Top 10 Underdog Teams That Came Really Close To Joining The FIFA World Cup

Why is the FIFA World Cup the most anticipated sporting event in the world? The World Cup is a competition that begins with the continental qualifying rounds, and four years later, national teams from every continent compete in a match in a previously selected nation. There, a magnificent event takes place when people from many nations and cultures come together to applaud for happiness and for their country. People from all around the world come together to witness this glut of football games that are more than just games; they are battles for the honor of their nation. The winning team receives a single star in its national flag and the incredible satisfaction of being the best team in the world in the most watched sport on earth.
Furthermore, many people still have dreams about witnessing their national team on the largest stage of the world. It is a source of pride for them. Below is the tale of the unfortunate underdogs as we rank the top 10 countries that have the best chance of competing in the FIFA World Cup, but unfortunately haven't been able to.

#10 Sudan


It's difficult to believe, but Sudan previously ranked among the top teams in African football. Their national team enjoyed a series of victories, finishing second in 1959 and 1963 and winning the continental title in 1970. However, Sudan struggled miserably in the FIFA World Cup qualifying rounds, which it didn't participate in until the 1958 tournament. As one of the most powerful powers in Africa, it appeared that the squad would travel to Sweden for the World Cup and perhaps face a young Pele, but a series of strange things happened instead.
FIFA opted to combine African and Asian qualifications since there were only 12 applicants, which caused chaos. South Korea and Ethiopia were both denied the opportunity to participate, while the Republic of China withdrew because they didn't want to play against China PR. Turkey and Cyprus soon followed suit, reducing the number of teams to only seven. Sudan was among them, though, as they defeated Syria and advanced to the last stage. However, their hopes were dashed when their government forbade them from playing Israel. This choice must appear incredibly foolish to everyone in Sudan today.

#9 Uzbekistan


Uzbekistan didn't begin participating until the end of the 20th century since it was still a member of the Soviet Union. Despite having a successful record, the squad never confronted regional powers like Iran, South Korea, or Japan. But in 2011, everything changed. Uzbekistan competed in their first AFC Asian Cup quarterfinal that year, and they put on strong performances during World Cup qualifying.
Uzbekistan breezed through the first two rounds with seven victories and one tie, but in order to qualify for the World Cup in 2014, they needed to finish at least second in the next one. However, despite needing only a draw against South Korea, the squad lost after a few successful performances. As they defeated Qatar 5-1 in the last round, the anguish persisted. To finish ahead of South Korea, they needed two more goals, thus that wasn't enough. Finally, Jordan's elimination of them in the following round ended all of their ambitions.

#8 Mali


Mahamadou Diarra, Seydou Keita, and Frédéric Kanouté are just a few of the outstanding athletes that Mali has produced in the 21st century. Due to their quality, they became a dominant force in Africa, making five appearances in the African Cup of Nations semifinals between 1994 and 2013. But only the FIFA World Cup in 2002 saw them make their World Cup qualifying debut. However, they didn't start to play a significant part until the 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign.
Mali won their group despite being only the 11th favorite, with no goals permitted! Then, in the championship round, they were matched up against a team that might easily defeat Tunisia. The squad did score once, but regrettably, it was into their own net. Tunisia accepted their World Cup ticket as a consequence without doing anything. Mali didn't allow their opponents to score in any of their eight games, but it still wasn't enough.

#7 Zambia

Source: UGC

With a strong showing on the continental scene, Zambia has always been one of the best African footballing nations. Furthermore, after losing two finals—in 1974 and 1994—they won the CAF championship in 2012. It is difficult to imagine that the squad was never a World Cup contender and never qualified for the tournament. Although they frequently reached the final qualifying rounds, nothing came close to what they accomplished in the 1994 season.
Zambia earned the right to face Morocco and Senegal by winning their first-round group. Before the last game in Morocco, the squad was in first place due to their consistent success. Zambia was in desperate need of a draw at the time, but the host country's lone goal in front of 150,000 spectators crushed their hopes.

#6 Venezuela


Since they are the only South American (CONMEBOL) squad to never have qualified for the FIFA World Cup, Venezuela is historically the worst CONMEBOL team. Actually, Bolivia and Ecuador did it at least three times for every other team. In 1966, Venezuela competed in its first World Cup qualifiers and has since been used as a punching bag. However, with the new century, things started to alter. As a result, Venezuela won five games in the 2002 qualifications, a huge accomplishment for a country with only two prior victories!
Four years later, the 2010 campaign appeared historic with five further victories! Venezuela was vying for fifth place with only two rounds remaining, which would have qualified them for inter-confederation play-offs versus Costa Rica. They felt assured of winning because they had four points in their past two games. However, they needed to win in Brazil to have any chance after a heartbreaking home loss to Paraguay. Despite their valiant effort, they could only draw without scoring. They came in eighth place but were just two points behind fifth-placed Uruguay. It's interesting to note that four years later, Venezuela finished sixth overall. Even so, they were this time five points behind Uruguay and had no chance.

