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19 June 1958: Wales's last World Cup game
Mel Charles played in defence as Wales were knocked out of the 1958 World Cup. They have not qualified since
Saturday June 20 2009
It was the first time we'd ever gone that far in anything, and we've never done it again. But we were unlucky to lose in the quarter-finals - Brazil had been beating everybody easily but we did very well, and I still think to this day if my brother [John Charles] had played it might have been different.
We'd played Hungary the game before and they'd kicked lumps out of John. There was no way he could have played in this game. But I think we hit the post twice, and the crossbar. If John had played I'm sure we would have beaten them. He made a hell of a difference to our team, did John. I'm not just saying it because I'm his brother - he was a class act.
Didi was Brazil's No1 player then Garrincha was one of the best I'd ever seen. Pele was just a kid, so we didn't know much about him. Still, when we saw that team we thought we had no chance. I played at centre-half, and with those five Brazil forwards coming at you, you had to be at your best or they could have scored seven or eight. They were all ball players, and they were athletes, every one of them. Their quickness on the ball was unlike anything I'd seen before. I was playing for Swansea at the time, and suddenly there I was playing against the best in the world. It was a hell of a shock. But - and I'm not being big-headed - they voted me the best centre-half at the World Cup so I can't have gone too far wrong.
Pele scored the winner, and it must have been the luckiest goal ever because I missed the ball by an inch - he got there just before me -and then it just missed Stuart Williams as well, and trickled in at the far post.
England and Scotland were already out, it was just us and Northern Ireland - who were knocked out on the same day by France. You'd think it would be a big thing but I don't think anyone in Britain realised we were even playing. I don't remember there being any Welsh fans out in Sweden, and on the day we came home, we came into Swansea station and the ticket collector said: "Have we been on holiday again then?" He didn't have a clue.
There was no big ceremony when we left, and nothing when we came home either. Today, if a Welsh team got to the World Cup quarter-final, there would be big crowd outside the station and open-top bus tours.
But that didn't bother me - I was satisfied that I was there. Nothing else matters. I'd achieved something that not many Welshmen will ever do. To be a Swansea player, to play in the World Cup against the best team in the world at the time, the eventual winners, was marvellous as far as I'm concerned. I'll never forget it.
Then what happened
Charles moved to Arsenal the following year. He retired in 1967 and lives in Swansea. His autobiography, In the Shadow of a Giant, is published by John Blake next month.
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