or less in its entirety did the perception of England’s performance a favour so it was a shame to end the evening on the controversial third goal and the “proof”, which contradicted some previous German scientific proof, that the ball crossed the line by three inches. The Sky guy could hardly keep a straight face. I still think Hurst got away with what was an almost terrible miss. Roger Titford

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