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With World Cup fever currently sweeping the planet right now there is no better time to take a look at the latest soccer DVD from the boys at the BBC. Of course the mighty England team is involved, this time in their now famous battle with West Germany in 1966. One of the most thrilling World Cup finals took place and now we get to relive the action in all its splendor.

The Match

Despite the many years that have passed since that day in 1966 there are still many similarities between way back then and the modern game. The players still claim out of bounds by raising their arms in unison even though they haven’t a hope in hell of winning the ball. The crowd still gets involved as well, though there is a hell of a lot more booing from the crowd rather than the scathing chants we have come to know and love in the modern game. Even the slow-motion replay was in force back then, giving viewers another look at those wonderful World Cup strikes.

There are the inevitable differences too, most of which make watching this DVD quite enjoyable to see exactly how far soccer has come over the years. The ball looks about twenty times heavier than the slick, white things they kick around these days. Time elapsed is displayed on a gigantic clock that looks more like a speedometer than a time display. There’s no getting half-naked after scoring a goal, nor is there the Oscar award-winning acting (politely called “simulation” in this years cup) that is quickly becoming a major blight on the modern game. Either the present day players are just plain wimpish or the guys back in 1966 were as tough as can be. Judging by the skinny men running around on this DVD and the fact that almost as many players nowadays get booked for diving as fouling seems to point to the former as the most likely scenario.

The menu

The running commentary (not to be confused with the post-match players commentary) is quite frank and to the point but is still pretty easy on the ear. Kenneth Wolstenholme and Wally Barnes do a great job at taking us through the players, the action and the goals that make this one hell of a memorable World Cup match. And for the first time I was able to hear the commentator reveal that the referee had given a foul because a player was “sandwiched”.

As for the goals that were scored, by modern day standards they are pretty unremarkable. But this stuff happened years before little ol’ me was born and probably would have ranked pretty highly as pieces of skill. How the players managed to find so much space in the penalty box is not only totally perplexing but also downright hilarious. To see a player less than six yards out in the middle of the box without a defender in sight is highly amusing. Needless to say they score, which is just as well as even back then the striker would have looked like a right royal goose.

If you’re a fan of soccer and the England team in particular this soccer match would be a perfect walk down memory lane. There are few other matches that would rival this one for excitement, drama and skill for its time. Being able to watch some of England’s greats such as Charlton and Hurst is a privilege and this match certainly doesn’t disappoint.  

Video

Oh, the colours! How rich and vibrant!

Actually the whole thing was shot in black and white, so don’t go expecting a Picasso. Nevertheless the print is pretty darn clean and looks much better than I had expected. There is a fair amount of grain, which is to be expected from footage of this vintage. Sharpness is as good as it can get with the source material being particularly soft for the majority of the time. The whole presentation is in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 for television. Overall there is nothing to detract from the action.

Royal hooligans

Audio

The Dolby Digital 2.0 is probably to be expected from the very much aged source material. Only the centre speaker gets most of the action including all the crowd noise and limited ground-level effects. They sound perfectly fine for the majority of the time but it would have been cool to have the crowd directed to the other front speakers a little more and maybe even push them around the back to make them sound even more powerful.

The only gripe is that sometimes the source material struggles with the loudness of both the commentators and the excited crowd. Some harsh hisses are heard when the volume reaches its peak, but thankfully they don’t last very long at all and only arise every now and then. Most of this is probably due to the source material as I wouldn’t suggest the recording technologies were all that advanced during the 60’s.

A serviceable audio mix that was obviously never going to knock your footy boots off.

Extras

Someone has sifted through the archives over at the BBC and pulled out a few gems for extras that only help to bring us a wonderful package. First up is the Summer Of ’66 Documentary which includes interviews with all the key players, the Queen’s speech before the big match and some highlights from the match as the players involved reveal the details. This is a great little documentary, running at about 18 minutes and providing as much information as needed in that time. Well worth a look.

The Player’s Commentary with Jack Charlton, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, George Cohen and Gordon Banks is quite interesting to listen to. Sometimes they tend to talk over the top of each other but they all still have a great rapport which is an example of how a great sporting success such as this one can bring a team together basically for life. There’s a good deal of humour and various tidbits are revealed to the listener, including the fact that the ball was actually orange. Only a few small silences make this commentary track a great addition to the disc.

Shameless plug

The two interviews on the disc are short but nonetheless very interesting. The first is with commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme who goes through the entire 15 minutes with an excited grin on his face. He remembers everything quite clearly and expresses these memories like only a big name commentator can. The other interview is with England captain Bobby Moore’s wife, Tina. She reveals Bobby’s thoughts during the World Cup and is very easy to listen to. This interview runs for about ten minutes.

Also included are the player profiles and a picture gallery. Overall a great little package that compliments the game extremely well.

Overall

Even for a soccer match that was staged over 35 years ago this is pretty compelling stuff. Sure, the modern game is probably much more entertaining in comparison but placed in its appropriate context the World Cup final between England and West Germany would have to rank up there with the best of them. With a decent looking transfer and some great little extras to boot, this release could be just the thing you need should England crash out of this year’s Cup some time soon. A great way to relive one of the great World Cup finals in history. And what a time to do it.


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