The Welsh Gull

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Archive for the ‘International Football’ Category

World Cup Teams That Never Were: Croatia 2010

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Croatia 09

For a country of just over four million people, Croatia’s run of success in qualifying for major international football tournaments has been remarkable. They have qualified for ten of their first 12 tournaments, reaching the semi-finals in two World Cups and the quarter-finals in two European Championships – and based on the talent they have produced in this time period, they have been unfortunate not to achieve more. Today they stand on the verge of the biggest achievement for any Eastern European nation in a World Cup – an incredible feat just 25 years after the country was torn apart by civil war.

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Written by James Bennett

July 12, 2018 at 20:58

Evolution of the World Cup Winners: France, 1998

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World Cup-winning teams are immortal. History tells us that these teams were destined for greatness – that they were always on a trajectory that led them to their triumph at the pinnacle of the sport. These are teams defined by their success – they are World Cup winners above all else. Look at a match before the final, and you see them as champions-in-waiting, heading for their inevitable victory; look at a match after it, and you see them as the holders.

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Written by James Bennett

July 8, 2018 at 01:06

World Cup Teams That Never Were: East Germany 1990

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The 1990 World Cup was a particularly symbolic triumph for West Germany. Lothar Matthaus lifted the trophy just nine months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in what was recognised at the time as the last World Cup for a divided Germany. Reunification was completed less than three months later, and the team competed simply as Germany in Euro 1992 and the 1994 World Cup, continuing the record, colours and traditions of one of the world’s dominant teams. Just as capitalism had triumphed over communism in the Cold War, so in football it was West Germany that emerged with the silverware at the end of the years of division. All’s well that ends well.

Except that there was another side to this. The last World Cup where two German teams entered nearly saw both qualify for the finals, as East Germany took their competitive qualifying group down to the last game, just days after the fall of the wall. Instead, the East Germans, who only ever qualified for one major tournament, narrowly missed out on creating one of the most bizarre spectacles in the history of the World Cup – that of a doomed country in its final months competing for the biggest prize in the sport.

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Written by James Bennett

March 3, 2018 at 13:22

World Cup Teams That Never Were: Netherlands 2002

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Soccer - European Championship 2004 Play-Off - Second Leg - Holland v Scotland
If there’s one generation of players that deserved to win an international trophy, it’s the generation of Dutch players that emerged in the mid-1990s. Some teams are feted never to win the World Cup, but they still manage to win something else along the way, or at least get to a final. But the enormously talented Netherlands team that came to prominence via Ajax’s 1995 Champions League win, and went on to become leading contenders at most of the major tournaments over the next decade, somehow always contrived to fall short.

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Written by James Bennett

February 22, 2018 at 22:47

World Cup Teams That Never Were: Czech Republic 1998-2002

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Despite a patchy qualifying record, Czechoslovakia were always one of the leading teams in the second tier of European international football, behind the traditional elite of Germany, Italy, France, Spain and England. But the 1980s and early 1990s had been a fallow period. While they qualified for the World Cup in 1982 under Dr Jozef Venglos, they failed to progress from the group stage, and then failed to make it to Mexico in 1986; it was their third absence in four World Cups, or fourth in six. They also failed to qualify for Euro 1984 and 1988, before finally qualifying for the 1990 World Cup.

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Written by James Bennett

February 21, 2018 at 21:25

World Cup Teams That Never Were: Portugal 1998

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There is a certain misconception about the Portuguese “Golden Generation”. The term has been used and abused so often that today there is a certain amount of crossed wires, as people confuse the generation of players that got to the final of Euro 2004 on home soil and the World Cup semi-final two years later with the original Golden Generation, the one that brought the term into common use in international football.

These were the players that formed the backbone of the team between 1994 and 2002, many of whom had come through the junior ranks as part of the U-21 side that won the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1989 and 1991. While we all know that this is not a guarantee of success as “adults” in the full national team, huge expectation at home was placed on these players as they developed through the 1990s.

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Written by James Bennett

February 15, 2018 at 23:21

World Cup Teams That Never Were: Australia and Peru 1998

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1998 was the first World Cup with 32 teams, which in theory provided fewer opportunities for the big teams to slip through the net. However, the trend has continued ever since, and there were scalps a plenty in qualification, including the European finalists, 1994 semi-finalists, and several other notable teams. Among the teams that made it to the 1994 tournament but failed to qualify for 1998 include the Republic of Ireland, Bolivia, Switzerland, Russia and Greece, though there were welcome returns for England, Scotland, Yugoslavia, Paraguay, Chile, Denmark, Austria, Iran and Tunisia, and debuts for Japan, Jamaica, Croatia and South Africa.

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Written by James Bennett

February 12, 2018 at 22:05