On This Day: 'Unflappable' Bobby Moore makes his World Cup finals debut
No West Ham United player has featured in more FIFA World Cup matches than Bobby Moore.
The late, great defender made 14 appearances for England at the sport’s biggest tournament, including six as the Three Lions won the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1966.
Four years earlier, however, a 21-year-old Moore had featured four times as Walter Winterbottom’s England reached the quarter-finals before being eliminated by a Garrincha-inspired Brazil.
The young Hammer had made his England debut just eleven days before the tournament kicked-off in Chile when he started a 4-0 warm-up win over neighbouring Peru in Lima on 20 May 1962.
Having sufficiently impressed Winterbottom, Moore was handed his World Cup bow as a right half-back as England kicked-off their World Cup challenge against Hungary on 31 May.
It wasn’t an easy baptism for him, but one thing you did notice was that he was unflappable
The Group 4 fixture was held in the city of Rancagua at the fabulously-named Estadio Braden Copper Company – a stadium constructed by the American company that controlled the nearby El Teniente copper mine – and watched by just 7,938 supporters.
With experienced Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Ron Flowers in the No6 shirt, the few fans who had made the long and arduous journey to South America were treated to the unaccustomed sight of Moore sporting the No16.
Moore’s World Cup debut did not get off to the best of starts as the prolific Honved striker Lajos Tichy wrongfooted the young defender before smashing a 25-yard shot past goalkeeper Ron Springett to put Hungary in front after just 17 minutes.
Flowers levelled from the penalty spot after Laszlo Sarosi had handled Jimmy Greaves’ shot on the goalline, but the Magyars would not be denied as Ferencvaros forward Florian Albert rounded the advancing Springett and prodded into the net at the near post to secure a 2-1 victory.
In his biography Bobby Moore: The Man in Full, Matt Dickinson said the West Ham man head clearly been eager to make his mark.
“The games were not being broadcast live back in England, but grainy black and white footage shows Moore, in the number sixteen shirt, constantly seeking to be involved, dashing over to take corners and throw-ins, keen and busy from his position on the right side of midfield,” Dickinson wrote.
“Looking a little stiff with his coat-hanger shoulders and a noticeably upright bearing, chasing after the game rather than conducting it as he would in his prime, it is easy to see why Moore was seen by [Ron] Greenwood as better suited for defence not midfield. Moore was far more comfortable with the game coming onto him, but he was not found wanting.
“’It wasn’t an easy baptism for him’, said teammate Jimmy Armfield, ‘but one thing you did notice was that he was unflappable’.”
England may have lost their opening game, but the unflappable Moore had done enough to keep his place for his country’s second group-stage game against Argentina.
With Flowers scoring another penalty and Bobby Charlton and Greaves – both of whom would be part of the World Cup-winning squad alongside Moore in 1966 – also hitting the back of the net, England won 3-1.
A goalless draw against Bulgaria saw England through to the quarter-finals, where the young Moore would face the mighty Brazil for the first time.
With Garrincha in fantastic form, and the likes of Vava, Amarildo and Didi also impressing, England lost 3-1 and Moore’s first World Cup experience came to a premature end.
Four years later, the story would last a little longer…