the crazy stories of qualifying for the World Cup


Salvador 1970, when football starts a war

We continue with the qualification of the El Salvador team for the 1970 World Cup. To obtain the precious sesame, the Selecta finds itself opposed to Honduras. A meeting that smells of powder
: Tensions are high between the two Central American nations.

El Salvador is small, overpopulated and the land is very unevenly distributed between large landowners and peasants. Many Salvadorans are therefore leaving their country to reach neighboring Honduras, which is larger and less populated. Tensions are gradually rising between locals and immigrants, exacerbated by the leaders of the two countries and the media.


It is in this context that the first two matches are played: a first leg in Honduras and a return leg in El Salvador. Violence erupts around the second: Honduran supporters are abused and major scuffles occur, with two victims.

Revenge is not long in coming: in their country, Hondurans violently attack Salvadoran immigrants. Riots break out, several people die, without a reaction from the public authorities.

With both countries winning a game, a final takes place in Mexico City as media on both sides fan the flames. New violence surrounds it, making new victims. El Salvador wins, but the Hondurans cry cheating.





The two parties openly criticize each other, in particular through the voice of their governments. A few hours after the meeting, skirmishes took place on the border between the two countries. The war finally broke out three weeks later, lasting four days and killing around 3,000 people. before the intervention of the Organization of American States.

In the history books, it is called the “Hundred Hours War” or, even if the sport was only a catalyst for already high tensions, “the football war”. El Salvador will finally be eliminated in the group stage, losing their three matches.

Trinidad and Tobago 2006, the obstacle course

If there is one hard-won World Cup qualification, it is Trinidad and Tobago for the 2006 edition. The tiny Caribbean island nation had to play 20 qualifying matches to win the first, and so far only, ticket for a World Cup in its history.

After having disposed of the Dominican Republic in the first round (2-0 and 4-0), the Trinidadians go through two group stages, playing six then ten games and notably offering themselves a prestigious victory against Mexico (2-1 ).





Finally fourth in the Concacaf qualifications, they offered themselves the possibility of playing a play-off match against the fifth in the Asia zone: Bahrain.

The two teams neutralize each other in the first leg, in Trinidad and Tobago (1-1). The second leg turned in favor of the visitors, who won 0-1. After 20 matches played (11 wins, 2 draws, 7 losses) between June 13, 2004 and November 16, 2005, that’s it: the Trinidadians are qualified!

The icing on the cake, despite their status as Tom Thumb of the competition, they managed to draw against Sweden and stand up to England, only conceding the opener after 75 minutes of play. Defeated by Paraguay in the last match, they finally left the World Cup without a win, but with their heads held high.

Cuba and Dutch East Indies 1938 serial packages

The third World Cup, organized in 1938, brought together fifteen teams in France. Among these, for the first time, are notably Cuba and an Asian selection: that of the Dutch East Indies.

If that doesn’t ring a bell, know that these are all the islands colonized by the Netherlands in Southeast Asia, which will become Indonesia after gaining their independence a few years later. But in 1938, it was indeed a Dutch colony.





These qualifications for the World Cup remain, to date, the only ones in the history of the two nations, obtained under improbable conditions.

Thirty-five countries are registered to try to obtain a ticket, but eight withdraw in protest against the organization of the competition in Europe. Among them, Japan, the only opponent of the East Indies for the Asia zone. FIFA then decided to organize a play-off with the United States… which in turn forfeited! And hop, here is the archipelago qualified without playing for the World Cup!





Cuba also took advantage of this American withdrawal, but also of those of Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, El Salvador and Dutch Guiana, to become the first Caribbean country to participate in the World Cup. Brazil and Romania, who had already played in previous World Cups, also qualified without playing the qualifiers thanks to this cascade of packages.

Germany(s) 1974, a story of symbols

In the midst of the Cold War, the 1974 World Cup was organized in the Federal Republic of Germany, West Germany. And for the first (and only) time appears, among the qualifiers… the Democratic Republic of Germany, East Germany.

A draw takes place in January to divide the 16 teams on the starting line into four groups. The GDR then inherits Australia, but above all from Chile, where the Pinochet junta has just overthrown the socialist government, and from the West German rival. East Germany won against the Australians, then snatched a draw against Chile, before the famous clash.

This RFA-RDA match takes place on June 22. West Germany, reigning European champions, are the big favourites.





But against all odds, the East won thanks to a goal from Jürgen Sparwasser. The end of the match is symbolic: the GDR players treat themselves to a stadium tour in a crowded Volksparkstadion in Hamburg.





Unique meeting between the two Germanys (excluding Olympic selections), this RFA-RDA, much more than an ideological confrontation, is a symbol of appeasementtwo years after the signing of the fundamental treaty in which the two states mutually recognize their sovereignty.



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