Spurs at the World Cup - the Welsh wizards
04 June 2014|Tottenham Hotspur
As the World Cup in Brazil draws ever nearer, we profile the Spurs players that have stepped out on football's biggest stage.
Next up, the trio of Welsh internationals who starred in the 1958 tournament - where they were only stopped by Pele's Brazil...
Mel Hopkins - Spurs 1952-1964 - 240 appearances
Cliff Jones - Spurs 1958-1968 - 378 appearances, 159 goals
Terry Medwin - Spurs 1956-1963 - 215 appearances, 72 goals
Wales’ only ever appearance at the World Cup Finals came back in 1958 and we had a trio of players who played their part in the tournament in Sweden.
Mel Hopkins and Terry Medwin had been on our books for a number of years by the time the Finals came around, while Cliff Jones had made his debut for us against Arsenal just a few months before the tournament began - and all three were selected by Wales for the tournament.
Full-back Hopkins and winger Jones featured in all five matches the Welsh played in Sweden, as they reached the quarter-finals only to lose to eventual champions Brazil, while Medwin played in four games, scoring a vital winner in their Group Three play-off against Hungary to book their place in the last eight.
The 1958 World Cup was the one and only time all four British teams have participated, but Wales were somewhat fortunate to be there. They were able to take advantage of an unusual situation in the Africa/Asia zone, where a flood of withdrawals would have led to Israel qualifying without having played a single match.
This prompted FIFA to rule that qualification without playing was not allowed, and so Israel were ordered to play against one of the teams finishing second in the other groups. The luck of the draw favoured Wales, who defeated Israel 2-0 twice early in 1958.
At the tournament, Wales drew all their three group matches against Mexico, Sweden and Hungary to finish level on points in second place with the Hungarians, hence a play-off to determine who progressed to face Brazil.
All three Spurs players lined up against the famous Brazilians - who featured the likes of Garrincha, Didi and an upcoming 17-year-old by the name of Pele, but Wales were without their best player John Charles, the victim of some bruising challenges against Hungary, and they missed him.
But they stood toe-to-toe with Brazil in Gothenberg on June 19 and more than held their own, some spectators suggesting Wales were the better team on the day. But ultimately they went out of the competition after a 1-0 defeat, courtesy of a deflected shot by Pele - his first goal in the Finals. He went on to score a hat-trick against France in the semi-final before a brace against Sweden in the final took Brazil to the trophy.
“That day, our full-back Mel Hopkins never gave Pele a kick, he was magnificent against him,” recalls Cliff. “But I feel to this day, that if John Charles was fit and playing, it could have been a different result.”