Top 10 worst World Cup teams
Losing two games by a combined 16-0 cements South Korea 1954 as worst ever
Zaire's 1974 players essentially quit after learning they would not be paid
Not even miracle-working coach Bora Milutinovic could save China's 2002 squad
Even the hippest parties have somebody who looks strangely out of place, and the World Cup is no different. Here is a run down of the poorest sides ever to play in football's premier competition.
Just as with any discussion of the best World Cup teams, top spot on this particular list is a no-brainer. Many sides have been thrashed but South Korea is the only to take a hammering in more than one game at the same tournament. Losing 9-0 to Hungary's Magnificent Magyars was no disgrace, but a7-0 defeat to Turkey -- who themselves lost 7-2 to West Germany -- was much more ignominious. Korea's captain even played in glasses, a nice image of a team who were far too genteel to mix with the big boys.
Every small boy dreams about breaking records at the World Cup, but not like this. El Salvador was on the wrong end of the biggest defeat in the history of the tournament: a 10-1 thumping by Hungary. Unlike South Korea's defeat in 1954, this was an embarrassment: Hungary's 1982 side was hardly vintage, and failed to reach the second round despite that victory. El Salvador, who themselves qualified for the tournament despite scoring only two goals in five games, salvaged some pride in their subsequent group games, losing only 1-0 to Belgium and 2-0 to Argentina, but those are not the matches for which they are remembered.
It's one of the World Cup's more iconic images: Mwepu Ilunga charging from a defensive wall to boot the ball clear before Brazil had even taken a free-kick. Zaire actually only lost that game 3-0 -- respectable against the world champions -- but were earlier trounced 9-0 by Yugoslavia. This, in truth, was a little deceptive: Zaire was completely demoralized, having found out before the game that they would not be paid. But not even a mother could love a record of played 3, lost 3, scored 0, conceded 14.
The massive scorelines of early World Cups were supposed to be a thing of the past, but Saudi Arabia evoked those black-and-white days with a defensive performance of glorious ineptitude against Germany in 2002. They lost 8-0 -- the only time since 1982 that a team has conceded more than six -- and looked likely to concede every time Germany crossed the ball. Five of the goals came from headers. Defeats to Cameroon (1-0) and Ireland (3-0) completed the most ignominious of modern campaigns.
For Greece, the only way is up. In its only previous appearance, in 1994, Greece threatened to redefine the word 'shambles'. They became the first European side to lose three group games without scoring a goal, and their shortcomings were painfully apparent from the first minute of their first game when, quite astonishingly, they allowed Argentina to have a four-on-one-attack. That culminated in a goal for Gabriel Batistuta, and the match ended 4-0. Bulgaria repeated the result, and Greece concluded the most miserable of debut campaigns by losing 2-0 to Nigeria. Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks, they surely won't repeat this nadir.
The most incongruous of all qualifiers, the Dutch East Indies did not spend long at the top table. They are the only side that has played just a single game at the World Cup, and were spanked 6-0 by the eventual finalists Hungary. Cris Freddi, this competition's premier historian, described it as "the first real World Cup mismatch." No wonder: nine of the Dutch East Indies side were making their debut, and they only reached the finals because Japan withdrew from their qualification group.
They may have been drawn in a tough group, but the UAE looked hopelessly out of their depth. A 2-0 defeat by Colombia was followed by a pasting from West Germany in a monsoon in Milan -- they were extremely lucky to loseonly 5-1 -- and another 4-1 beating at the feet of Yugoslavia. They were occasionally nifty going forward, but dismally porous in defense. With the exception of Saudi Arabia in 2002, no side in the past 25 years have conceded as many goals in the group stages.
They looked like dark horses beforehand, having qualified unbeaten and ahead of Spain, but it soon became clear that Serbia and Montenegro were fit for the knackers' yard. They barely bothered chasing the shadows never mind the Argentina players in a 6-0 defeat, and they even found a way to lose after taking a 2-0 lead in the final, meaningless match against the Ivory Coast.
The first team to lose to an African side at the World Cup. Despite the presence of a teenage Hugo Sanchez, who would become their great player, Mexico were simply diabolical in Argentina in 1978. They were hammered 3-1 by Tunisia, despite taking the lead, eviscerated 6-0 by West Germany and, to cap off a miserable 10 days, hammered 4-1 by Poland.
You know a team is bad if Bora Milutinovic can't get it beyond the first round. Milutinovic is one of the World Cup's great managers, a hired gun who took Mexico, Costa Rica, USA and Nigeria out of the group stages in consecutive World Cups from 1986 to 2002. He tried to make it five in a row with China, but they ended up pointless and goal-less. Their players, mostly based with Chinese clubs, lacked nous and they were blown away: 4-0 by Brazil, 3-0 by Turkey and 2-0 by Costa Rica.
Rob Smyth has written for The Guardian, FourFourTwo, the official Manchester United magazine, Intelligent Life and GQ Style.
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