Qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia has reached its half way stage and a lot of surprises are already in store. The fate of giants like the Netherlands and Argentina are still in the balance, whereas minnows like Montenegro, DR Congo and Burkina Faso are in a good position to qualify.
Only Brazil have joined hosts Russia in booking a place in the Finals and the qualification picture will get clearer in the coming months. With FIFA also announcing that the 2026 World Cup will see a 48 nation tournament, it is highly likely that more footballing minnows will get their chance at the World Cup.
So, who are the least likely nations to have played in the World Cup – A South East Asian country ranked outside the top 150 in the FIFA rankings? A Caribbean island nation nicknamed the notorious Reggae Boyz?
Take a look.
#1 Indonesia – 1938
Currently ranked a lowly 175th in the FIFA national team ratings, Indonesia’s fairy tale moment arrived 79 years ago when they became the first Asian side to qualify for a World Cup.
The 1938 World Cup qualification campaign had turned into a farce when most of the South American nations – including defending champions Uruguay and runners-up Argentina – refused to participate as FIFA had reneged on a promise to alternate the World Cup hosting between Europe and South America.
The Second World War was right around the corner when the qualifications came about and the already qualified nation of Austria seized to exist when Nazi Germany annexed it.
Many other nations withdrew from qualification including the likes of Japan and China who were at war with each other as well as Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.This meant that Indonesia – known as the Dutch East Indies then – were the only side left in the Asian qualification draw and when the United States – who were offered a match with the Indies with the winner qualifying for the finals – declined the offer, the Indonesians went through unopposed.
The Asians reached France in a boat, a journey that took several weeks.
Coached by Johan Mastenbroek and having unknown players like Frans Meeng, Mo Heng Tan and Tan Hong Djien, the Dutch East Indies predictably crashed out in the first round of what was then a purely knockout competition. Eventual finalists Hungary would do the honours and the match ended 6-0.
From the team, Mo Heng Tan would be the only player to represent the Dutch East Indies and the independent Indonesia, Tan Hong Djien was so highly rated that he had offers from the likes of Barcelona and Santos to play for them whereas Frans Meeng would be killed in 1944 when Jun’yo Maru, a Japanese Cargo ship was attacked and sunk by a British submarine.