Video of the Day: Northern Ireland at the 1982 World Cup
Northern Ireland make their debut in the finals of the European Championships this summer and, while expectations of their prospects may well be low, history would seem to suggest that the team shouldn’t be written off automatically. When the World Cup finals were expanded from sixteen to twenty-four nations for the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, the province was one of its biggest beneficiaries. Qualifying from a group that also contained England, the team managed by Billy Bingham – who’d played in their only previous tournament finals at the time, the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden – were drawn against Spain, Yugoslavia and Honduras in the group stages, and many wrote off their chances in comparison with the host nation and a strong team from Eastern Europe.
What followed was a vindication of the expansion of the tournament and a complete justification of Northern Ireland’s place amongst the twenty-four. Furthermore, Bingham’s team went on to repeat the feat of qualifying for the finals four years later, when they edged through to the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico. This, however, was their last appearance in the finals of a major tournament until their surprise – but fully merited – qualification for this summer’s European Championships in France. Our video of the day for today takes us all the way back to the summer of 1982, though, and a review of their progress that was produced at the end of that year by Ulster Television, so it offers an almost contemporaneous appraisal of the team’s performance that summer. It’s presented by a man who is arguably Northern Ireland’s voice of football after more than forty years working for both UTV and BBC Northern Ireland, all of which followed a playing career that saw him win the Irish League with Crusaders in 1973 – Jackie Fullerton.
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