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Wales' World Cup Adventure

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Unexpected qualification

Victories against Czechoslovakia and East Germany in the qualification stages were not enough to secure a place for Wales in the finals of the 1958 World Cup.

Wales was fortunate to be given another opportunity to qualify after several teams had withdrawn from the competition, leaving Israel without any opponents in the Africa-Asia Group.  The national team was drawn from the runners-up of the other groups to play a two-leg play-off against Israel for a place in the finals.  The golden opportunity was taken with two 2-0 victories, one in Tel Aviv and the other at Ninian Park in Cardiff.

The Finals

The Finals, which were hosted by Sweden, were opened officially on 8 June 1958.  Wales were in Group 3 with Sweden, Hungary and Mexico and began their campaign with two 1-1 draws with Hungary and Mexico.  A 0-0 draw with Sweden was sufficient to secure a play-off with Hungary for a place in the last sixteen.

The play-off proved to be a hard-fought match. The physical Hungarians went into the half time break with a 1-0 lead.  However, goals from Ivor Allchurch and Terry Medwin in the second half secured a victory for Wales.

Heartbreak

Wales were defeated by Brazil in the Quarter Finals, the only goal of the match scored by the 17-year-old Pelé.  At the time, Pelé was the youngest player ever to play in the World Cup Finals and his first World Cup goal was scored against Wales.  Brazil went on to win the Cup, defeating the hosts Sweden (5-2) in the Final.

Some excellent players played for the Welsh national team at that time, including John Charles and Ivor Allchurch, and the 1950s is widely remembered as a golden age for Welsh football.

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