We all follow Germany and Brazil, Spanish midfield magicians and Argentine determination, Senegalese striking power and Korean work rate. But football is played in every corner of this planet and many nations across the globe find it hard to pick 11 players for the game, let alone get a win.
The perennial punching bags of UEFA, the brave Sammarinese refuse to budge, despite their lifetime record (as of May 2015) of 1-4-119 (with a goal difference -511, mind) in official matches. The only ever win they eked out was the triumph over Lichtenstein in 2004, to date the only time they tasted victory in any sort of international contest. They fare better in unofficial friendlies, where they won two and lost two so far, and one of their draws came against…
Yes, the papal city state does have a national football team. The roots of the team come from the Vatican sports department, established by – who else – John Paul II, who himself was a goalie in his youth. So far, the official team of the Holy See have played five internationals, one being the aforementioned draw with San Marino, and the other four a series of scrimmages against Monaco, with the Monegasques winning three of those encounters with one draw.
Things didn’t exactly go to plan when Tuvalu started playing football at the 1979 Pacific Games – they got hammered 18-0 by Tahiti. It’s been up and down since then, as the Pacific islanders play a solid amount of games on a yearly basis, but are still waiting on their full FIFA membership, which would allow them to participate in the official World Cup qualifiers. Tuvalu enjoys big support from the Netherlands, who supplied them with Foppe de Haan and LeenLooijen in terms of coaching capacity recently.
The Dutch overseas territory is, just like Vatican and Tuvalu, not a fully fledged FIFA member, but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying their football. Bonaire has recently participated in the Gold Cup and Caribbean Cup qualification matches, and their all-time record is not as awful as its reputation might suggest – three wins, one draw and five defeats with a distinguished 9-23 goal average. This is even more impressive when you find out the whole team plays exclusively domestic football!
The wealthy sultanate’s national football team was formed in 1956, and it’s been an uphill struggle since. The Wasps never managed to reach the World Cup finals, and participated in the Asian Cup only once. Still, it’s not to say they’re without any silverware – occasionally, Brunei will field their team in the Malaysian league, and in 1999 they surprised friend and foe alike by lifting the Malaysian Cup. And lest we forget – the crown prince himself, His Royal Highness Prince Al-MuhtadeeBillah, is a former goalkeeper with competitive experience.
Famously featured in the British documentary film Next Goal Wins, the Samoans went through hardships and embarrassment which makes San Marino look like Brazil in comparison. The team has enjoyed improved fortunes recently, with the side playing some decent football in the past couple of years, but they are still best (or worst, rather) remembered as the team on the receiving end of a world record 31-0 loss, inflicted by Australia in 2001.
The principality of Liechtenstein has fielded football teams since 1981, when they drew 1-1 with Malta in a game played in Seoul. Like San Marino, the Blue-Reds are usually a fixture to improve your goal average against in the torrid UEFA qualification process, but not always – during the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup in Germany, both the Portuguese and the Slovaks chipped their teeth with the pesky Liechtensteiners, who drew those games 2-2 and 0-0 respectively. Their recent fortunes have been mixed as ever, but they strive to remain competitive.
Football was always a staple of life in this corner of the Pyrenees, but the national team came into existence only in 1996. It’s been an uphill struggle eversince, as you might have imagined, but the team famously beat FYR Macedonia during the 2006 World Cup qualifiers, and will occasionally put up a big fight to keep at least one point.
UEFA’s youngest member fought tooth and nail to get to the big stage, and once they did, they celebrated emphatically with a hard-fought 0-0 draw against Slovakia in their debut. Right now, the Llanitos play their home games in Faro, Portugal, but once they construct a national stadium of their own, European football will have one of their most charming venues for a casual visit – a ground perched close to Europa Point, with fans being able to see the shores of Africa from the stands.
Another Pacific nation on the fringes of the footballing world, the Kiribatians – just like many of their fellow islanders – are not recognized by FIFA, so World Cup qualifiers are a no-no. Up until 2012, Kiribati dared to attempt playingother teams only 10 times in their history, and once you consider their accumulated 4-122 goal average, you might understand the reluctance. Still, the nation hopes for better times ahead, with Scotsman Kevin McGreskin at the helm.
As we learned by now from reading this list, it takes a lot more than a few setbacks to make people quit their intentions of playing football. The Pirates are no excuse themselves – they have never qualified for either a World Cup or African Nations Cup, but steady improvement saw them build a more and more combative team, increasingly becoming a tough away journey for most CAF sides. Their biggest success was winning the Indian Ocean Island Games in 2011, a tournament which they hosted, and which saw them beating Mauritius on penalties to lift the trophy.