An International Break Look back To When The World Cup Was Held At Roker Park

It was 30 years of hurt when Baddiel and Skinner first got us believing football was coming home. Today, that number stands at 52 years since England won the World Cup on home soil.

Roker Park played a big part in that tournament, as some of the world’s biggest stars touched down in England to take on the biggest competition in football. The likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Eusebio, all graced the industrial cities of Sheffield, Liverpool and Sunderland. Even North Korea were invited to the party.

It will of course go down in memory as the year England became champions of the world, but in the early stages Roker Park held a number of group games and a knockout stage.

The Group Stage

Before the tournament started, England Manager Alf Ramsey claimed that his side could win the tournament, but were far from favourites to do so. The bookmaker’s World Cup tips were on both West Germany and defending Champions Brazil, while Italy were also considered contenders. 

The latter played their first game of the tournament at Roker Park on July 13, 1966 in a 2-0 win over South Americans, Chile.

There were 27,000 packed into the ground that day, which saw the Italians dominate and get themselves on the front foot in Group 4.

The Soviets had a different idea though and the following game at the home of Sunderland saw them come on top, beating the Azzuri 1-0. The Soviet Union would go on to win all three of their games, two of those at Roker Park, taking them into the knockout stages.

Chile, Italy and Soviet Union all played three times in Sunderland, with the remainder of Group 4, including all North Korea’s games taking place at Ayresome Park down the road in Middlesbrough. 

Group 4 finished with the Soviets topping the group, North Korea claiming the runners up spot, and Italy and Chile being dumped out.

Knockout Stages

Roker Park would host just one knockout stage, a Quarter Final between Soviet Union and Hungary.

The Soviet Union had some fantastic footballers in their ranks, including Lev Yashin, Albert Shesternyov and Valery Voronin, one of the best midfielders of his generation. It was another win for the Soviet Union, who were storming through the tournament, thanks to the imperious Yashin in their goal.

Their game against Hungary at Roker Park was played in front of 26,844 and saw the Soviet Union win 2-1.

That was the final game at the stadium in the 1966 tournament however, and from there it was downhill for the Soviet Union, losing their final two games in the Semi Final against West Germany and Third Place Playoff versus Portugal

Of course, Sunderland has tasted international football since then, with the Stadium of Light being used during Wembley’s rebuild. The first team played twice there during this period, beating both Belgium and Turkey in a European Championships qualification match.

Most recently the ground hosted England v Australia which saw Marcus Rashford score on his international debut back in 2016. 

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