Nine Ipswich Town players have played at a World Cup – will Bialkowski or Knudsen join the list?
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Ipswich Town duo Bartosz Bialkowski and Jonas Knudsen are at the World Cup in Russia. Stuart Watson looks at the previous Blues who played in football’s biggest tournament.
Spain 1982 (England)
One summer on from their UEFA Cup triumph, Ipswich Town had no fewer than six players at the World Cup in Spain – three for England and three for Scotland.
Let’s start with the Three Lions. Versatile full-back Mick Mills (42 caps), the skipper for club and country, centre-back Terry Butcher (77 caps) and striker Paul Mariner (35 caps) were all in the squad, while Russell Osman (11 caps) – who was Butcher’s partner in the heart of the Blues’ defence – could feel hard done by to miss the cut.
This was England’s first appearance at a World Cup in 12 years and Ron Greenwood’s men had only just made it by the skin of their teeth following a disjointed qualifying campaign.
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They returned unbeaten in five games and conceded just once. That was with talismanic duo Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking injured for the most part. Yet many felt that it could have been even better.
Bryan Robson put England ahead just 27 seconds into their opener against France and, though Gérard Soler levelled the game midway through the first half, Robson again, and then Mariner, added second-half strikes to make it a dream start against the eventual semi-finalists.
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Glenn Hoddle stepped off the bench to help inspire a 2-0 win against Czechoslovakia and then Kuwait were seen off 1-0. The ‘reward’ for finishing top of the group was to get West Germany and Spain in the second group phases (a format which seems alien now).
A pair of goalless draws was not enough. Italy went on to beat West Germany in the final, Greenwood resigned and the FA came calling for a certain Bobby Robson...
Mariner and Mills played every minute of every game, while Butcher was rested for the Kuwait match.
Spain 1982 (Scotland)
Jock Stein’s men had comfortably qualified from a tough group including Portugal, Sweden and Northern Ireland. They were subsequently drawn in the so-called ‘group of death’ along with Brazil, the Soviet Union and New Zealand.
Right-back George Burley (11 caps), midfielder John Wark (29 caps) and front man Alan Brazil (13 caps) were the Town trio in the squad.
Scotland beat the Kiwis 5–2 in their first game, Wark scoring twice, but then lost 4–1 to a Brazil team containing Socrates, Zico, Eder and Falcão. A 2–2 draw with the Soviet Union saw them eliminated on goal difference.
Wark played every minute of all three games. Alan Brazil played 83 minutes against New Zealand and stepped off the bench against the Soviet Union. Burley was outside of the 16-man matchday squad for all three games.
Bulgarian attacking midfielder Bontcho Guentchev (12 caps) went to the tournament having just helped John Lyall’s Blues narrowly avoid Premiership relegation on the final day of the season.
He didn’t feature in the group stages as Hristo Stoichkov and co progressed thanks to wins against Greece and Argentina, but came on as a second half sub and scored his spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out win against Mexico.
He also stepped off the bench in the semi-final 2-1 defeat to Italy, then did not feature in the 4-0 third place play-off defeat to Sweden.
Japan/South Korea 2002
Town captain Matt Holland (49 caps) helped the Republic of Ireland reach the last 16 following the infamous early tournament bust-up between manager Mick McCarthy and midfielder Roy Keane, the latter storming home before a ball was kicked.
Holland rifled home a fine, low equaliser from 25-yards in Ireland’s opening 1-1 draw with Cameroon, then came Robbie Keane’s stoppage-time equaliser against Germany and a 3-0 win against Saudi Arabia. Robbie Keane’s late converted penalty forced extra-time against Spain, Ian Harte having already seen one saved from the spot, before Holland was one of three Irish players to miss in the shoot-out defeat.
Town midfielder Amir Karic (64 caps), who made just three League Cup appearances for the Blues, also went to that tournament with Slovenia. They finished bottom of Group B after defeats to Spain, South Africa and Paraguay.
South Africa 2010
Homegrown Town defender Tommy Smith started every game as New Zealand exited at the group stage with draws against Slovakia (1-1), Italy (1-1) and Paraguay (0-0).