The ‘Got, Not Got’ guide to those plucky nations/massive underachievers who have only made it to one tournament…
Cuba (1938). The Cubans got off to a cracking start beating Romania 2-1 in a first round replay, but then ran into a yellow wall in the second round… Sweden 8-0 Cuba. A reporter at the game commented: “Up to five goals is journalism, after that it is statistics.”
Dutch East Indies (1938). The country now known as Indonesia lost 6-0 to Hungary in their only World Cup game to date; a 14,000 mile round trip, for one heavy defeat, possibly representing the most effort for least return in the history of the game.
Wales (1958). One of the best ever Welsh sides were runners-up to Czechoslovakia in qualifying Group 4, missing out on qualification to the World Cup in Sweden.
But the troubled situation in the Middle East had a happy outcome for the Red Dragons…
Egypt and Sudan refused to play Israel and Indonesia would only consider meeting them on neutral territory. FIFA declared Israel winners of their group and decided they must play one of the European runners-up. Belgium were drawn out of a hat, but didn’t fancy the fixture, Wales were drawn out next and so faced Israel in a two-legged play off. The Welsh won 2-0 in Tel Aviv and repeated the scoreline at Ninian Park. It was a circuitous route to Sweden but Wales acquitted themselves well, drawing with Hungary, Mexico and Sweden. Three points earned them a play-off with Hungary which they won 2-1 thanks to goals from Ivor Allchurch and Terry Medwin.
In the quarter-finals Wales met Brazil in Gothenburg, but a young 17 year old by the name of Pele scored the only goal of the game and Wales’ only World Cup adventure was over.
Israel (1970). The troubled political situation in the Middle East has led to Israel competing in Asia, Europe and Oceania World Cup qualifiers before they finally became full members of UEFA in 1994.
Their solitary World Cup appearance was in 1970 when they lost 2-0 to Uruguay, drew 1-1 with Sweden and managed a 0-0 shut out against eventual finalists Italy.
Zaire (1974). Now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zaire went to West Germany as newly-crowned African Champions in 1974. The Leopards failed to make much of an impression, however. They played reasonably well in a 2-0 defeat to Scotland, but were then thrashed 9-0 by Yugoslavia in Gelsenkirchen.
Brazil then beat them 3-0 in the last group game. For many the abiding memory of Zaire’s World Cup came from the Brazil game when the Champions were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out. On hearing the referee’s whistle right back Mwepu Ilunga charged out of the Zaire wall and hoofed the ball upfield, looking rather hurt when he received a yellow card.
Behind the humour, however, a more sinister story has since emerged.
Ilunga has claimed that Zairean Football Federation officials pilfered their wages, and they learnt just before the Yugoslavia game that they would make no financial gain from the tournament. “Before the Yugoslavia match we learnt that we were not going to be paid, so we refused to play.” The side were talked into playing the game but the fact that they were 6-0 down by half time illustrates that their hearts were no longer in it.
Zaire’s leader Mobutu Sese Seko decided that a pep talk was in order and sent his presidential guards round to the team hotel.
According to Ilunga: “They closed the hotel to all journalists and said that if we lost
0-4 to Brazil, none of us would be able to return home.”
A 3-0 scoreline suited Brazil, because it edged out Scotland on goal difference, and Zaire, who understandably wanted to go home to their families… 3-0 it was.
Haiti (1974). The Caribbean Island was in the grip of the horrific regime of ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, who decided that Haiti were going to qualify for a World Cup, come what may. The CONCACAF Championship, was held entirely in Haiti and many refereeing decisions mysteriously went their way.
Haiti’s first, and to date last, World Cup started rather well when Emmanuel Sanon put them 1-0 up against Italy in the Olympiastadion, Munich. However, Italy pulled things round and managed a 3-1 victory. The day after the game defender Ernst Jean-Joseph tested positive in a dope test and was manhandled back to the training camp and beaten up by Haitian officials before being sent home.
The next game, in the same spectacular surroundings, went less well with a fine Poland side dismantling Haiti to the tune of 7-0; and they were then convincingly beaten 4-1 by Argentina.
The Duvalier regime was overthrown in 1986, and Haiti haven’t made it to a World Cup since.
East Germany (1974). The Deutsche Demokratische Republik national football side was in existence from 1952 when full FIFA membership was attained until German reunification in 1990. They achieved little in those 38 years, remaining in the shadow of neighbours West Germany, except for the one meeting between the two sides which occurred in the 1974 World Cup.
Both sides had already qualified for the next round but this was a politically sensitive fixture. Jürgen Sparwasser, who scored the only goal in this clash of ideologies as East beat West, claimed: “According to the rumours I was richly rewarded for the goal, with a car, a house and a cash premium. But that is not true.”
Although the players all received the Meister des Sports award for their triumph over Capitalism they would have been much better off losing because victory landed them in a second round group with Brazil, Argentina and Holland. West Germany lost the ‘German derby’, but they won the World Cup.
Kuwait (1982). Kuwait’s Spanish adventure began well, with a 1-1 draw against Czechoslovakia, but soon descended into farce when they met France in Valladolid.
