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The worst World Cup teams ever

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.



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RB Leipzig End Liverpool’s Hopes of Early Naby Keita Move

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Naby Keita will not be allowed to ditch Leipzig for ​Liverpool in January, regardless of progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League, according to Leipziger Volkszeitung.

It was announced during the summer that Liverpool had met Keita’s release clause and the Guinean midfielder would move to Anfield at the end of the 2017/18 season. 

However, recent speculation suggested that die Roten Bullen could be persuaded into letting Keita leave the club during the winter transfer window.

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“Even if we should not reach the knockout stages of Champions League, it would make no sense to allow Naby to join Liverpool earlier,” said RB Leipzig sporting director, Ralf Rangnick.

“We want to qualify for Europe again, and we need Naby for that.”

Leipzig have won just one Champions League game this season, with defeats to FC Porto and Besiktas making progression to the knockout stages a difficult task this year.

Following their impressive maiden season in the Bundesliga, in which RB Leipzig finished ahead of Borussia Dortmund, the Red Bulls will be desperate to make sure their Champions League status continues next season.

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The 22-year-old has struggled to replicate the incredible form he showed last year since the announcement of his move next summer. 

Questions about Keita’s disciplinary record have also arisen this season, the midfielder seeing three red cards for club and country in less than one month.



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Man Utd’s fixture list up to Carabao Cup final including Barcelona & Leeds clashes

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Manchester United reached their first final under Erik ten Hag by securing safe passage through the Carabao Cup semi finals at the expense of Nottingham Forest.

The Red Devils have enjoyed a brilliant run of form after their infamous defeats to Brighton and Brentford to start the season. They’re firmly in the Champions League qualification mix and remain alive in the FA Cup and Europa League.

However, their commitments in cup competitions means Ten Hag faces a tough February as he tries to balance the playing time of a squad that has recently been struck by injuries to key players.

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Here’s United’s truncated schedule leading up to the Carabao Cup final, including some juicy derbies and European fixtures.

Michael Olise, David De Gea

Olise denied Man Utd with a late free kick last time out / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Fresh from sealing their spot in the Carabao Cup final against Newcastle, United are back into Premier League matters when they host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday 4 February in a 15:00 GMT kick off.

The two sides duked it out earlier a few weeks ago in their first meeting of the season as a late Michael Olise free-kick earned Palace a point after Bruno Fernandes’ strike just before half time.

Manchester United and Leeds are fierce rivals and the tension between the two teams has risen again following Leeds’ promotion to the Premier League.

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The Red Devils have scored 15 goals in the four meetings in that time, only failing to win once when they were held to a goalless draw in April 2021. The fixture was originally postponed following Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September and will take place on Wednesday 8 February at 20:00 GMT.

Fred, Anthony Elanga

Fred and Elanga struck at Elland Road last season / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

That fixture rearrangement means the two Uniteds will face each other twice in four days.

In this fixture last season, two headless chickens went at it as Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds were downed 4-2 by Ralf Rangnick’s Man Utd. Goals from Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes had the visitors 2-0 up before two goals in two minutes from Rodrigo and Raphinha squared things up.

Substitutes Fred and Anthony Elanga gave the Red Devils all three points. However, they would win only three more league games before the end of the season.

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The stakes are really upped in mid February when Man Utd travel to Barcelona to face the Catalan giants at Camp Nou in the Europa League knockout play-off round.

It’s Barça who hold the edge in recent meetings, having won the past four games between the two sides.

Once they return home from the trip to Catalonia, United have a home game against Leicester to contend with.

The Foxes have endured some turbulent form this season but have mostly been a mess at the back, though the sides were only separated by Jadon Sancho’s strike they met back in September.

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Lionel Messi

A lot has changed since United and Barça last met in 2019 / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

The return leg of the Europa League knockout play-off round will determine who between United and Barça continue in the continent’s secondary club competition.

United’s last win over Barça came at Old Trafford in 2008 when Paul Scholes scored the only goal of a Champions League semi final tie to send his side to final in Moscow.

Two of the most improved sides this season meet in the Carabao Cup final in late February when Newcastle face Man Utd.

Both sides are eyeing up Champions League qualification and each sit in the top four currently and this meeting could be an opportunity to land a significant psychological blow.

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Player ratings as Catalans pull clear in La Liga

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Barcelona survived a late scare against Real Betis to secure a 2-1 win and at least temporarily extend their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points before Real Madrid play on Thursday night.

Barça went into the game at Benito Villamarin knowing they had the opportunity to start pulling away from their fierce rivals in Madrid. But it took until well into the second half for the breakthrough to come, with Raphinha and later Robert Lewandowski eventually netting.

An own goal from Joules Kounde in the closing stages threatened to make it a difficult end for Xavi’s team, but they managed to see it out. Betis midfielder William Carvalho, who had already been substituted with an hour played, was then sent off for dissent at the game’s conclusion.

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Betis were actually the first to threaten in the contest, seeing Luiz Henrique only narrowly miss an early chance when his shot was deflected just wide by Alejandro Balde.

Pedri had a chance for Barça at the other end not long after, but his touch in the penalty area wasn’t sharp enough and Rui Silva in the home goal got down to pick the ball off his toe.

Silva again denied Pedri after the restart, but Raphinha broke the deadlock in the 65th minute. The Brazilian, whose debut season hasn’t been a rip-roaring success, tapped in from close range after excellent work from Balde down the left flank.

Lewandowski’s ultimately decisive second was from only a little further out, pounced on by the Pole after Ronald Araujo flicked on Raphinha’s cross.

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That cushion was enough for Barça and ensured that Kounde’s own goal mattered little in the end.

GK: Silva (6); RB: Ruibal (7), CB: Pezzella (6), CB: Felipe (6), LB: Abner (6); CM: Rodriguez (6), CM: Carvalho (5); RM: Henrique (7), AM: Fekir (6), LM: Canales (6); ST: Iglesias (6)

Subs: Guardado (6), Juanmi (6), Rodri (6), Jose (5), Sabaly (6)

GK: Ter Stegen (6); RB: Kounde (6), CB: Araujo (7), CB: Chistensen (7), LB: Balde (8); CM: De Jong (7), CM: Busquets (8), CM: Pedri (7); RW: Raphinha (8), ST: Lewandowski (7), LW: Gavi (7)

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Subs: Fati (5), Torres (N/A), Kessie (N/A)

Player of the match – Alejandro Balde (Barcelona)



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