The worst World Cup teams ever

Max Parsons
2022 hosts were one of the worst-ever World Cup teams
2022 hosts were one of the worst-ever World Cup teams / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

The World Cup is a month-long celebration of the best of the best, titans of football battling it out on the game's biggest stage, a festival and feast for the eyes.

Not always, though.

Fans of every generation will be able to cast their minds back and remember at least one dud - a country that comes to the party in the greatest of spirits but is soon asked to make its way home.

There have been quite a few of those to grace the World Cup stage over the years. Here, 90min looks at some of the very worst.


10. Dutch East Indies - 1938

The Dutch East Indies - now Indonesia - have one of the worst records in World Cup history. The only team to have played just one World Cup match (great bit of pub-quiz knowledge for you), they boast a sole firm defeat to their name.

Back in 1938, when the tournament went straight into a knockout format, the Dutch East Indies came up against eventual finalists Hungary in the round of 16, where they fell to a 6-0 hammering in their one and only World Cup appearance.

Short and not so sweet.

9. Qatar - 2022

Felix Sanchez Bas, Hassan Al-Haydos
Felix Sanchez's men didn't really impress in their maiden World Cup appearance / Jean Catuffe/GettyImages

There are plenty more sides that have suffered 0-point World Cup campaigns but, while their record isn't technically among the worst of them, Qatar make this list for being the worst-ever host nation in the competition's history.

Spain (1982) and South Africa (2010) might have shared that deeply unwanted honour previously but, following a despondent group stage in which the Qataris were utterly outplayed in their defeats to Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands, Felix Sanchez's side have to feature here.

8. Mexico - 1978

Mexico have featured in World Cup finals a whopping 17 times, although have a few contenders for this list. Their side of 1978 boasts one of those woeful records, exiting the competition having lost their three outings... emphatically.

Their tournament commenced with a 3-1 beating at the hands of Tunisia, before being trounced 6-0 by West Germany and seen off comfortably 3-1 by Poland. A year to forget for the Mexicans.

7. France - 2002

Youri Djorkaeff, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Frank Leboeuf
France were left in despair by their group-stage campaign in the 2002 World Cup / KIM JAE-HWAN/GettyImages

The only team in this list to have actually won a point in their respective World Cup campaign, the French side of 2002 only makes this list for the bitterly disappointing showing they put in, in Japan and South Korea.

Probably the worst performance of any reigning world champions, France began their defence with one of the greatest shocks in World Cup history, losing 1-0 to Senegal as the late Papa Bouba Diop netted a first-half winner.

Roger Lemerre's side went on to conclude their 2002 World Cup campaign with a 0-0 draw against Uruguay and a 2-0 defeat to Denmark, ending their title defence without scoring a single goal.

6. Saudi Arabia -2002

2002 also saw one of the worst World Cup teams - statistically, that is - in history.

While Saudi Arabia may have subtly impressed in Qatar this year, their team of 2002 did anything but. A group stage in which they lost 8-0 to Germany, 1-0 to Cameroon and 3-0 to Ireland firmly cemented their place as the tournament's worst side - and as one of the World Cup's worst ever.

5. North Korea - 2010

Pak Chol-Jin, Cha Jong-Hyok, Cristiano Ronaldo, An Young-Hak
Cristiano Ronaldo scored Portugal's seventh in a 7-0 victory over North Korea at the 2010 World Cup / Laurence Griffiths/GettyImages

North Korea qualified for the World Cup for just the second time in 2010, but didn't exactly make good use of their feat.

In their first World Cup fixture in 44 years, the North Koreans fell to a respectable 2-1 defeat to Brazil in their opening game. 'Respectable' didn't really cover their subsequent 7-0 thrashing by Portugal and 3-0 loss to the Ivory Coast, however.

4. Bolivia - 1950

The 1950 World Cup was a strange one; there were four groups - two consisting of four teams, one with three, and a final group of just two teams after France withdrew from the competition before playing.

In that final group, eventual champions Uruguay were pitted against Bolivia - one match to seal a place in the final stage of the tournament. As it turned out, 'match' wasn't a fitting description of the events that took place on 2 July 1950 as Uruguay swiftly put an end to Bolivia's World Cup campaign with an 8-0 trouncing.

Bit of a wasted journey, really.

3. Haiti - 1974

1974 brought with it a couple of memorably pitiful World Cup teams, one of whom were Haiti.

The Haitians' first and (to date) only World Cup appearance ended in incredibly disappointing fashion, exiting at the group stage following a 3-1 defeat to Italy, a 7-0 demolition at the hands of eventual third-placed Poland and a 4-1 loss to Argentina - a set of results that left them with a goal difference of -12.

2. El Salvador - 1982

El Salvador matched Haiti's woeful goal difference eight years later, ending their group-stage campaign at the 1982 World Cup with three despondent defeats in which they scored once while conceding 13; on a positive note, that year made their 1970 campaign (their only other appearance at the World Cup), in which they scored none and conceded nine in their group, look a bit better.

Their final two games in Spain were actually fairly close, falling to 1-0 and 2-0 defeats to Belgium and Argentina respectively, but it was never going to be easy to come back from their opening matchday 10-1 defeat to Hungary.

1. Zaire - 1974

World Cup - Zaire v Brazil
The Zaire back line trying to shut out Brazil forward Leivinha / VI-Images/GettyImages

The worst ever World Cup team, however, must be regarded as Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo) - the other aforementioned memorably pitiful side in 1974.

Making their one and only World Cup appearance to date, the squad unsurprisingly lost all three of their group games - defeated 2-0 by Scotland, 9-0 by Yugoslavia and 3-0 by Brazil - racking up 14 goals at the wrong end and a big fat zero at the other.

Their performances will forever be written in legend for amounting to the worst ever goal difference in a World Cup group-stage campaign - for now, anyway.

facebooktwitterreddit