France went 3-0 up with goals from Bernard Genghini, Michel Platini, Didier Six, before Abdullah Al-Buloushi pulled one back from a quickly taken free-kick.
Alain Giresse appeared to have extinguished any hopes of a comeback when he netted to put France 4-1 ahead, but the Kuwaitis surrounded Soviet referee Miroslav Stupar protesting that they had stopped playing when they heard a whistle, which had come from the crowd. The ref was unmoved and it appeared that Kuwait were going to leave the field when the stately figure of Sheikh Fahid Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, president of the Kuwaiti Football Association and brother of the Kuwaiti Emir, made his way from his seat in the Royal Box down to the pitch. After a bit of a ticking off from the Sheikh, Stupar performed a spectacular u-turn and disallowed the goal. The French were rather miffed at this (it was the fourth French goal that the ref had disallowed) but Maxime Bossis soon restored the three goal advantage, sneaking one in at the near post.
Stupar was removed from the FIFA referee’s list for his craven spinelessness in the face of royalty, and the persuasive Sheikh met an ignominious end when Iraq invaded his country in 1990, being shot dead and then having his body run over by a tank.
Canada (1986). For a large country with around 33,000,000 people, many of them of British extraction, you have wonder why Canada aren’t a bit better at football.
The Canucks’ solitary World Cup appearance came in Mexico where they lost 1-0 to France, 2-0 to Hungary and 2-0 to the USSR, flying home goalless and pointless.
Iraq (1986). It is a wonder that Iraq have ever managed to qualify for a World Cup. The only time they achieved it, in 1986, they had to play all their home games on neutral territory due to the Iran-Iraq War.
Since then the Lions of Mesopotamia have had to contend with far worse. Saddam Hussein’s pathological son Uday was placed in charge of the national side for the 1994 and 1998 qualifying campaigns, and he employed torture and imprisonment of players as a motivational tool. Own goals or missed penalties were punished with brutal floggings and prison sentences.
Even under a more benign leadership Iraq still can’t play qualifiers at home while under occupation and in 2008 and 2009 Iraq were suspended by FIFA due to governmental interference.
In Mexico, Iraq lost 1-0 to Paraguay and 2-1 to Belguim, with the nation’s greatest ever player Ahmad Radhi scoring their goal.
They also lost their third game against hosts Mexico 1-0, but at least they got to play in front of 111,000 at the Azteca Stadium.
United Arab Emirates (1990). 1990 was only the UAE’s second attempt at qualifying for a World Cup, and the Falcons went unbeaten against Syria, North Yemen, South Korea, Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
However, in Group D in Italia 90 they lost 2-0 to Columbia, 5-1 to West Germany and 4-1 to Yugoslavia… despite the not inconsiderable incentive of a Ferrari Testarossa for each player if they made it to the second round.
Jamaica (1998). Jamaica had a patchy history of attempting to qualify for the World Cup. They first attempted it in 1966 and qualified for the final round, but were out of their depth losing 8-0 to Mexico and 7-0 to Costa Rica.
In the 1970 qualifiers they had taken a step backwards, with a 100% record of defeats. For 1974 they had to suspend 17 players for poor behaviour on a trip to Bermuda and in 1978 they lost out to Cuba, while in 1982 they couldn’t afford the entrance fee, and in 1986 they were suspended for financial reasons.
They finally made it in 1998, playing their first World Cup game against Croatia in Lens. Although Robbie Earle levelled after the Croatians took the lead, the Reggae Boyz lost 3-1. They then lost 5-0 against Argentina in Paris, but made the trip worthwhile with a 2-1 win over Japan in Lyon.
Senegal (2002). Senegal caused a sensation in their first ever World Cup appearance, beating World Cup holders and European Champions France in the opening game of the 2002 tournament. The Lions of Teranga beat their former colonial masters with Bouba Diop scoring the only goal of the game after half an hour. France never recovered, flying home after the group stage with a single point to their name, while Senegal drew 1-1 with Denmark and 3-3 with Uruguay to qualify for the knock out stages.
They continued to confound expectations beating Sweden 2-1 after extra time, having trailed to a Henrik Larsson goal, with Henri Camara scoring twice.
In the quarter finals the West Africans held out until the 7th minute of extra time against Turkey when a goal from Ilhan Mansiz finally sent them home.
China (2002). China withdrew from FIFA between 1958 and 1979, and had several close calls in the following years, most notably a defeat to Hong Kong in Beijing when they only needed a draw to qualify for Mexico 86.
With the region’s strongest sides, Japan and South Korea, qualifying as joint-hosts the way opened up for China to qualify at last. Indonesia, Maldives and Cambodia were swept aside in the initial group stage, and then China came top of a group containing: United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Qatar and Oman.
Like many who had gone before them China found the real thing to be rather more difficult than the qualifiers. They lost 2-0 to Costa Rica; 4-0 to Brazil and 3-0 to Turkey.
At least they didn’t have far to go home.
Much more of this sort of thing in ‘The Lost World of Football’ – … available now in branches of WH Smiths and Waterstones or can be ordered online here…