#5 Belarus

Source: khelnow

Belarus teams only managed to win one championship during their time in the Soviet Union (Dinamo Minsk in 1982), which best encapsulates their lack of significance. The country has participated in the FIFA World Cup qualification competition since the 1990s, although its record is still disgraceful. At the continental level, things aren't much better because Belarus is one of the few nations that has never qualified for the UEFA EURO. But for a moment, it appeared as though they would develop into a respectable team.
Following an abysmal World Cup run in 1998 (eight defeats in 10 games! ), Belarus was listed as one of the ten poorest European teams. In spite of this, they only lost one game in their first seven World Cup of 2002 qualification matches! If Belarus had defeated Wales and Poland had defeated Ukraine, Belarus would have finished second. They only needed two more points to advance, but none of that happened, and they came in third place. Since then, Belarus hasn't been nearly as fantastic!

#4 Syria

Source: AIFF Media

Although several nations got very close to doing so, Syria is one of the few that managed to do it more than once! Knowing that the team has never achieved any success at the continental level, seems rather unbelievable. They rarely qualify for the competition, hence their AFC Asian Cup record is forgettable. Additionally, they cannot go past the first round once they do, much like Scotland in the Euros! Syria first entered the FIFA World Cup qualifying process for the tournament in 1950 in Brazil, but it had to wait until 1986 to start competing in Asia.
In 1985, they comfortably won their group, advanced to the semifinals, and beat Bahrain there. Only Iraq remained on their path to the World Cup championships as a result, making Maradona a legend! As Iraq was compelled to host the second part outside of their own nation, as they frequently did, things seemed even brighter for Syria. Syria was eliminated after a dismal 0-0 performance in Damascus and a 3-1 loss in the second leg. They were eliminated by Australia with a goal in extra time in the final group stage of 2018, which unfortunately occurred to them. They finished third in that year's competition.

#3 Burkina Faso

Source: UGC

Up until the France 1998 competition, Burkina Faso, then known as Upper Volta, seldom participated in World Cup qualifying. They were still considered ordinary teams when they eventually started playing regularly. The country hadn't even advanced past the semifinals at the continental level until 1998 when they were hosting it. Their 2014 campaign, though, was something else entirely.
Burkina Faso was one of the top African teams throughout this cycle, as seen by their defeat in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations finals. They met Algeria in the last round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying after winning their group. Burkina Faso needed to maintain their perfect record in the second game after winning the previous game 3-2. However, Algeria qualified on the basis of away goals after scoring in the second half to win 1-0. Burkina Faso made an unsuccessful attempt to change the outcome by alleging that Algeria played an ineligible player.

#2 Liberia


Although it may sound harsh, some people were born in the wrong nation. Although George Weah was one of the top players in the 1990s, the Liberian national team had a dismal record. As a result, they had trouble making it to the African Cup of Nations. At the same time, Liberia had no desire to compete in the World Cup. The 2002 campaign, however, appeared to be a dream that might come true.
Weah, who was almost 34 when the qualifications started, continued to play at a higher level as Liberia advanced to the final round. Despite the fact that they needed to defeat the gang, nobody gave them a chance. That made sense because they faced competition from four other teams, including Ghana and Nigeria. Though they lost the opening game, Liberia went on to upset Nigeria and Ghana and take the lead after beating Sierra Leone and Sudan. The squad was still in first place even after losing to Nigeria, therefore a victory over Ghana at home was required. However, the visitors, who had already been eliminated, won 2-1 and dashed all hopes for Liberia. George Weah is still regarded as one of the finest players who has never been in the World Cup.

#1 Bahrain


Bahrain entered the international stage for the 1978 FIFA World Cup since it was a long-time British colony. Given that they just once in the 20th century qualified for the Asian Cup, it is hardly surprising that they weren't particularly competitive even at the continental level. However, after making it to the semifinals in 2004, their luck started to change. The successful performance gave them hope to go into their 2006 FIFA World Cup campaign.
Bahrain advanced to the final group stage with Japan, Iran, and North Korea after easily advancing through the first rounds. Despite only collecting four points in six games, they managed to secure third place, advance to the next round, and defeat Uzbekistan on away goals. Finally, Trinidad and Tobago faced a battle against Bahrain in an inter-confederation play-off after Bahrain managed to draw the opening game 1-1 on the road. Bahrain lost at home, shattering their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup even though a scoreless draw would have done so. They finished third in the final group stage four years later. But in the next round, Saudi Arabia eliminated them.
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