Always The Bridesmaid

Monday, 10 July 2000, 0:00
1 min read

The only time that Wales has managed to make it to the World Cup Final was in 1958, and even then they had lady luck to thank for their qualification. In their qualifying group they had finished runners-up to Czechoslovakia, but because of the political situation in Israel, no country in the Asian-African group some would play them. FIFA would not allow Israel entry to the World Cup without playing a game, so lots were drawn among the European runners-up and Wales was drawn out of the hat. Wales easily beat the Israelis home and away, and so qualified for the 1958 World Cup as the winners of the Asian-African group. Jimmy Murphy managed Wales at the time. As Wales were playing Israel in Cardiff on February 5th 1958, Murphy missed the ill-fated Manchester United trip to Belgrade where he should have been an assistant to Matt Busby.

Wales did well in the 1958 tournament – they drew all of their Li) games and were rewarded with a play-off game against Hungary to secure a quarterfinal place. Wales won the play-off game 2-1 so earned a quarter-final game against Brazil. However, time was against Wales on this occasion: the play-off game on June 17th was in Stockholm and the quarterfinal game was on June 18th in Gothenburg a distance of 300 miles. Plus the great John Charles was missing for the game against Brazil. It is now history that Wales lost 1-0 to Brazil with some young upstart named Pele’ scoring the winner. Whatever became of him, I wonder?

Welsh fans have now grown weary of hearing about 1958 what was needed was some success for the current fans to savour. In the qualifying games for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, Wales thought their chance had come. Because of a UEFA ban following crowd trouble in Cardiff, the match was played in Liverpool. It was felt that the Racecourse in Wrexham was too small. The plan backfired. Of the 51 000 crowd, most were Scots. The game will always be remembered for Joe Jordan showing Diego Maradona that ‘the hand of God’ originally belonged to him. Despite the cries of ‘cheat’ and protests from the Welsh, Don Masson scored the penalty and Wales were destined to spend the summer at home again.

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“Come on Cymru” and “Come on Cymru 2000” are available to order on-line from http://www.sigmapress.co.uk .

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Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.
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