Wales and the World Cup - Ivor Allchurch
22 June 2018

Wales and the World Cup - Ivor Allchurch

In the latest of a series of features that will run throughout the duration of the World Cup finals, takes a closer look at the goalscoring contribution of Ivor Allchurch at the 1958 FIFA World Cup finals in Sweden.

The late Ivor Allchurch didn't score a single goal for Wales during the Group 4 qualifying campaign for the 1958 World Cup, but his goals in both play-off matches against Israel, and during the tournament, make him Wales' all-time leading goalscorer at the finals of a World Cup. 

Now remembered by a statue outside the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, Allchurch made over 400 appearances for his home-town club, but it was the World Cup that catapulted him to international attention. 

Born in 1929, Allchurch also played for Newcastle United and Cardiff City between two spells with Swansea Town, and between 1950 and 1966 he made 68 appearances for his country.  

He scored 23 goals to become the all-time leading goalscorer for Wales, a record that was eventually eclipsed by Ian Rush, but it was his goals in 1958 that he is best remembered for in the colours of Wales. 

In a bizarre series of events, Wales eventually found themselves competing against Israel in a play-off for the last remaining place at the 1958 World Cup.  

With Turkey electing not to compete in the Asian qualifying zone, and Indonesia and Sudan refusing to play, Israel would have been awarded automatic qualification, but FIFA insisted that they would need to play at least one match.

All the European group runners-up, including Wales, were placed into a draw to discover who would compete against Israel for that final place. 

Belgium were selected, but declined the offer, and Wales were therefore offered a second chance of reaching the finals of the World Cup for what remains the one and only time. The two-legged tie would take place in January and February.

Jimmy Murphy's side headed to Israel for the 1stleg, and goals from Allchurch and Dave Bowen handed the side an encouraging 2-0 victory. 

For the return match, 38,000 fans packed into Ninian Park as Allchurch once again found the back of the net, before Cliff Jones completed the scoring in another 2-0 win. A comfortable 4-0 aggregate victory meant that Wales would head to Sweden that summer. 

Allchurch scored his first goal of the finals in the second match of the competition as Wales held Mexico to a 1-1 draw in Solna. 

Wales would draw their other two group games against Hungary and host nation Sweden, and a play-off against Hungary was therefore required. 

Allchurch scored his second goal of the tournament to equalise after the Hungarians had taken the lead in the opening half, before Terry Medwin cemented a 2-1 win. 

Wales' participation at the tournament would come to an end in the next round as they were drawn against eventual champions Brazil. 

A 17-year old Pele scoring the only goal in the 1-0 win. However, Allchurch put in another impressive performance as Wales struggled without injured talisman John Charles.  

With two goals in the play-off victory over Israel, and a further two goals at the World Cup finals, Allchurch has made more of an impact on the competition than any other Welsh player in history. 

He continued playing football until he was 50, ending his career in the Welsh domestic pyramid with Haverfordwest County and Pontardawe Athletic. He passed away in 1997, at the age of 67.