KUWAIT Arab football has realized many of its local and regional achievements since inception but qualifying for the World Cup has a special taste among football fans, as only eight Arab teams made it to the globe’s most watched football championship since 1930.
Qualifying for the World Cup is a key challenge for Arab national football teams. Egypt was the first Arab and African team to play in the second World Cup in 1934, but no Arab teams made it to the championship since until Morocco brought back Arab participation in the 1970 cup in Mexico.
No Arab team played in the 1974 World Cup in Germany, but Tunisia managed to qualify for the next championship in Argentina in 1978.
Saudi Arabia and Tunisia are the two Arab countries with most appearances in the World Cup, five times each. Algeria made it to the World Cup four times, Egypt three, and one time for each of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iraq.
Egypt meanwhile played a single match in the 1934 World Cup. It was defeated by Hungary 4-2 to leave the tournament, which was won by Italy for the first time in its history.
Egypt, also known as Pharaohs, disappeared from World Cup competitions for 56 years until playing in the 1990 edition. The Pharaohs played three games in the group stages, two draws and one loss and thus left the championship.
Egypt qualified for this year World Cup in Russia, due between June 14 and July 15, and was in the same group of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay.
Morocco was the second Arab team to qualify for the World Cup, in 1970 in Mexico. During that tournament, Morocco played three matches in group stages but lost two of them and could not qualify for the next round.
However, the Moroccans did a better job in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, qualifying for the round of 16th to the first Arab and African team reaching this stage.
Morocco, in that tournament, drew against England and Poland but beat Portugal 3-1. However, they lost to Germany 1-0 and were eliminated.
Morocco, also known as Lions of Atlas, qualified for the 1994 World Cup in the US, but left the championship from the first round where the team suffered three straight defeats.
The 1998 World Cup in France also saw Morocco’s participation. Again, the team left the championship from the group stages, suffering two defeats.
The Moroccans are facing a tough challenge in next month’s World Cup because their group include Portugal, Spain and Iran.
Tunisia’s first participation in the World Cup was in 1978 in Argentina, where it achieved the first victory for an Arab and African team by beating Mexico 3-1.
However, the Tunisians left the World Cup from the group stages after being beaten by Poland by one goal and ended their clash against then West Germany goalless.
The Tunisians, better known as Eagles of Carthage, moved to the round of 16th in the 1998 World Cup in France, but left the 2002 World Cup that was jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan from the group stages.
The Eagles of Carthage also qualified for the 2002 World Cup in Germany, 2010 in South Africa and 2014 in Brazil. They were knocked out from group stages in the three championships.
Tunisia’s group in this year’s World Cup includes Belgium, Panama and England.
Kuwait was the first Arab and Asian team to qualify for the World Cup in Spain in 1982.
The Blue equalized with then Czechoslovakia but lost to France and Algeria to be eliminated from group stages.
Algeria also played in the 1982 World Cup but was knocked out from the first round.
The Algerians, the Desert Worriers, played in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico but was unlucky to also leave the tournament from the first round.
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil saw a different Algerian team. The Desert Worriers beat South Korea 4-2 and equalized with Russia to move to the round of 16th. However, the Algerians lost to Germany by thrilling one goal to leave the championship.
The 1986 World Cup saw Iraq competing for the first time, but the Lions of Mesopotamia lost all three matches and was eliminated.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) made it to the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The Emiratis lost all three games.
Saudi Arabia made an achievement by moving to the round of 16 in the 1994 World Cup in the US but lost 3-1 to Sweden in the second round. The Green Falcons also reached the World Cups in 1998, 2002 and 2006. They were eliminated from group stages in the three championships.
Source: Kuwait News Agency