Worst Teams in World Cup History

North Korea

Almost every World Cup has a team, usually the champions, which remain carved into our memories forever. However, the same can be said about the worst teams to appear in these tournaments, who don’t only lose all three group matches, but look extremely terrible doing so as well.

The most recent example can be North Korea, unluckily drawn into the group of death back in 2010. One interesting emerging pattern is that plenty of teams ending up with historically bad performances played either Brazil or West Germany / Germany in the group stage.

Mexico, 1950

Mexico 1950

Despite having Antonio Carbajal, who played in five consecutive World Cups, Mexico didn’t really make an impact in Brazil, losing all three group stage matches against the hosts (0-4), Yugoslavia (1-4) and Switzerland (1-2), finding it extremely difficult during the post World War II years to compete with European and South American teams.

Switzerland, 1966

In 2014, Switzerland will appear for the 10th time in the World Cup. In 1966 they put in their worst performance before going on a 28 year-absence from the tournament. They scored only one goal, conceding nine, during a group stage fiasco that included losing 5-0 to West Germany, 2-0 to Argentina and 2-1 to Spain.

El Salvador, 1970

A year earlier El Salvador and Honduras went out to a 100-hour war over football. In the World Cup itself, the tiny Central American nation lost all three matches without scoring a goal, facing Mexico, Belgium and the Soviet Union. In their match with the hosts (Mexico), while the score was still 0-0, Egyptian referee Hussain Kandil awarded a free kick to El Salvador in their own half. However a Mexican player took the free-kick, passing to another Mexican player who scored. The Salvadoran players protested vigorously, to the extent of physically jostling Bermudan linesman Keith Dunstan, but the goal was allowed to stand. El Salvador restarted the game by kicking the ball into the crowd in protest. They eventually lost the game 4–0.

Zaire, 1974


Now named DR Congo, Zaire scored 0 goals and conceded 14, facing Yugoslavia, losing 9-0 (still a World Cup record), 2-0 to Scotland and 3-0 to Brazil, a match which included the famous moment of  Mwepu Ilunga running out of the wall and kicking a Brazilian kick upfield, which according to him was a blatant effort to get sent off. Zaire were the first Sub-Saharan nation to make the World Cup.

Haiti, 1974

The World Cup in West Germany was filled with bad sides, and Haiti weren’t excempt from that label by the end of the tournament, despite their shocking opening goal against Italy in the group opener, scored by Emmanuel Sanon. Italy beat them 3-1, followed by a 7-0 crushing against Poland and losing 4-1 to Argentina.

Mexico, 1978

Another terrible tournament from Mexico in the years before they became a permanent fixture in the round of 16. They were seeded with Tunisia, West Germany and Poland, losing to Tunisia to start with 3-1, followed by a 6-0 thrashing against West Germany and losing 3-1 to Poland.

El Salvador, 1982

World Cups haven’t been kind to El Salvador on both their trips, making the second one just as bad, losing 10-1 to Hungary, 1-0 to Belgium and 2-0 against Argentina. The team consisted of only 20 players due to economic problems, as the Salvadoran Football Association decided to take a few friends of the association in exchange for such players that had participated in the qualification process. By the way, those friends never took part with the team in the notorious World Cup but did take a trip around Europe.

New Zealand, 1982

The first World Cup for the Kiwis was very different from their 2010 experience, losing all three matches in a group with Brazil, the Soviet Unioin and Scotland. They were thrashed 5-2 by the Scots, 3-0 by the USSR and 4-0 by Brazil.

UAE, 1990

UAE 1990

The United Arab Emirates have made the World Cup only once, losing all three matches in that unique experience in a group that included Colombia, Yugoslavia and West Germany, the eventual champions. They opened with a 2-0 loss to Colombia, followed by a 5-1 defeat against the Germans and ending with a 4-1 defeat against Yugoslavia.

Greece, 1994

Before being European Champions and a team most neutrals love to hate for their style, the Greeks were a bad football team, needing plenty of years to start pushing funds towards sports, first developing basketball until getting to soccer. The were drawn into a very tough group, ending up conceding 10 goals and not scoring one, losing 4-0 to Argentina, 4-0 to Bulgaria and 2-0 to Nigeria.

China, 2002

China 2002

Under the direction of head coach Bora Milutinović, plenty of nations make the World Cup. However, it doesn’t promise them further success, as China failed to score a single goal in their only World Cup to date, losing 2-0 to Costa Rica, 4-0 to Brazil and 3-0 to Turkey.

Saudi Arabia, 2002

The non-host Asian nations failed in this tournament, as the awfulness of the Saudis was a bit more surprising than the one exhibited by China. Making the third of four consecutive World Cup appearances, they failed to score a single goal, losing 8-0 to Germany, 1-0 to Cameroon and 3-0 against the Republic of Ireland.

North Korea, 2010

Drawn into the group of death, their second World Cup appearance wasn’t nearly as successful as the first from 44 years before. They played with Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal, losing 2-1 to the Brazilians, 7-0 to Portugal and 3-0 to the Ivorian side.

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