In 1966, England was the host nation for the world’s most glamourous football event. Seven cities were chosen to stage games, with Liverpool being one. London, Manchester, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Birmingham and Sheffield completed the set. Goodison Park in those days was a top stadium with great facilities and a capacity over 60,000. The stadium was admired and envied by many clubs in England, but this was to be shown to a worldwide audience.
World champions Brazil played Bulgaria in Group 3 at Goodison Park on 12th July in front of 47,308 fans. There were no surprises, as Brazil led at the break, through a goal from the young Pele. The lead was doubled 27 mins from time as Garrincha secured the victory.
The locals around L4 were certainly getting to grips with World Cup fever, as parents organised street parties for their children, draping bunting from house to house, commemorating the world’s greatest competition.
Seventy two hours later, the Brazilians returned to Goodison to face Hungary before a crowd of 52,087. The Magyars were the surprise winners, beating their opponents 3-1. Ferenc Bene, who made 25 appearances in FIFA tournaments, scoring a remarkable 26 goals, opened the scoring in the second minute. Tostao equalized 12 minutes later, but two second half goals gave the Hungarians their first win, having lost their opener two days earlier against the Portuguese at Old Trafford.
Tuesday 19 July provided a mouth–watering tie as two world legends came face to face, – Eusebio of Portugal, and Pele or Edson Arantes Do Nascimento to give him his full title. This was Pele’s third world tournament
The Portuguese had already won their two opening games while Brazil only had one win under their belt. Fans crammed into Goodison to see Portugal win the group and the attendance of 58,479 was the highest at a World Cup group game outside of Wembley. Portugal eased past Brazil to win 3-1 and top the group.
The Portuguese proceeded into the quarter finals, where they would face North Korea. The very much unfancied Koreans had already made the football world take notice with a shock win over the Italians in their final group game.
This time the Portuguese squad would prove too strong for another upset. Many of the fans in the crowd from the local area cheered on the underdog, and within 25 minutes, North Korea were 3-0 up. Eusebio replied 2 minutes later, and again before half time to reduce the deficit, leaving an exciting second half in prospect.
The Portuguese eased their way in front with 2 goals in quick succession, as Eusebio added his third goal, and his second penalty either side of a Simoes strike, as Otto Gloria’s men proved too much quality with a fifth goal on 80 minutes to wrap up the game and a place in the semi -finals.
The last game to be played on Merseyside was the semi-final as West Germany took on Russia. The West Germans took the lead two minutes before the break through Helmut Haller. Haller was runner up to Eusebio for the Golden Boot award. In the second half a 21-year-old Franz Beckenbauer, who was awarded the Young Player of the Tournament, doubled their lead. A consolation two minutes from the end from Malofeyev reduced the deficit, but the Germans were looking forward to their trip to the twin towers for their second Final appearance, with the other previously in 1954.
Ironically, the attendance of 38,273 for this semi-final was the lowest crowd at Goodison for that tournament, but how different it could have been.