Memorable World Cup Qualifying Matches
no preliminary competition
11,06.1933: Sweden 6 Estonia 2 The first qualifying competition match in World Cup history. Estonia are outplayed by Sweden. History repeats itself, when four years later, almost to the very day, the small Baltic nation is again eliminated from the World Cup qualifiers by the same opponents.
05.10.1937: Austria 2 Latvia 1 Despite qualifying for the finals in France, Austria do not take part in the event after the nation is annexed by Germany.
11.12.1949: Yugoslavia 3 France 2 a.e.t. The first ever match to go into extra time, this dramatic play-off in Florence is decided by Cajkovski’s winning goal five minutes from the end.
14.02.1954: Paraguay 4 Chile 0 More than twenty years after Europe’s first ever World Cup qualifying match, South America finally follows suit. Paraguay and Chile contest the ground-breaking fixture.
15.01.1958: Nothern Ireland 2 Italy 1 A match that came about under strange circumstances and resulted in Italy’s only ever failure to make it through the World Cup preliminary competition. Northern Ireland’s success is followed by Wales two weeks later, thus completing a full quartet of British qualifiers for the World Cup finals in Sweden.
15.10.1961: Israel 2 Italy 4
In an interesting twist, Jose Altafini takes the field for Italy four years after winning the World Cup with Brazil under the name of Mazzola.
21.11.1965: Korea DPR 6 Australia 1 24.11.1965: Korea DPR 3 Australia 1 In a dazzling debut on football’s biggest stage, Korea DPR celebrate a pair of victories over Australia in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, to qualify for the finals in England.
26.10.1969: Morocco 3 Sudan 0 Morocco beat Sudan, who would later go on to win the African Cup of Nations, to become the first African team to reach the finals after going through the preliminary competition – Egypt had taken part in the 1934 finals but had not had to qualify,
17.10.1973: England 1 Poland 1 Goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski is Poland’s hero after making a series of miraculous stops at Wembley to secure his country’s first appearance in the finals since 1938.
09.03.1977: Brazil 6 Colombia 0 The Maracana attracts a record crowd of 162,764 as Zico and co. hit the Colombians for six.
10.01.1982: New Zealand 2 China PR 1 In a dramatic play-off, China come close to qualifying for the finals for the first time, but are ultimately overturned by World Cup finals debutants New Zealand.
20.11.1985: Netherlands 2 Belgium 1 In one of international football’s classic derbies, the Netherlands have their ticket to the World Cup finals snatched away five minutes before time when Georges Grun scores the crucial away goal that gives Belgium a spot in Mexico at the expense of their neighbours.
03.09.1989: Brazil 2 Chile 0
One of the most infamous chapters in World Cup history is written when Chile goalkeeper Roberto Rojas feigns injury after claiming to have been hit by a firework and leaves the pitch covered in blood. When Rojas’s deception is later uncovered, he is handed a lengthy ban and his association is thrown out of the FIFA World Cup™.
28.10.1993: Japan 2 Iraq 2;
Saudi Arabia 4 Iran 3
Drama in Doha: Iraq’s equaliser and a Saudi Arabia winner, both in the last minute of their respective games, astonishingly deny Japan a finals spot in the USA.
17.11.1993: France 1 Bulgaria 2
Drama in Paris: Emil Kostadinov’s last-gasp winner sinks French hopes of World Cup qualification, sparking comparisons with 1961 when Bulgaria also saw off France in a decisive qualifier.
29.10.1997: Croatia 2 Ukraine 0 15.11.1997: Ukraine 1 Croatia 1 The World Cup play-offs bring together two “new” European nations. Croatia emerges the winners and go on to cause a stir in the finals in France,
11.04.2001: Australia 31 American Samoa 0
The Oceania qualifiers see a new goalscoring record, not only for World Cup qualifiers but all full international matches. Archie Thompson scores 13 times to set another all-time best.
20.06.2004: Angola 1 Nigeria 0 Angola’s late winner proves to be a huge handicap for the Super Eagles’ qualifying campaign, which they ultimately fail to overcome. Angola reach the finals along with Cote d’lvoire, Togo and Ghana. Tunisia are the only representatives of Africa’s “old guard” to make it.