• July 30 down the years

England reach the pinnacle

England's finest hour © Getty Images

The greatest moment in English football history, achieved on its most famous and revered stage. Hosting the World Cup was an honour in itself for the nation, but its glorious team that year ensured there was a far greater reason for celebration.

Having progressed from the group stages with relative comfort, Alf Ramsey's side negotiated Argentina (in an ill-tempered affair) and Portugal (a game not without controversy) to reach the final, against the formidable West Germans. The game itself probably does not need much recounting. England went behind to Helmut Haller's early strike, before West Ham team-mates Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters both notched to give England a second half lead. Wolfgang Weber's 89th minute equaliser sent matters to extra-time, however.

It was in those 30 minutes that history was made. Hurst, playing the game of his life, crashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar that hit the line and was eventually adjudged to have gone in - a decision that remains controversial to this day. The striker then broke free in the final minutes to complete his hat-trick, still the only player ever to achieve such a feat.

That goal, confirming World Cup victory, was accompanied by perhaps the greatest ever piece of sporting commentary, as Kenneth Wolstenholme famously uttered: "Some people are on the pitch .... they think it's all over. It is now!"

Proof, as if anyone needed it, of how far Mike Tyson had fallen. He lost to Britain's Danny Williams. Tyson was 38 by now and he'd been shot for years. He'd lost to Lennox Lewis two years earlier, and didn't last four rounds against the lumbering Williams. Tyson had one more fight the following year (11 June) before mercifully calling it a day. Meanwhile beating the rusting hulk of Iron Mike earned Williams a world title shot against Vitali Klitschko (11 December 2004), who exposed him for what he was.

Daley Thompson was born Francis Morgan Thompson in London. The most successful decathlete of his generation, he was Olympic champion in 1980 (26 July) and more impressively in 1984 (9 August), when he set his last world record and emphasised his Indian sign over Germany's Jürgen Hingsen, whom he also beat into second place at the inaugural World Championships (13 August 1983) and the 1982 (8 September) and 1986 Europeans (28 August), twice when Hingsen was world record holder. Thompson also finished second at the 1978 European Championships when he was barely 20 and won gold at three consecutive Commonwealth Games. He set four world records, the first in 1980 (18 May), and 11 British bests. The 1980s were a time for world records that still stand in the 2010s, so it's no surprise that his highest total of 8,847 points are still the British record: even Dean Macey couldn't get near it. Thompson's stint with Mansfield Town football club was more of a publicity stunt than a serious career move: he never played for the first team.

A big day for British athletics at the European Championships. Andy Turner claimed gold with a superb run in the final of the men's 110m hurdles, finding form to clock a season's best 13.28s for victory. He did owe a great debt to Czech hurdler Petr Svoboda, who looked on course for victory before he clipped the eighth hurdle.

In the men's 400m, Britain's Michael Bingham claimed the silver medal, but only after Martyn Rooney faded into third after leading with 10 metres remaining. Belgium's Kevin Borlee snatched gold in 45.08s. And in the 200m, Christian Malcolm missed out on the gold medal by 0.01s as Christophe Lemaitre of France added to his earlier 100m final triumph. Malcolm, who took silver in the 1998 Commonwealth Games, ran a brilliant bend but eventually lost it on the dip.

More records set by bodysuits at the World Championships in Rome. César Cielo swam the 100 metres freestyle in 46.91 seconds, while Ryan Lochte of the USA broke Michael Phelps's world record by completing the 200 metres individual medley in 1 minute 54.10.

Britain's tennis players won the Davis Cup for the first time since 1912. France had held it since 1927 despite being without René Lacoste after 1928. They still had two other players who'd won the Wimbledon singles twice each, and their doubles specialist had just won his fourth title there. But Jean Borotra was 34 by now and no longer the Bounding Basque. He had to be saved for the doubles, which meant bringing in young André Merlin, who was, ahem, no wizard with a racquet. The Challenge Round was held in Paris, but Merlin lost the opening singles in straight sets to 'Bunny Austin, including the third 6-0. But what really cost France the Cup was Fred Perry's coming of age. The clay court couldn't slow him down today, and even Henri Cochet's genius couldn't cope with his athleticism and fitness. Cochet levelled at two sets all but lost the fifth 6-1. France came back into it when their ageing doubles pair (Brugnon was 38) won in straight sets and Cochet came from 2-1 down to beat Austin in five. And their hopes really rose as Merlin played above himself against a nervous Perry. Merlin won the first set and had two set points in the second. But he lost it 8-6, and he couldn't keep protecting his weak backhand. Perry won the next two sets, including the last 7-5. Britain kept the Cup for another three years (27 July 1937). France didn't get it back until 1991.

