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
The latter played their first
game of the tournament at Roker Park on July 13, 1966 in a 2-0 win over South
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
Group 4 finished with the Soviets
topping the group, North Korea claiming the runners up spot, and Italy and
Chile being dumped out.
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
Most recently the ground hosted
England v Australia which saw Marcus Rashford score on his international debut
back in 2016.