Dubai: In light of Egypt’s first World Cup qualification in 28 years and Syria’s spirited run to the play-offs where they lost to Australia this week, we look back at the history of Arab countries at the tournament.
Egypt joins Saudi Arabia as the two Arab nations to have confirmed their place at next summer’s World Cup in Russia, so far. They could still be joined by Morocco and Tunisia, who have games pending on November 11.
If four nations make it through it would be the highest Arab attendance at a World Cup ever.
1982 – Overcame Sierre Leone, Sudan, Niger and Nigeria over four knockout rounds of Caf qualifying to reach their first World Cup in Spain in 1982. Once there they famously beat West Germany 2-1, lost to Austria 2-0 and beat Chile 3-2, but still went out in the group phase because West Germany and Austria allegedly conspired in their last game. If West Germany had beaten Austria by more than one goal Algeria would have gone through at the expense of Austria, so West Germany just scored one and both sides played out the match in what became known as the ‘Disgrace of Gijon’. Rabah Madjer and Lakhdar Belloumi scored against West Germany, while Salah Assad got two and Tedj Bensaoula scored the third against Chile.
1986 – Got a first round bye in Caf qualifying before beating Angola, Zambia and Tunisia to reach the finals. In Mexico they drew with Northern Ireland 1-1, before defeats to Brazil 1-0 and Spain 3-0. Djamel Zidane scored Algeria’s only goal in 1986 and no, he’s no relation to Zinedine.
2010 – Topped their Caf second round qualifying group with Gambia, Senegal and Liberia after a first round bye, before also winning their third round group with Egypt, Zambia and Rwanda, but only after beating Egypt on a play-off tiebreaker. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa they then finished bottom of their group with 1-0 defeats to Slovenia and the USA either side of a goalless draw with England.
2014 – Again topped a Caf second round qualifying group (following a first round bye) ahead of Mali, Benin and Rwanda, and beat Burkina Faso on the away goals rule after a 3-3 draw in the third round. Brazil 2014 was to be the Fennec Foxes’ best appearance to date finishing second their group after recovering from a 2-1 defeat to Belgium to beat South Korea 4-2 and draw 1-1 with Russia. In the Last 16 however, they lost 2-1 to eventual champions Germany in extra time after holding them goalless for 90 minutes. Sofiane Feghouli got the goal against Belgium. Islam Slimani, Rafik Halliche, Abdel Moumene Djabou and Yacine Brahimi all scored against South Korea. Slimani got another against Russia and Djabou got the extra-time consolation against Germany.
1970 – Beat Senegal in the first round of Caf qualifying and then saw off Tunisia via a coin toss in the second round before topping their third round group with Nigeria and Sudan. At Mexico 1970 the Atlas Lions then finished bottom of their group with defeats to West Germany 2-1 and Peru 3-0 before a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria. Houmane Jarir and Maouhoub Ghazouani got Morocco’s goals.
1986 – The next time they qualified the World Cup was also in Mexico. They got this far by beating Sierre Leone, Malawi, Egypt and Libya in four rounds of Caf qualifying. In Mexico they topped their group with two goalless draws over Poland and England before a 3-1 win over Portugal, courtesy of two goals from Abderrazak Khairi and one from Merry Krimau. In the Last 16 though, they lost 1-0 to Germany. This was the first time an African, let alone Arab, team reached the knockouts.
1994 – Topped a first round Caf qualifying group with Tunisia, Ethiopia, Benin and Malawi and then a second round group with Zambia and Senegal to reach USA ’94. In America though they finished bottom of their group with defeats to Belgium 1-0, Saudi 2-1 and Holland 2-1. Mohammad Chaouch and Hassan Nader got the goals against Saudi and Holland respectively.
1998 – Got a first round bye in Caf qualifying and then finished ahead of Sierre Leone, Ghana and Gabon to reach France 1998. They couldn’t get out their group though, despite drawing with Norway 2-2 and beating Scotland 3-0 either side of a 3-0 defeat to Brazil. Mustapha Hadji and Abdel Jalil Hadda got the goals against Norway and Saleh Haddine Bassir got two and Hadda scored the third against Scotland.
2018 - Morocco could still qualify for Russia. They play Ivory Coast away on November 11 for a chance to top their group.
