The World Cup will welcome at least two new teams to its festival of football in Russia next year, with Iceland and Panama both securing places at the 2018 finals.
Iceland are set to bring the thunder clap back to the major tournament scene after topping UEFA’s Group I, while Panama reached the tournament for the first time at the expense of the United States thanks to Roman Torres’ late winner in their 2-1 victory over Costa Rica.
A national holiday was declared in Panama to celebrate the historic achievement and here we go through five displays they will try to live up to with a look at some of the best-performing debutants in the history of football’s biggest competition.
Wales: Quarter-finals, 1958
Their qualification only came as a result of both Sudan and Belgium refusing to play Israel in a play-off, but Wales made the most of their progress to the finals in Sweden, beating 1954 finalists Hungary in a play-off to progress from the group stage, before being undone by a 17-year-old Pele in the last eight.
North Korea: Quarter-finals, 1966
There can’t be too many connections between North Korea and Middlesbrough, but Teeside will forever hold a place in the Asian nation’s football history. North Korea beat Italy 1-0 at Ayresome Park to reach the last eight, Pak Doo-ik firing a famous strike into the bottom-left corner. The fairytale ended in the next round thanks to a four-goal haul from Portugal’s Eusbeio. More on him imminently.
Portugal: Semi-finals, 1966
Eusebio’s showing for Portugal in England still stands as one of the best individual performances at a World Cup. His four goals against North Korea were part of a hugely impressive tally of nine, which also included two against Pele and Brazil, who bowed out in the group stage. His penalty in the semi-finals was not enough as Bobby Charlton’s double sent England through, though Eusebio did end the tournament on a high with a goal in their third-place play-off victory over Soviet Union.
Croatia: Semi-finals, 1998
Overshadowed by France’s triumph on home soil and Zinedine Zidane’s stunning performance in the 3-0 win over Brazil in the final was Croatia’s superb first World Cup since declaring independence from Yugoslavia. Davor Suker finished as top scorer with six goals, with a 3-0 triumph over Germany the highlight. Lilian Thuram’s brace ended Croatia’s run but they did atone for the loss to the hosts as Suker’s winner ensured success in the third-place play-off with Netherlands.
Senegal: Quarter-finals, 2002
Senegal surged onto the World Cup scene with one of the biggest shocks in tournament history as Papa Bouba Diop’s tap-in proved enough to defeat world and European champions France in the opening match of the tournament. Draws against Denmark and Uruguay sent Bruno Metsu’s men through to the knockouts, where Henri Camara’s double secured an extra-time win over Sweden before Turkey ended one of the most memorable campaigns of the modern era.
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