Published: June 2006



Soccer, According to England

Nick Hornby Writes about English Soccer

By Nick Hornby
Photograph by Allsport Hulton Archive, Getty Images

It was all so straightforward back in the 1960s, when I started to watch football. England had just won the 1966 World Cup, and, therefore, unarguably, was the best team in the world: fact, period, end of story. It's true that the winning goal in the final shouldn't have counted; true, too, that the Brazilians and Pelé were systematically beaten up in the '66 tournament, Pelé to the extent that he was carried off on a stretcher after the umpteenth brutal foul. But still, eh? The best! Probably! And we were the second-best team in 1970, clearly, although one has to be a little more creative with the evidence. Yes, England was knocked out in the quarterfinals. But they really shouldn't have been—they were 2–0 up against the Germans with twenty minutes left, and contrived to lose the game 3–2. Brazil won the 1970 World Cup, easily, but they only just beat us in the group stage of the tournament, 1–0. And Jeff Astle missed a sitter toward the end, so that game should have ended 1–1. Brazil thumped everybody else. So, to recap: easily the best team in 1966, and pretty much the best team—let's give the Brazilians some credit, and we'll settle on equal best—in 1970.

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