1994 - Made their first World Cup in 1994 by topping their first round Afc qualifying group with Kuwait, Malaysia and Macau, before topping their second round group ahead of South Korea, Japan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea. At USA ‘94, The Green Falcons finished second in their group behind the Netherlands after bouncing back from a 2-1 defeat to the Dutch to beat Morocco 2-1 and Belgium 1-0. They were knocked out by Sweden 3-1 in the Last 16. Fuad Anwar scored against both Holland and Morocco. Sami Al Jaber got the other against Morocco, while Saeed Al Owairan scored the famous goal against Belgium. Fahad Al Ghesheyan got the other against Sweden.
1998 - For the 1998 World Cup in France, Saudi qualified by finishing top of their Afc first round group ahead of Malaysia, Chinese Taipei and Bangladesh before topping their second round group above Iran, China, Qatar and Kuwait. At France 98, they finished bottom of their group with defeats to Denmark 1-0 and France 4-0 before a 2-2 draw with South Africa. Sami Al Jaber and Yousuf Al Thunayan got the goals against South Africa.
2002 - To get to the 2002 World Cup, Saudi topped their first round of Afc qualifiers ahead of Vietnam, Bangladesh and Mongolia, then topped their second round qualifying group ahead of Iran, Bahrain, Iraq and Thailand. At the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea, they finished bottom of their group losing to Germany 8-0, Cameroon 1-0 and the Republic of Ireland 3-0.
2006 – Qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany after topping their second round Afc group (bypassed first round) ahead of Turkmenistan, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, and their third round group ahead of South Korea, Uzbekistan and Kuwait. At the finals in Germany however, they finished bottom of their group opening with a 2-2 draw against Tunisia only to lose 4-0 to Ukraine and 1-0 to Spain. Yasser Al Qahtani and Sami Al Jaber scored against Tunisia.
2018 – Saudi are now into their fifth World Cup in Russia next summer after finishing ahead of the UAE, Palestine, Malaysia and East Timor in the second Afc qualifying round (after bypassing the first round), and second in the third round of qualifying behind Japan but ahead of Australia, UAE, Iraq and Thailand.
1978 – Beat Morocco, Algeria and Guinea over three rounds of Caf qualifying before topping a group with Egypt and Nigeria. At Argentina ‘78 the Eagles of Carthage couldn’t get out of their group despite a 3-1 win over Mexico and a goalless draw with West Germany either side of 1-0 defeat to Poland. Ali Kabi, Nejib Ghommidh and Mokhtar Dhouieb got the goals against Mexico. The Mexico win was the first victory at a World Cup by an Arab or African nation, a feat overseen by legendary coach Abdel Majid Chetali.
1998 – Tunisia made it back to the finals 20 years later getting a first round bye in Caf qualifying and following it up with a group win over Egypt, Liberia and Namibia in the second round. Once at France ‘98 they finished bottom of their group with defeats to England 2-0, Colombia 1-0 and a 1-1 draw with Romania. Skander Souayeh got Tunisia’s only goal.
2002 – Overcame Mauritania in the first round of Caf qualifying before topping their group with the Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Madagascar and Congo. At the World Cup in Japan and Korea they exited at the group stage with defeats to Russia 2-0 and Japan either side of a 1-1 draw with Belgium. Raouf Bouzaiene got the goal against Belgium.
2006 – Got a first round bye in Caf qualifying and finished above of Morocco, Guinea, Kenya, Botswana and Malawi in their second round group. At Germany ’06 they were knocked out in the group stages after defeats to Spain 3-1 and Ukraine 1-0 following an opening 2-2 draw with Saudi. Goals against Saudi came from Ziad Jaziri and Rahdi Jaidi. The goal against Spain came from Jawhar Mnari.
2018 – Tunisia could still qualify for Russia. They play Libya at home on November 11 for a chance to top their group.
1934 - Beat Palestine on aggregate to qualify for the 1934 World Cup in Italy. There was meant to be three teams in their qualifying group but Turkey withdrew turning it into a two-leg play-off. Back then, the World Cup was a straight knockout, and the Pharaohs lost their first round match 4-2 against Hungary. Abdul Rahman Fawzi got both Egypt’s goals.
1990 - Ironically, the next time they made a World Cup it was also in Italy, 56 years later in 1990. Egypt qualified after finishing top of a group with Liberia, Malawi and Kenya, then beat Algeria 1-0 on aggregate in the final round of Caf qualifying. At the 1990 World Cup they finished bottom of their group with draws against the Netherlands 1-1, and the Republic of Ireland 0-0, before a 1-0 defeat to England. Magdi Abdel Ghani got the goal against the Dutch.
