Thursday 7 January 2016

How Unlikely Was Sir Geoff Hurst's World Cup Final Hat Trick?

There has been 835 opportunities for a player in a World Cup finals match to score a hat trick of goals and it is a measure of the difficulty of such a feat that it has occurred on just 50 occasions.

46 players have celebrated the achievement ranging from Flat River Marksman, Bert Patenaude for the USA in 1930 to Stoke's Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri in 2014. Four players, Batistuta, Muller, Fontaine and Kocsis have each reprised.

The majority of hat tricks were scored during the richer goal environment of the opening round of games and also during the pre 1966 era.

26 were scored in the 168 finals matches played prior to England's hosting of the tournament in the sixties, compared to 24 in the subsequent 668 finals games and overall 70% were scored in first round contests.

Eight players required a penalty kick to reach three goals and three players would not have been on the list had their match not run to extra-time.

So, although any goal scoring feat is to be celebrated, a World Cup hat-trick is also partly a product of the individual match circumstances. Only three players, including Pele scored at the semi final stage, but they were in eras where even later staged games were comparative mismatches.

The most impressive example of modern era scoring combined with a game that was deep into the competition remains the then plain Geoff Hurst's hat-trick in England's extra time win over West Germany.

As previously, the 1966 final was high on attempts, but low on quality of chances. The best opportunity of the final fell to Weber in the last minute of normal time and although Hurst was to finish the match as a hat trick hero, he was only the recipient of two of the top ten chances created by England.

Weber in his two attempts gained only 0.1 expected goals fewer than Hurst did in his double digit efforts over the 120 minutes.

Hurst's had an accumulated expected goals total of just over 0.6, hinting at the unlikely, but magnificent nature of his achievement, but he was also a hostage to the likely outcome of the frenetic barrage of attempts from his team mates and opponents.

On the day, Martin Peters was 60 seconds away from scoring the winning goal in a home World Cup Final. Had Weber not scooped the ball past Gordon Banks from three yards out, Hurst would have simply scored the equalising goal.

Therefore, in dryly simulation that late July afternoon in London's swinging sixties we need to plot every twist that may have been turned.

Sir Geoff to score at least three and England to win in 90 minutes based on the attempts taken comes in at around an 80/1 shot. Scoring three in the 90 and the match ending all square after 90 minutes, 1,000/1. Hurst scoring three or more in total after 120 minutes, having scored two or fewer in normal time, 40/1 after 90 minutes, 160/1 at kick-off. Extra time being required, 3/1.

A lot of things needed to fall right for Hurst and England in 1966. Not least the quick wittedness of the two West Ham players, Hurst and Moore for England's equaliser, the presence of mind not to square the ball to an unmarked, besuited interloper in the game's final minute and Weber swooping late for West Germany.

Overall odds for Hurst to have scored at least three come to around 50/1. Take that as a sign of his special and almost certainly forever unique position in England's international footballing history.

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