12 Longest Absences From The World Cup

England's 52 Years Of Hurt Is Nothing Compared To Some Of These Teams...

Gareth Bale Wales
Adam Davy/PA Archive

In its current format, the World Cup is made up of thirty two teams from the six federations that govern football around the world. Over the course of the three years preceding each tournament, qualifying campaigns whittle down more than two hundred countries and territories to that number, meaning that the vast majority of the world misses out on the opportunity to see themselves represented on the biggest stage of them all.

Seventy nine different teams have made their way to the finals over the last eighty eight years and there has been at least one new debutant at each event, with Iceland and Panama making their first appearances this time around and Qatar set to continue the trend in 2022 when they host.

Some nations have been ever present at almost every tournament (though Brazil are the only team to have appeared at every single one) whilst some have only ever qualified once or twice. The ongoing 2018 event has seen the likes of Egypt and Peru re-appear after absences of more than twenty five years, but there are plenty of other countries that have been waiting for another moment in the spotlight for much longer than that.

The twelve that have been missing in action for the longest are profiled across the next few pages.

12. Hungary

Gareth Bale Wales
Wikimedia Commons

Last Appearance: 1986

The one nation that has probably undergone the biggest fall from grace on the footballing stage over the years is Hungary. Once regarded as the best team in the world, they lost just one match in six years between 1950 and 1956 (the 1954 World Cup final, cruelly enough) and took part in the 'match of the century' that saw them inflict a home defeat on England for the first time in ninety years.

Sadly they are now just a shadow of their former selves and have struggled to stand out as UEFA has grown larger and larger through the break ups of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Their decline can be traced all the way back to their dominant era, as the Hungarian revolution of 1956 that was quelled by Soviet military intervention saw many star players, amongst them leading goalscorer Ferenc Puskas, flee their homeland and never represent the national side again.

Each World Cup appearance since then has yielded diminishing returns. Quarter final appearances in 1962 and 1966 were followed by three successive group stage exits in 1978, 1982 and 1986 (with failures to qualify in 1970 and 1974 a national first).

The closest the Hungarians have come to a World Cup since was a fall at the final stage (the continental play-offs) in 1998. An appearance at Euro 2016 has fuelled future hopes, but the team's roster seems very short on quality and depth as it stands.

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