19 November, 2009

Semi-interesting Trivia About the 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Another set of the Football World Cup qualifying matches are over. To celebrate, here is a list of semi-interesting things I found out about the history of the qualification (from Wikipedia of course). Be prepared to be inundated by mundanity:

  • A total of 204 countries attempted to battle their way to the World Cup, only 31 teams succeeded. South Africa, being the host, qualified directly.
  • There are no debutants in this edition of the Football World Cup Finals, meaning all qualified countries have reached the pinnacle of football at least once. As far as I know this is a first, every World Cup Finals in the past have hosted at least one debutant.
  • The six teams with the least experience in Cup Finals (i.e. two appearances only) are: North Korea (last appeared in 1966), Honduras & New Zealand (1982), Greece (1994), Slovenia (2002) and Ivory Coast (2006) .
  • Technically, this should be Serbia (of former Yugoslavia) and Slovakia (of former Czechoslovakia) first Finals appearance. But they were represented in the past by various former names.
  • The African continent have four debutants (out of five tickets) in 2006, the previous Finals. This time around, all of the their qualifiers should be seasoned campaigners. In my humble opinion, South Africa and Algeria would struggle, though Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria are good chance of going through to the knockout rounds.
  • North Korea and South Korea will appear in next year Finals together, the first time this has happened. Hopefully they won't meet in a quarter finals, and one side being beaten contentiously, thus sparking a nuclear war in the Korean peninsula.
  • Since 1958, USSR have qualified for every Finals, except for 1974 and 1978. After the dissolution of the USSR, former soviet states Russia have qualified in 1994 and 2002, with Ukraine achieving it in 2006.
  • In 2010 however, neither Russia, Ukraine nor any other former soviet states will join the big football party, a first since 1998.
  • The former state of Yugoslavia will be represented in 2010 by two independent states : Serbia and Slovenia.
  • Their cousin Bosnia-Herzegovina came close to qualifying but could not overcome Portugal at the last hurdle. With Croatia coming a narrow third in their group, imagine what they could have achieved together if they didn't split up their former country in the first place. Wishful thinking I know.
  • Interestingly, all of the former champions: Brazil (5 times champ), Italy (4), Germany (3), Uruguay & Argentina (twice each) and England & France (once each) have all qualified for 2010 edition of the World Cup. All of them easily top their respective qualifying groups, except for France, Uruguay and Argentina.
  • Argentina struggled late with their qualifying matches, only to qualify in the last gasp by beating Uruguay in the South America's final home-and-away league game. The Argentine ended on fourth of their group, the last automatic qualifying spots.
  • Uruguay ended up fifth and need to playoff against the Central America's Costa Rica to get through. Similar to what they have to do in their 2002 and 2006 campaigns.
  • France struggled early and managed to sneak in by beating Rep. of Ireland in the last dying minutes of their playoff game.
  • Brazil have never failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Finals... Joga Bonito Brasil!


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