The Absolute Worst Football Teams to Appear at a World Cup

When you take a look back at the World Cup history, you rarely think about the team that finished last. History praises the winners and oftentimes forgets the losers.

But today we will give honor to the worst teams to ever appear in FIFA World Cup history.

Time to shine a light on the teams that most of you have forgotten.

Zaire (1974)

Zaire is the first Sub-Saharan team to qualify for the World Cup. But they would rather forget all about it.

After losing their inaugural match against Scotland 2-0, they suffered an embarrassing defeat against Yulsoavia of 9-0 in their second leg.

The country’s president (and dictator) Mobutu Sese Seko told the team that they shouldn’t bother coming back if they lose with more than a 3-goal margin in their last fixture against Brazil. They did lose 3-0 and witnesses say that they were allowed to go back to the country.

El Salvador (1982)

El Salvador came to the 1982 World Cup in the midst of civil war. After a dismal showing at the 1970 World Cup, they were hard pressed to score their first goal at the biggest football stage. They did manage to score that goal in the opening game against Hungary, but the Hungarians bagged 10.

It was the worst showing in World Cup history as Salvador did manage to save face with two more defeats in the group stage against Belgium (1-0) and Argentina (2-0).

Saudi Arabia (2002)

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Saudi Arabia was happy that they were simply there and coach Nasser al-Johar was assured that his position was safe despite the results. But things started shifting after one of the worst football displays in World Cup history after they lost their inaugural match against Germany by 8-0.

Two more defeats against Cameroon (1-0) and the Republic of Ireland (3-0) didn’t help.

The Saudi side was the first one to get packing home and al-Jorah was the first coach without a job.

North Korea (2010)

The North Korean side was the worst-ranked team at the 2010 World Cup as they were the 105th team on FIFA’s list. The entire team was accused that they will be betraying their leader Kim Jong-il and the entire nation of North Korea if they lose a single match. They lost the first fixture against Brazil 2-1 as one of the biggest underdogs in World Cup history.

But a bigger embarrassment came with a thrashing against Portugal as they lost 7-0 and finished the completion with a 3-0 loss against Ivory Coast. An investigation was later launched to assure the safety of the players that came back to North Korea.

China (2002)

C Ling Fan from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia / CC BY (

This was the first-ever and only appearance for the Chinese side at the World Cup stage.

Since then, the Chinese Football Association has funded its league and national team with millions in an attempt to get their team to win a title one day. But in 2002, they started their campaign against the eventual winners, Brazil.

They lost 4-0 against Brazil, 2-0 versus Costa Rica, and 3-0 to Turkey.

This was also the first time that Bora Milutinovic, then coach of China, failed to qualify for the elimination round of the World Cup having achieved that on four occasions before with four different teams including Costa Rica, Nigeria, USA, and Mexico.

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