Countries with the longest World Cup droughts ahead of Qatar 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The starting field for the 2022 World Cup is full of surprises and shocks.
The 32-country field may be set for the last time as the 2026 World Cup is set to expand to 48 teams. This year’s list features several new and unfamiliar faces scattered among the traditional staples.
While the European and South American powerhouses remain the favorites, there are plenty of underdogs and Cinderella stories to keep your fingers crossed along the way.
What notable droughts will be broken at the 2022 World Cup?
Wales are by far the most notable country to return at the 2022 World Cup. The tiny British country had not made a World Cup since 1958 before beating Ukraine in a play-off in June. The team is led by striker Gareth Bale, the country’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Though not as notable, Canada’s appearance in Qatar comes after almost four decades without a World Cup stage.
Although the Canadian women have qualified for seven consecutive tournaments, the men have yet to establish themselves on the international stage. Her only World Cup appearance came back in 1986. Maple Leafs fans are guaranteed at least one more tournament appearance as co-hosts of the 2026 World Cup.
Finally, Qatar is the tournament’s only debutant and automatically qualifies as hosts. The Middle East country is ranked 50th by FIFA.
Which country has the most World Cup appearances?
Brazil really is the king of dance.
The South American giants not only own five World Cup trophies, the most of any country, but are also the only country with a perfect presence on the world stage. It has not only qualified for but participated in the World Cup every year, unlike other countries that have abstained or been banned for political reasons.
According to FIFA, Brazil travel to Qatar with No. 1 in the standings. They will be looking to make the most of their 22nd appearance at the World Cup as they aim to lift the trophy for the first time since the 2002 World Cup, held in South Korea and Japan.
How many countries from the 2018 World Cup will return in 2022?
Three quarters of the teams that took part in the 2018 World Cup in Russia are returning to Qatar, including the top four – France, Croatia, Belgium and England.
The eight teams missing from the 2022 list in 2018 are: Russia, Sweden, Egypt, Peru, Colombia, Iceland, Panama and Nigeria. They are replaced by Qatar, the Netherlands, the United States, Cameroon, Canada, Ecuador, Wales and Ghana.
Why won’t Russia compete at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar?
Russia, already in hot water with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) over allegations of state-sponsored doping, was due to compete at the World Cup without a flag or an anthem, similar to its participation in the last two Olympics. This WADA ban, upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, came in response to evidence of non-compliance from RUSADA, the national anti-doping organization in Russia.
Whatever place it was to take at the World Cup took a nosedive with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February.
FIFA initially banned Russian teams from playing on home soil due to protests from the three other countries that took part in the qualifying round. That proved unsatisfactory, and the three countries joined forces within three days of the original decision to protest competitions involving Russia.
On February 28 – four days after the start of the invasion – FIFA and UEFA announced an indefinite suspension of all Russian teams. This decision came as both organizations are embroiled in controversies over corruption and appeasement of Russian oligarchs, both at club and international level.
Which notable countries are missing from the 2022 World Cup?
While Qatar has no shortage of football heavyweights, some big names are missing from the 2022 roster.
Alongside Russia, Sweden is undoubtedly one of the biggest absences in the above list. The Swedes, along with Poland and the Czech Republic, were among the three-team cohort that ultimately forced FIFA to ban Russia.
With Russia out of contention, Poland and Sweden faced off in the playoff finals of their qualifying group, with Poland winning 2-0.
Other notable countries that will not make the trip to Qatar are Hungary and Chile.
Hungary and Chile have nine appearances each, tied for their 18th most tournaments.
Italy is perhaps the biggest name historically missing from this list. Prior to 2018, the four-time champions had only missed the World Cup once – in 1958. Since then, he has missed two consecutive tournaments for the first time in the country’s history.
Italy’s absence is particularly notable as they are the reigning European champions and are currently 7th in the FIFA rankings. The country’s exit came from North Macedonia, which caused an epic stir at home.