The story of the 1966 World Cup
Between now and the start of the World Cup, BBC Sport will be looking back at every tournament since 1966 with the help of some of the key characters.
England, July 1966.
When football truly did come home.
Thirty years before Frank Skinner and David Baddiel used the tagline to awaken the nation's sporting senses ahead of Euro 96, England's footballers put their country on top of the world.
With the Twin Towers bathed in glorious sunshine, Sir Alf Ramsey's side - led by the incomparable Bobby Moore - beat West Germany 4-2 after extra-time to win the World Cup for the first and, so far, only time.
After climbing Wembley's 39 steps to heaven to cement his place in football folklore Moore, the perfect gentleman, wiped his battle-worn hands clean on the velvet drape of the Royal Box before shaking hands with the Queen and holding the Jules Rimet Trophy aloft in front of 98,000 delirious fans and millions more watching on television.
A nation was in ecstasy according to veteran BBC commentator Barry Davies, back then working at the tournament for ITV and the Sunday Times. "There was an immense feeling of national pride," reveals Davies, who watched the final at the back of the ITV commentary box. "I remember the atmosphere in Trafalgar Square and it was something akin to VE Day, I would imagine."
But if hadn't been for Pickles the dog, there might not even have been a trophy for Moore to collect from Her Majesty.
On 20 March, only 114 days before kick-off, the precious gold cup was stolen and though the thief was soon caught, the trophy remained lost. It was eventually found seven days later when Pickles' owner took him for a walk and, at the bottom of their garden in South Norwood, the black-and-white mongrel unearthed the glistening Jules Rimet, clumsily wrapped in newspaper.
Pickles enjoyed instant global fame and his star find meant the FA avoided a potentially huge embarrassment as they prepared to welcome the footballing world to England, the country widely credited with inventing the sport, for the first time.
Yet the hosts' hopes of winning the competition seemed slim. Humiliated at the 1950 World Cup by the USA, demolished 6-3 at Wembley by the Magical Magyars of Hungary in 1953, thrashed 5-2 in France in 1963 and having flattered to deceive at previous World Cups, England were no longer seen as one of the powerhouses of the game.
Reigning champions Brazil, 1954 winners West Germany and the established sides of Uruguay, Hungary, Italy and Argentina were all considered likelier victors, especially after England opened the tournament with an abysmal 0-0 draw with the Uruguayans.
Manager Sir Alf Ramsey, however, stayed positive. Upon taking the job in October 1962, Ramsey had immediately declared that England would win the next World Cup. He saw no reason to backtrack, something Davies believes had a powerful effect on players and supporters alike.
"He came out so early with that statement, I'm sure he was caught on the hop with it a bit," Davies told me. "He found it a bit difficult to deal with the press and I'm sure early on in the tournament there were times when he quite regretted saying it.
"But the expectation steadily grew and there was a certain fascination because Ramsey had said England would win it. There were doubts, but when Bobby Charlton scored his spectacular long-range goal in the second game, when they beat Mexico 2-0, that lit the blue touch paper."
England had arrived, but as Ramsey's men began to make the other teams sit up and take notice, the World Cup was busy producing two other remarkable stories that came together in the quarter-finals.
First-time qualifiers North Korea, given no chance of progressing, produced arguably the biggest upset in World Cup history as the minnows dumped out a strong Italian side boasting the likes of Giacinto Facchetti, Sandro Mazzola and Gianni Rivera, 1-0 at Middlesbrough's Ayresome Park.
Their opponents in the last eight at Goodison Park were a Portuguese side containing the tournament's best player in Eusebio, the 1965 European Footballer of the Year who would go on to score nine goals. But the North Koreans, who had been "adopted by the people of Middlesbrough" according to Davies, cared little for reputation and swept into an astonishing 3-0 lead with only 25 minutes gone.
Eusebio, however, was not to be denied. The 'Black Panther' clinically struck four times without reply as Portugal produced a stunning fightback to book a semi-final place against hosts England, fresh from a bad-tempered 1-0 win over Argentina, at Wembley.
Eusebio got his name on the scoresheet again, but two Bobby Charlton strikes were enough to earn England a final berth against the Germans, who had sealed their own place by creeping past the Russians and their legendary goalkeeper Lev Yashin 2-1.
And so the scene was set for English football's golden moment. Alec Weeks, the BBC's producer at Wembley that day, says the area around the stadium on 30 July "was like Hampstead Heath on a bank holiday. There were stalls everywhere selling everything you could imagine, including Kenneth Wolstenholme commentaries in French and German."
BBC commentator Wolstenholme's defining moment was yet to come as the teams exchanged goals in the early stages before Martin Peters fired England into a 77th-minute lead. It seemed that would be enough, only for Wolfgang Weber to net a late leveller and send the game into extra-time.
In the days before penalty shootouts there was suddenly a very realistic chance of the first World Cup final replay taking place at Wembley on Tuesday 2 August. But Weeks believes the capacity crowd, along with Ramsey telling his players "you won it once, now go and win it again", spurred England on to glory.
"Just after it went into extra-time the crowd started thumping their feet on the floor to a rhythm and chanting 'England, England, England'," said Weeks. "The cameras in the gantry were vibrating and the whole stadium was shuddering. I'll never forget it. It must have been a huge boost for the players."
When Geoff Hurst's shot bounced off the bar and on to the line and was controversially given as a goal by Russian linesman Tofik Bakhramov, England were almost home. It was only left to Hurst to run through and complete his hat-trick - or, as Wolstenholme so famously put it: "And here comes Hurst. He's got... some people are on the pitch, they think it's all over - it is now! It's four!"
A British record 32.6m viewers watched on television as Moore collected the trophy and midfielder Nobby Stiles danced his way around the Wembley turf in jubilation, and the whole country began to celebrate.
Weeks and his team left Wembley a couple of hours after the on-pitch celebrations had ended, having wrapped up their post-match interviews, but London was still in the mood to party.
"There were 10 or 12 of us - cameramen, soundmen, producers and so on - who had all left our cars at BBC Television Centre about five miles away, so we decided to walk back. Word must have got around that we were on the streets and people were desperate to share in what had just happened to us.
"They brought us wine and beers and talked to us in the street - it was like we'd just won the World Cup. They wanted to know what it was like to be there, wanted to shake hands with the World Cup final cameraman. It was incredible. People were so happy and it was such an innocent happiness. We didn't get back to our cars until five o'clock in the morning."
It's hard not to talk to Barry Davies and Alec Weeks without feeling just a little bit of envy. One day, I hope someone will ask me what it was like to be there the day England won the World Cup.
As ever, I'm keen to hear your memories and thoughts on the events of 1966.
On Thursday we'll have the story of the 1970 World Cup, including the memories of one of the stars of the tournament.