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ales made its only World Cup finals tournament appearance in the 1958 edition in Sweden. However, their path to qualification was unusual. Having finished second to Czechoslovakia in qualifying Group 4, the golden generation of Welsh football managed by Jimmy Murphy seemed to have missed out on qualification, but the politics of the Middle East subsequently intervened. In the Asian/African qualifying zone, Egypt and Sudan had refused to play against Israel following the Suez crisis, while Indonesia had insisted on meeting Israel on neutral ground. As a result, FIFA proclaimed Israel winners of their respective group. However, FIFA did not want a team to qualify for the World Cup finals without actually playing a match, and so lots were drawn of all the second-placed teams in UEFA. Belgium were drawn out first but refused to participate, and so then Wales was drawn out and awarded a two-legged play-off match against Israel with a place in Sweden for the winners. Having defeated Israel 2–0 at the Ramat Gan Stadium and 2–0 at Ninian Park, Cardiff, Wales went through to a World Cup finals tournament for the first time.
The strong Welsh squad made their mark in Sweden, drawing all the matches in their group against Hungary, Mexico and Sweden before defeating Hungary in a play-off match to reach the quarter-finals against Brazil. However, Wales' chances of victory against Brazil were hampered by an injury to John Charles that ruled him out of the match. Wales lost 1–0 with 17-year-old Pelé scoring his first international goal. The goal made Pelé the youngest World Cup goalscorer and Brazil went on to win the tournament.
Wales' remarkable campaign in Sweden was the subject of the best-selling book When Pele Broke Our Hearts: Wales and the 1958 World Cup (by Mario Risoli, St David's Press) which was published on the 40th anniversary of the World Cup and was also the inspiration for a Bafta Cymru-nominated document