John Charles was the talisman as Cymru made their World Cup bow, and it is fitting to his status in the annuls of Welsh football history that he would score the first Cymru goal on the biggest international stage.

However, injury would force the Juventus star out of the quarter-final match against Brazil, and generations of the Red Wall have speculated on what might have been ever since.

The tournament began for Cymru against Hungary in the Swedish municipality of Sandviken, and within the opening few minutes the side were behind as József Bozsik beat goalkeeper Jack Kelsey. However, Charles responded on 27 minutes and the teams would share the points in a 1-1 draw. A late equaliser for Mexico in Solna a few days later cancelled out Ivor Allchurch’s opening half goal, and the group stage would end for Cymru with a third draw against the host nation as the two teams played out a goalless affair.

Cymru returned to Solna for a play-off against Hungary in order to decide which team would progress to the quarter-finals. Although Hungary had a superior goal difference, this would not automatically take them through. Lajos Tichy handed Hungary an opening half lead, but goals from Allchurch and Terry Medwin reversed the scoreline in favour of Cymru, and Murphy’s team would progress to face the mighty Brazil in the last eight. However, the physicality of the match would rule Charles out of the next round.

In July 1957, a 16-year old Edson Arantes do Nascimento made his Brazil debut and scored in a 2-1 defeat to rivals Argentina. Known simply as Pelé, his first international goal in his first game for his country made him the youngest player ever to score on the senior international stage. He was a player destined for greatness from that moment on.

Victories over Austria and the Soviet Union either side of a 0-0 draw against England ensured that Brazil would win their group. Taking on Cymru in Gothenburg, the day would belong to the teenage Pelé. On 66 minutes, the young Santos star received the ball with his back to goal and controlled it on his chest. Flicking the ball into space behind him with his right foot, Pele turned and used the same foot again to volley past Kelsey and decide the match.

Pelé would score a hat-trick in the 5-2 semi-final victory over France, and would add a brace to his goal tally in another 5-2 win against Sweden in the final. Cymru had provided Brazil with their toughest test of the competition, but it was Pelé who proved to be the difference with the first of his six goals. It became his tournament, but we will never know how different it could have been if Charles had come through the play-off unscathed.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now