Some of the most populous nations on earth have never been particularly good at football. Here are the five biggest to have never qualified for the World Cup.
1 – India – Population of 1.382 Billion
India is the biggest country to never qualify for the finals of the Football World Cup. With a population of 1.382 billion, India is by some margin the largest nation yet to make it to the finals of the world’s biggest sporting event.
India did actually qualify for the 1950 World Cup three years after becoming an independent nation – largely as all other Asian nations withdrew – but were forced to pull out themselves after being unable to fund the costs of travelling to Brazil.
The cricket-loving nation has never warmed to football too much and since 1986, they have won just 11 of 51 qualifiers.
Their most successful qualification campaign came in 2002 when they won three from six, perhaps in part due to the pool of teams being smaller as South Korea and Japan were joint hosts of the finals.
2 – Indonesia – Population of 271 Million
When Indonesia were known as “Dutch East Indies” they were involved in the 1938 World Cup which took place in France.
However, in their current iteration, they have never qualified for the World Cup and, like India, their most successful campaign came in 2002.
Aston Villa’s European Cup winning forward Peter Withe is among their previous managers and their recent history has been turbulent – they were banned from competing in 2018 World Cup qualifiers by FIFA due to government interference in their domestic league.
3 – Pakistan – Population of 225 Million
Like India, Pakistan’s main sport is cricket and, as such, have little focus on their football team.
They are currently suspended by FIFA due to third-party activities and will have to wait to make their World Cup bow.
That might be a while yet – Pakistan have never won a World Cup qualifier in 32 attempts with just a paltry four draws.
Their current squad consists of players who play for the likes of Hereford, Ossett United, and Redditch.
4 – Bangladesh – Population of 171 Million
Another cricket-mad nation which has never taken to the beautiful game is Bangladesh, who are awaiting their first World Cup campaign.
They got to the second round of qualifying for the Brazil World Cup in 2014 but were dumped out by Lebanon over two legs.
Former Arsenal youth product Jamie Day, who spent most of his career with non-league Welling United, is among their former managers.
On Friday, they ended a run of four competitive losses with a 1-0 win away at Sri Lanka in the South Asian Football Federation Championship.
5 – Ethiopia – Population of 117 Million
Away from Asia, Ethiopia, a nation which has produced many fine long-distance runners, has never been quite as productive when it comes to football.
They did actually win the African Cup of Nations in 1962 but have never transferred that form onto the world stage.
Nicknamed the “Walia Ibex”, they are ranked 38th out of 40 nations in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, with only Liberia and Djibouti below.
However, they did beat Zimbabwe in September to get the first win of their campaign.
Former EFL hero Iffy Onuora had a short stint as manager in 2010.