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Saudi Arabia won pan-Arabian bragging rights with a surprise win over Egypt, but their 5-0 defeat to Russia in the opening match stands out as among the worst in the tournament thus far. We take a look at some of the worst performances in World Cup history, starting with the hapless Saudi class of 2002.

Saudi Arabia

Back then, Saudi Arabia lost 8-0 to Germany, conceding four goals in each half with Miroslav Klose bagging a hat-trick. A 4-0 defeat to Ukraine four years later added to Saudi woes, but they do have some pedigree at World Cups, having reached the second round in 1994 thanks to wins over Morocco and Belgium.


A good shout for the worst ever team to play at the finals, Zaire made their World Cup debut with a solid if unimpressive 2-0 defeat to Scotland. However, in their second match at the 1974 tournament they found themselves six goals down at half-time against Yugoslavia, a fixture they went on to lose by the astonishing scoreline of 9-0. The 3-0 loss to Brazil in their final match was merciful by comparison.  

El Salvador

The biggest-ever single defeat in World Cup history belongs to El Salvador. The team barely scraped into the tournament and probably wished they hadn’t after a mediocre Hungary hammered them 10-1 in 1982. El Salvador followed that with a 1-0 loss to Belgium, which must have felt like a relative victory. El Salvador haven’t qualified for the World Cup since.

North Korea

North Korea made their debut at the 1966 tournament and came close to shocking a Portugal side featuring the great Eusebio in the last eight after beating Italy in the first round. It was Eusebio who led the Portuguese to a stunning 5-3 comeback victory--despite being three goals down after 25 minutes--and more than half a century later it was Portugal again that broke North Korean hearts, running out 7-0 winners in Cape Town.  

Panama, Honduras...and El Salvador, again

Panama’s 6-1 defeat to England in Russia was a thrashing of note. However, it’s two other Central American nations that have the sport’s most unwanted records. Honduras have qualified for three tournaments, but in nine matches have yet to win a single match, although they have secured three draws. El Salvador, meanwhile, have the record for the most World Cup matches--six in total--without either a win or a draw.

Stream today’s matches on DStv Now on your mobile, tablet or your laptop. And if you missed Saudi Arabia’s shock win over Egypt, go to Catch Up for an eight-minute highlights package.

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