The first German driver to win the German Grand Prix since 1939, when Rudi Caracciola won it for the sixth time (23 July). Michael Schumacher won it four times, the first today on his way to retaining the world title. His main rival Damon Hill started on pole but spun off on only the second lap, leaving Schumacher to set the fastest lap and finish ahead of David Coulthard.

In rugby, the British & Irish Lions played their very first Test match. They were steamrollering through South Africa at the time. This was a seriously representative squad, stacked with international players, so their main enemies were the hard grounds, some without a single blade of grass, and the endless horrible treks between matches. One of these involved travelling all night by train, then eight hours in a horse-drawn coach. When another of their vehicles lost a wheel, the squad had to sleep on the floor in a hut in the middle of the veldt. Paul Clauss missed seven matches after falling on a pitch like a clay tennis court. But their sheer size was a shock to the locals. Froude Hancock was big even by today's standards: 6' 5 and 17 stone - and even their backs were huge for the time. William Wotherspoon, Randolph Aston, and the captain Bill Maclagan were more than six feet tall. Maclagan weighed over 14 stone, Aston weighed 15 and was fast as a horse. At Port Elizabeth today, Aston scored the Lions' first ever Test try, in what was also South Africa's debut in international rugby. Tom Whittaker scored the other try and Arthur Rotherham converted it. Seven of the 13 forwards in the Lions squad were never capped, so South Africa held their own up front, but they couldn't cope with the Lions backs in attack or defence. The Brits won all of their 20 matches on the tour, including three Tests, conceding only a single score, a try in the opening game. When the Lions returned to South Africa five years later, Aston's brother 'Ferdie' played for South Africa against them.

Lasse Virén completed a unique double double. In 1972, he won the 5,000 metres after setting a world record in the 10,000 metres (31 August), setting despite falling over! Here in Montreal, he beat an out-of-sorts Brendan Foster to retain the 10,000 metres (26 July) and added the 5,000 metres today. With fast-finishing New Zealanders Rod Dixon and Dick Quax in the field, Virén was an outsider this time, but he ran an economical race to burn the sprint out of them. His coach instructed him to take the lead with 1,000 metres to go and not let anyone past him. By staying in the inside lane, Virén ran several metres less than the others and won by three. As the lactic acid kicked in, Quax finished second, Dixon fourth.

Meanwhile another great competitor took a third gold medal in the triple jump. Viktor Saneyev's 17.29 metres was his shortest winning distance of the three, ahead of the USA's James Butts with 17.18. João Carlos de Oliveira of Brazil had had jumped a massive 17.89 at altitude, but today he managed only 16.90, which was still enough for bronze. He finished third again in 1980 (25 July), when Saneyev almost won a fourth gold.

Bruce Jenner of the USA set a world record of 8,618 points in winning the decathlon. Britain's Daley Thompson, who finished 18th at the age of 18, won gold four years later.

Like Virén, the great Emil Zátopek won four Olympic gold medals at distance running, the first today in the 10,000 metres in London. His pace was so hot that Finland's world record holder Viljo Heino dropped out, and he lapped everyone except the other two medallists, finishing 300 yards ahead of France's Alain Mimoun, who was second to him in three Olympic Finals. Zátopek was the first runner to run the 10,000 metres in under half an hour at the Olympics.

In the absence of the dominant Soviet women, Micheline Ostermeyer of France won the discus with a mediocre throw of 41.92 metres, nearly 20 feet less than the Olympic record set in 1936. She went from third to first with her final throw. She also won the shot putt and finished third in the high jump.

Talking of the latter event, Australia's John Winter injured himself in clearing a very average 1.98 metres - then watched in surprise as it held up for the gold medal.