2018 - Egypt are now set for their third appearance at a World Cup – 28 years after the last - in Russia next summer, after beating Chad 4-1 over two legs in the second round of Caf qualifiers before topping their third round qualifying group above Uganda, Ghana and Congo.
1982 – Topped their first round Afc qualifying group with South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand, and then outdid New Zealand, China and Saudi Arabia in the second round to reach their first and, to date, only World Cup in 1982. At those finals the Blues then finished bottom of their group drawing 1-1 with Czechoslovakia before defeats to France 4-1 and England 1-0. Faisal Al Dakhil scored against Czechoslovakia and Abdullah Al Baloushi got the goal against France.
1986 – Finished ahead of Qatar and Jordan in the first round of Afc qualifiers after Lebanon withdrew and then beat the UAE on away goals after drawing 4-4 on aggregate in the second round. For the third round they then beat Syria 3-1 on aggregate to advance to their first and so far only World Cup in 1986 in Mexico. Once there the Lions of Mesopotamia finished bottom of their group with defeats to Paraguay 1-0, Belgium 2-1 and Mexico 1-0. Ahmad Radhi was Iraq’s only scorer.
1990 – Qualified for their first and so far only World Cup in 1990 by topping a first round Afc qualifying group ahead of Kuwait and Pakistan after South Yemen withdrew. The Whites finished runners-up in their second round group below South Korea but ahead of Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea. At the 1990 World Cup in Italy however, they finished bottom of their group after defeats to Colombia 2-0, West Germany 5-1 and Yugoslavia 4-1. Khalid Esmail got their goal against West Germany, while Ali Juma scored against Yugoslavia.
Top 5 coaches of Arab teams at the World Cup
Carlos Alberto Perreira – One of only two managers along with Serbia’s Bora Milutinovic to have managed five national teams in World Cups, and three of them were Arab nations; Kuwait in 1982, the UAE in 1990 and Saudi Arabia in 1998. He also managed his native Brazil, winning in 1994 and reaching the quarters in 2006, as well as South Africa in 2010. South Africa and the three Arab nations were all group stage exits and his stock finally sank with Arab nations in 1998 when on his third attempt to get out of the group, after earlier failing with Kuwait and the UAE, he was sacked mid tournament by Saudi.
Jorge Solari – Led Saudi Arabia out of the group in their first attempt in 1994, a feat that has yet to be replicated despite the Green Falcons making it to the next three consecutive tournaments. As a player Solari was a member of Argentina’s 1966 World Cup squad that reached the quarter-finals, and but for a spell in charge of Spain’s Tenerife, Saudi had been his first managerial assignment outside of South and Central America. Through his success with Saudi he landed a job in Japan with Yokohama Marinos, where he won the J-League before returning to South America.
Rabah Saadane – Started as Algeria’s Under-20 assistant at the 1979 World Youth Championships where they reached the quarter-finals in their first participation at a major tournament in any age category. He then went on to be part of the backroom staff at Algeria’s first trip to the World Cup proper in 1982 when they failed to get out the group but shocked West Germany 2-1 in their opener. He finally got his chance to lead the national team to a tournament in 1986 and although they still didn’t get out of the group Saadane makes this list for his commitment and longevity. Algeria are the most successful Arab nation at the World Cup and Saadane played a big role in that foundation.
Vahid Halilhodzic – Guided Algeria to their best finish at a World Cup by reaching the Last 16 in 2014. The Bosnian former Paris Saint Germain coach was entering only the second international experience of his career when he took the Algeria job, having previously helped qualify Ivory Coast for the 2010 World Cup only to be sacked just months before the tournament for getting knocked out by Algeria in the African Nations. He has now just qualified Japan for the 2018 World Cup and all being well, unlike his experience with the Ivory Coast, he should still be around to better his best finish, which he achieved with Algeria.
Jose Faria – Not only was he the first man to get an Arab nation past the group stages of a World Cup but he was also the first to get an African side into the knockouts when reaching the last 16 with Morocco in 1986. That was only Morocco’s second appearance and only the eighth by an Arab nation in a now total 21 run outs. The Brazilian started off as a youth coach with Fluminense before coaching in Qatar and Morocco, where he converted to Islam, taking the name Mahdi. After his World Cup run he stayed on in Morocco until his death in 2013, aged 80.