The forthcoming World Cup in Russia will be the most Arab world Cup ever with a record number of four teams representing Arab countries - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia & Morocco. Before one of these will make history in the 2018 edition of the football world most prestigious competition, Baba has gathered for you eight Arab teams that every football fan must know, or, will never forget.
The second ever World Cup took place in Italy, but most importantly hosted the first African & the first Arab team to participate in World Cups - Egypt. The Egyptian took over the British Mandatory Palestine team in a qualifications double header, after big victories in Cairo & Tel Aviv. In Italy, the Egyptians faced Hungary, who back was one of the world's leading teams. Despite two goals by Abdulrahman Fawzi, the Hungarians were with four goals, which terminated Egypt's journey in the tournament. Despite the early exit - you can't forget the first ever.
Kuwait is a unique member on this list. Not because for their results on the pitch, but due to one of the World Cups most bizarre stories. Kuwait played the group stage with Czechoslovakia, France & England. After managing a 1-1 draw in their match against Czechoslovakia, Kuwait faced France and found themselves in a 4-1 down situation. After hearing a whistle from the stands, the Kuwaiti players stopped playing as they thought that was the official. As a result, Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, (then-president of the Kuwaiti Football Association), went down to the field and pulled all of the players from the pitch. In order to cool the situation, Ukrainian referee, Miroslav Stupar, decided to disallow the goal, marking the first and only time a person from the stands changed the result of an official World Cup matches. France won eventually 4-1, as the Kuwaitis were eliminated, leaving a legacy of one of the World Cups biggest controversies ever.
On the same tournament, Algeria have made its World Cup debut, prevailing to the World the great talent of Rabah Madjer, and one of the best kits ever to be worn in a World Cup. The Algerians have beaten Germany 2-1 in their debut match, gaining first ever African team victory over a European one in the World Cup history. “We played a different style of football, a style that no one has ever seen before - it is a mixture of German, Italian and Latin American football", said
Ali Fergani, Algeria skipper after the historical night. Les Fennecs have later on were a victim of the old group stage method, losing their next match 2-0 against Austria before going on to win 3-2 against Chile, while West Germany thrashed Chile 4-1 and grabbed a vital 1-0 victory over neighbours Austria. In the other group game Austria had run out 1-0 winners over Chile, which meant that both West Germany and Austria are the qualified ahead of Algeria, due to superior goal difference. Yet, Algeria '82 was one of the greatest Arab teams to appear in the World Cups. Oh, and what a kit.
The 1980's were the Golden Era of the Iraqi national team. The Lions of Mesopotamia have grabbed gold medals in the 1982 Asian Games, 1984 Arabian gulf Cup, 1985 Arab Nations Cup, and their participation in Mexico 1986 was the cherry on the top. The country was in the middle of the famous Iran-Iraq war, and few years before the Gulf War with Saddam Hussein as president, and his son, Uday, as the main figure in local football. They have beaten almost every country in the Middle East on its way to, as it is up to date, the country’s first & only World Cup. In the tournament itself, Iraq lost its three matches, scored one goal by Ahmed Radhi, and came back home to a different reality of war and shifts in the regime, and the football leadership too. Uday Hussein took charge, and few years later have implement his infamous torturing methods, that enclave a huge tragedy for Iraqi football.
Morocco have arrived in Mexico, when only few giving them a chance for a knockout qualification, in a mighty group F with England, Poland & Portugal. Two 0-0 results against the English & Polish teams, and then the came the outburst. Morocco hammered Portugal 3-1, with goals by the legendary Krimau (Abdelkrim Merry) and Abderrazak Khairi. The Atlas' Lions stunned the world with that victory that sent them to the next stage as the group winners. In the Round of 16 Morocco produced an intense battle for West Germany, only to loose 0-1, due to an 88th minute goal by no other than Lothar Matthäus. The dissapointment was imminent, but regarding the expectations before the tournament, the Moroccans simply brought joy to their people, and also made history. Morocco is the first North African team to go through the group stage in World Cups, as well as the first Arab team to do so. A historical achievement all accounts.
SAUDI ARABIA 1994
The Saudis have made their debut appearance in the World Cup in 1994, and boy, that was an impressive one. A respectable 2-1 loss to Holland on the first match, a 2-1 victory over Morocco in New York and a prestigious triumph against Belgium have sent the Saudis to the next stage - the first West Asian Arabic national team to do so. In the knockout they lost to Sweden who continued to a successful campaign until the semis, but it did not harm the impressive achievement the Green Falcones have gained in the USA World Cup. This team exposed the world names like Saeed Al-Owairan, Majed Abdallah, Abdeljawad and Sami Al-Jaber. Some heavy legends there.
The Moroccans who drew Brazil, Norway and Scotland, did not go through, but changed the perception of many about North African & Arab teams in this World Cup. A 2-2 draw with Norway, an expected loss to Brazil and a magical 3-0 victory over Scotland, what could have been their ticket to the knockouts, but somehow, the Brazilians managed to lose 1-2 to Norway, and Morocco took the first plane to Casablanca. It was the team of legendary Mustafa Hadji and his exciting teammates Youssef Chippo and Nouredine Naybet, the team that made European football appreciate the Berber and Arab talent.
The Brazilian summer of Algeria was by far one of the most exciting runs of any Arab, North African and Middle Eastern team in the World Cup history. The Algerians have listed a rarely talented squad for the competition, including only two players that have been born in Algeria - the rest were all born in France! Les Fennecs have started with a respectable loss to Belgium after they lead for the majority of the match; continued with a celebration over the South Koreans and concluded the group stage with a 1-1 draw with Russia, what sent them to the Round of 16 to face no other than Germany. 0-0 in 90 minutes, but Schurrle gave the Germans the advantage. Djabou ontched one for the Algerians, who were much better throughout the extra time, but Mesut Ozil scored Germany's winner on the 120th, and sent Algeria home. Who knows what would have happen if Algeria took this match to penalties, kicking Germany out. The world was a different place wouldn't it?