Jason Robinson was born Jason Thorpe Brannan in Leeds and went on to have arguably the most successful career in rugby, an absolute star in league and union. His distinctive stuttering feet gave him the fastest standing start in either code, and he finished moves off as well as anyone, winning the Lance Todd Trophy for scoring two tries in a Challenge Cup Final (29 April 1995) despite a broken bone in his foot. He helped Wigan win two Cups and four league titles before switching to union and becoming the only England player to appear in a World Cup final in each code. He helped England run Australia close in the league version in 1995, then scored their only try in Wilkinson's Match eight years later (22 November). In 2001, he scored a blistering try in his first Test for the Lions, against Australia yet again (30 June). He finished with 30 tries in 56 international matches as well as achieving a supreme double by appearing on Songs Of Praise and in the Beano.

The first golfer to shoot 60 on the European Tour. At the Swiss Open, Britain's Peter Townsend scored 61 in the third round - only to be pipped by Baldovino Dassù of Italy. Dassù made six birdies over the last seven holes, including a beauty at the last, where he hit a 40-yard wedge shot right to the flag. He shared the lead going into the fourth round, but finished two shots behind Townsend, who won the event. Dassù was only 18 at the time. His sister Federica was the oldest to win an event on the women's European Tour (1 June 2003).

All Black winger John Kirwan scored a try for the eighth international match in a row, a world record that still stands. His score today helped beat Australia 30-9 in Brisbane. He scored eight tries against Wales in that run, which began with two in the World Cup semi-final (14 June 1987).

Britain's David Burghley won the 400 metres hurdles at the Olympic Games. He stuttered at the last barrier but had enough speed to hold off two Americans by a yard: Frank Cuhel and defending champion and world record holder Morgan Taylor. Burghley equalled the Olympic record set by Taylor in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile Pat O'Callaghan won gold in the hammer. He set a personal best of 51.39 metres with his penultimate throw to win by just ten centimetres. Four years later, O'Callaghan retained the title in a dramatic final on Ireland's greatest day at the Olympics (1 August).

British judo maestro Neil Adams was favourite for the gold medal at these Olympics. And he won his first three fights in a total of under four minutes. But in the final today he lost a unanimous decision to Italy's Ezio Gamba, who'd bitten him on the backside at the 1977 European Championships! Gamba won silver in the same event at the next Olympics, when Adams had a second chance of gold in another category (7 August).

Mighty middleweight boxer Carlos Monzón was knocked down only once at his peak, in his 100th and last pro fight today. After retaining his world title against the hard-punching Colombian Rodrigo Váldez, he gave him a rematch. Same place, same result. Monaco, unanimous decision. But only after Váldez caught him with a nasty right hand in the second round. Monzón went down for less than two seconds, then outboxed Váldez for the rest of the fight. But he was 35 by then and that knockdown was a sign. So he retired as undefeated champion, leaving Váldez to win the vacant title. Monzón died on 8 January 1995 after murdering one of his wives.

Louison Bobet became the first cyclist to win the Tour de France three years in a row. He won the race by nearly five minutes despite saddle sores that crippled him in the Pyrenees.

More success for France. In the 400 metres freestyle, Jean Boiteux set an Olympic record in winning a surprise gold medal. When Boiteux's dad jumped into the pool to congratulate him, the new champion had to help him out. Boiteux senior's beret stayed on throughout.

Robert Korzeniowski was born in Poland. The most successful race walker of all time, he was the only one to win the same event at three Olympics and the only one to do the 20k/50k double at the same Games. He won the 20 kilometres in 2000 and the 50 in 1996, 2000, and 2004. At 50 k, he also won gold at three World Championships after silver in 1995, and at the European Championships in 1998 and 2002.

In 1980, Hartwig Gauder also won the Olympic 50 kilometre walk. Fellow East German Bärbel Wöckel retained the 200 metres title. And Władyslaw Kozakiewicz of Poland set a world record in winning the Olympic pole vault, after which he made a triumphantly lewd gesture to the Moscow crowd who'd been booing him and defending champion Tadeusz Ślusarski. The Soviet Union did win gold through Vladimir Kiselyev, who surprised defending champion Uwe Beyer in the shot putt and nearly died five years later from all the testosterone he'd been taking.

In the race of the Games in the pool, the great Michael Gross nearly brought West Germany home ahead of the USA in the 4x200 metres relay. Starting three yards behind Bruce Hayes, he finished only 0.04 of a second behind as the USA smashed the world record by more than four seconds. Their third-leg swimmer had a great name for a swimmer: Jeff Float. Up there with Walter Bathe (10 July 1912).