47th Minute, Gerry Armstrong, Northern Ireland v Spain, 1982 World Cup Group Stage
Until 2006 when Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the World Cup in Germany, Northern Ireland held the record for being the smallest nation ever to qualify for the finals. In 1958 they reached the quarter finals where they faced France. It was a step too far and Les Bleus ran out 4-0 winners.
Northern Ireland had to wait for the 1982 World Cup in Spain to compete again at the highest level and they did themselves proud. In their opening game they drew 0-0 with Yugoslavia which saw Norman Whiteside make an appearance and become the youngest ever player to appear in the World Cup finals. A 1-1 draw against Honduras appeared to have seriously dented Northern Ireland’s hopes of qualifying from the group.
Their third match in the group was against the host nation Spain. It was a strangley lacklustre display from Spain and Northern Ireland took advantage in a game of few clear cut chances and goalkeeper Pat Jennings had a very solid game.
Gerry Armstrong shocks the host nation by pouncing on a mistake from the Spanish keeper and the goal which proved to be the winner despite Northern Ireland playing the last twenty-seven minutes with ten men.
What Happened Next?
Northern Ireland topped the group with this victory and in the second group stage they drew 2-2 with Austria meaning a win over France would see them qualify for the semi-finals. Once again France proved to be their nemesis as Les Bleus, inspired by Michel Platini thrashed them 4-1. Northern Ireland qualified for the World Cup four years later but it proved to be their last appearance.
Gerry Armstrong earnt a move to La Liga on the back of his performances in Spain in 1982. He enjoyed a couple of season with Real Mallorca before slowly winding down his career in England. When he retired from playing he tried his hand at coaching but eventually went on to enjoy a long career in broadcasting, commentating on La Liga for Sky Sports.