With the United States ever more involved in the conflict with Vietnam, football returned to the country that invented the game 103 years earlier -- England.
Brazil and Italy were the two big name casualties in the group stages. An ageing Brazil side lost to Eusebio-inspired Portugal 3-1 while Italy suffered the shock result of the tournament when they crashed 1-0 to North Korea, Pak Doo Ik becoming a household name in England by scoring the only goal.
England advanced in solid if unspectacular style to the semi-finals, where they faced Eusebio and co. Two brilliant efforts by Bobby Charlton put paid to the Portuguese at Wembley.
West Germany, coaxed by new find Franz Beckenbauer, defeated the Soviet Union at Goodison Park to take their place at the home of football for the final.
Helmut Haller put the Germans ahead but Geoff Hurst equalised before half-time. Martin Peters looked to have clinched the cup for the hosts until Wolfgang Weber snatched a dramatic late equaliser to force extra time in a final for only the second time in history.
Hurst scored twice in the additional period to become the first player to score a World Cup final hat-trick. His second goal was highly controversial, bouncing down off the crossbar and, according to the linesman, over the line.
1966 WORLD CUP LEGENDS
England: b. 1941, d. 1993
Probably the finest defender to have ever played for England. Elegant central defender-cum-sweeper, a master of anticipation with a well-timed tackle and an accurate pass.
As England's captain in their 1966 World Cup triumph at Wembley, his pass from deep set up Geoff Hurst for the clinching goal in extra-time. Voted player of the tournament.
Legendary Scottish manager Jock Stein once said of Moore: "There ought to be a law against him. He know's what's happening 20 minutes before everybody else."
Won 108 caps for his country, the most by any England outfield player, and helped West Ham to FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup glory.
Moore was respected throughout the world and won the personal admiration of Pele after an outstanding duel in the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico.
Tributes from all around the world poured in after his death in 1993 from cancer, and West Ham named their new stand after him.
England: b. 1941
The only man ever to have scored a hat-trick in a World Cup final.
Like so many World Cup heroes, target-man Hurst wasn't first-choice when the tournament began. Hurst had been nurtured by Ron Greenwood at West Ham, whose side included internationals Martin Peters and the incomparable Bobby Moore, Tottenham's Jimmy Greaves was coach Alf Ramsey's preferred option.
When Greaves was injured early in the tournament, Hurst grabbed his chance and wrote himself into World Cup legend.
His hat-trick in the 4-2 win against West Germany included a header, a right-foot shot and a left-foot shot.
The second goal, which made it 3-2, remains one of the great controversial moments in World Cup history. Hurst's shot bounced off the crossbar and, according to the Azerbaijani linesman, over the line.
The final was only Hurst's eighth international appearance, and he went on to collect 49 caps in total, scoring 24 goals.
EUSEBIO da Silva Ferreia
Portugal: b. 1942
Explosive Mozambique-born striker nicknamed "the Black Panther" who had a thunderous right-foot shot and electric pace allied to tremendous athletic ability.
Finished top scorer in the 1966 World Cup finals with nine goals, including four to rescue Portugal against North Korea after they had trailed 3-0.
Tormented Brazil as Portugal beat the world champions 3-1, memorably reprimanding his team-mate Morais for a dreadful foul on Pele. His blinding skill earned him another nickname -- "the European Pele".
He was left in tears after Bobby Charlton's two brilliant goals knocked the Portuguese out of the semi-finals in England.
Won the prestigious European Footballer of the Year award in 1965, and finished Portugal's leading scorer for an amazing nine consecutive seasons with Benfica.
1966 WORLD CUP SCORERS
Eusebio (POR) 9
Helmut Haller (FRG) 5
Franz Beckenbauer (FRG) 4
Ferenc Bene (HUN) 4
Geoff Hurst (ENG) 4
Valeri Porkujan (USSR) 4
1966 WORLD CUP TRIVIA
- England, who qualified automatically as hosts, were the only British nation to make it to the finals.
- Eight venues were used: Manchester (Old Trafford), Birmingham (Villa Park), Middlesbrough (Ayresome Park), Sunderland (Roker Park), Liverpool (Goodison Park), London (Wembley and White City) and Sheffield (Hillsborough).
- Four months before England won the World Cup they lost it. The solid gold trophy was stolen and a week later a mongrel dog named Pickles discovered a parcel under a bush in south London. It turned out to be the World Cup.
- In Group Three Hungary ended Brazil's 13-match unbeaten run with a 3-1 win at Goodison. The injured Pele was badly missed.
- North Korea gained their first World Cup finals point and scored their first goal when Seung Zin struck the equaliser against Chile.
- Legendary Mexican goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal waved goodbye to the World Cup after the 0-0 draw with Uruguay at Wembley. At 37-years-old, he was competing in his fifth World Cup.
- In Group Four came the shock result of the tournament when North Korea beat mighty Italy 1-0. Pak Doo Ik became a household name in Britain after scoring the matchwinner in the first half. Italy were eliminated as the North Koreans became the first Asian team to reach the quarterfinals.
- North Korea shook Portugal by scoring in the first minute through Pak Seung Zin. They actually led 3-0 at one stage until Eusebio scored four goals, including two from the spot, to help Portugal to a 5-3 win at Goodison.
- Geoff Hurst became the first and so far only player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final in the 4-2 defeat of West Germany. He was only playing after Jimmy Greaves suffered an injury earlier in the tournament.
1966 WORLD CUP WINNING SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Gordon Banks, Peter Bonetti, Ron Springett
Defenders: Jimmy Armfield, Gerald Byrne, Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Bobby Moore (capt), Ray Wilson
Midfielders: Alan Ball, Ian Callaghan, Bobby Charlton, George Eastham, Ron Flowers, Norman Hunter, Martin Peters, Nobby Stiles
Forwards: John Connelly, Jimmy Greaves, Roger Hunt, Geoff Hurst, Terry Paine.
Coach: Alf Ramsey