15 January

On this day in 1958 Wales took a giant step towards reaching the World Cup finals for the first time in their history.

Goals from Ivor Allchurch and Dave Bowen secured a 2-0 victory for Jimmy Murphy’s men in the first leg of their play off match against Israel in Tel Aviv.

The play off match had been arranged because every opponent Irael were du to face in the Africa/Asia round refused to play against them for various reasons.

At the start of the qualifying campaign in 1957, Turkey withdrew in protest at having been placed in the Asian qualifying groups as opposed to the European groups, so Israel went forward to the next round without playing a game.

In the second round, Israel were placed in a group alongside Indonesia, Egypt and Sudan, but this would blow up into another logistical nightmare for Fifa.

Indonesia refused to travel to Israel, insisting their game should take place on neutral territory, and when this requested was refused, Indonesia withdrew from the competition.

In no time at all, Egypt had joined Indonesia in withdrawing from the tournament leaving Israel and Sudan to play off to decide who would become the Africa/Asia representatives at the finals in Sweden.

The situation became even worse for Fifa when Sudan announced they would not travel to Israel, meaning Israel would secure their place in the World Cup finals without playing a single match.

Because of this, a special play-off match was arranged between Israel and one of the runners-up from the European qualifying rounds.

Belgium were first out of the hat but they refused the invitation to compete meaning that Wales, as the second team out of the hat, were given a chance to make a little bit of history as the only Africa/Asia in the World Cup!