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One hit wonders: Five unlikely nations who featured at the World Cup

Underdogs Panama will make their debut at the 2018 World Cup after qualifying for Russia on Tuesday, FFT features five nations who also made it to football’s biggest stage just once – including a territory in Southeast Asia…

1. Dutch East Indies (Indonesia)

Now you can impress your friends by telling them that yes, one Southeast Asian nation has indeed qualified for the World Cup…technically.
Prior to their independence from the Netherlands, the Dutch East Indies (present day Indonesia) featured in the 1938 World Cup in France and became the first Asian nation to do so.

But their qualification was almost a gift – with one designated place in Asia contested by two teams (Japan later withdrew).

It was little surprise then that the Dutch East Indies lost 0-6 in their first game to Hungary and were eliminated.

Indonesia were suspended from international football in 2015, which was later lifted, but that ruled them out of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.


2. Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo)

They only made one appearance at football’s biggest tournament – in 1974, but Zaire (present day DR Congo) produced one of the most bizarre moments the World Cup has ever seen.

The team’s campaign began with a 2-0 loss to Scotland, before a 9-0 humilation in the hands of Yugoslavia.

In their final game with Brazil, the already-eliminated African side were down 2-0 and the Brazilians had a free-kick to extend their lead.

A Zaire defender dashed out from the wall, booted the ball upfield and was booked for his troubles. The team were allegedly told by the country’s ruler/dictator Mobutu Sese Seko that they could not return home if they lost by more than four goals.

Brazil still went on score, but Zaire could stil return home as they only lost 3-0.

On the bright side, DR Congo can still qualify for their second World Cup, in 2018, if they win their final group game and group leaders Tunisia lose.


The Canadians made their sole World Cup appearance in 1986, after beating Honduras 2-1 in the qualification stages.

Not only did they qualify, but it rubbed salt into the wound for neighbours United States, who failed to make the cut for the tournament.

Canada have not qualified for the World Cup since 1986

They failed to score and a goal and lost all three games in Mexico but a dogged performance in a 1-0 loss to Michel Platini’s France was an admirable achievement.

Canada was knocked out in the second round of the 2018 World Cup qualification.

4. Haiti

Where the other four countries in this list failed at the World Cup, Haiti succeeded, scoring not one, but two goals at the 1974 World Cup.

It couldn’t stop them from being eliminated however, as they lost all three of their group games against tough opponents – Hungary, Italy and Argentina.

But their moment in the spotlight came against Italy, when striker Emmanuel Sanon would beat one of the greatest goalkeepers in the world, Dino Zoff, to put the unfancied minnows ahead.

While Italy went on to win the game 3-1, the goal remains a legendary one, even after Sanon died in 2008.

Haiti are out of the running to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

5. Iraq

As far as heads of football associations go, Uday Hussein, son of Sadaam Hussein has to be the worst of the lot.

Uday took charge of the Iraq football association in 1985 and was known to threaten, torture and beat players if results did not go Iraq’s way.

Iraq made it to the World Cup but only scored one goal

But it was also under his reign that the Iraqi team accomplished their greatest achievement to this day, qualifying for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

But that was as good as it got, as Iraq lost all three of their games, scoring one goal in a 2-1 loss to Belgium.

Iraq were knocked out in the third round of qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

Zaire Team Photo:


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