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1617 burnley johann berg gudmundsson 01 100c500Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson played for just over an hour of Iceland’s remarkable 1-1 draw against Argentina in what was the country’s first ever game in a World Cup Finals tournament, and in doing so became the sixth Burnley player to feature at that stage of the competition.

Unfortunately for him, an injury forced him off in a game they were expected to get nothing from, but an outstanding defensive display, coupled with Lionel Messi’s inability to score from the penalty spot, gave them such a good start.

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It’s 64 years since Burnley first had a representative at a World Cup. Jock Aird was the pioneer; he played twice for Scotland who finished bottom of Group 3 in Switzerland. They only played twice with Scotland facing Austria who beat them 1-0 in Zurich before they were hammered 7-0 by Uruguay 7-0 in Basel.

Aird also created history by becoming the first Burnley player to go on and play international football for a second country. He’d left Burnley by then. He emigrated to Australia and went on to play twice for New Zealand. That’s a record that has now been equalled. Besart Berisha played once for Albania whilst at Burnley, the game that saw him suffer the injury that prevented him having a career at Burnley. He’s more recently been capped by Kosovo.

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Following Aird (shown in action in the 1954 tournament) v , both Colin McDonald (below, making a save in Sweden) and Jimmy McIlroy played for England and Northern Ireland respectively in 1958. England drew all their qualifying games in the Sweden tournament against USSR and Brazil (2-2 and 0-0 in Gothenburg) and 2-2 against Austria in Boras, with McDonald turning in a sensational performance against Brazil. England returned to Gothenburg for a play-off against USSR but were beaten 1-0.
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McIlroy meanwhile helped Northern Ireland to progress beyond the group stage. They beat Czechoslovakia 1-0 in Halmstad before losing 3-1 against Argentina at the same venue. A 2-2 draw against the West Germans in Malmo saw them go into a play-off and they remained in Malmo to beat Czechoslovakia again. A 4-0 defeat against France in Norrkoping saw their World Cup come to an end.
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The two Burnley players played all of the games in the tournament, McDonald making four appearances and McIlroy five which remains a Burnley record although it was equalled in 1982 by his fellow countryman Billy Hamilton.

Hamilton played all five games for Northern Ireland in Spain. They looked to be heading home after drawing their first two games against Yugoslavia (0-0) and Honduras (1-1) in Zaragoza but against all the odds beat Spain in Valencia to go through as group winners, Gerry Armstrong scoring the only goal of the game after being set up by Hamilton.

That took them into a second group of three teams. Both games were played in Madrid; they drew 2-2 against Austria with Hamilton scoring both goals (one of which is shown above), the only Burnley player to score at a World Cup Finals, before, like McIlroy’s team, losing 4-0 against France.

Our one other World Cup Finals player was Tommy Cassidy. He came on as a substitute, replacing Sammy McIlroy, in Northern Ireland’s game against Spain in what was his final appearance for his country.

John Connelly was in England’s 1962 World Cup squad in Chile when Jimmy Adamson was also given a squad number albeit he went as assistant manager. Eight years later, Ralph Coates travelled to Mexico for the 1970 World Cup but was one of the players left out when Sir Alf Ramsey reduced it to the required 22.

So JBG is number six and hopefully the injury won’t be too bad and he can continue for Iceland in their forthcoming games against Nigeria and Croatia as they look to win a place in the last sixteen.

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