The great dream but also the objective of each of the 32 National Teams that will compete in Qatar 2022 will be to be able to play the match on December 18 at the Lusail Stadium, where the new world soccer champion will be defined. However, to reach that Final game there is a very small filter, almost impossible to overcome.
At least in the modern 32-team FIFA World Cup format, which dates back to France 1998, there are six matches that a National Team must overcome in order to fight for a chance to win one of the most coveted trophies in the sport. That is 540 minutes in which concentration must be maintained to the maximum.
And indeed, history often rewards the monumental effort required to win the FIFA World Cup with eternity. Everyone remembers the winners, but what about the other team whose only mistake was not being able to win one of the seven matches they played. Here is a recount of all those National Teams that played in the World Cup Final but have never won it.
The FIFA World Cup Final, a privilege of the few
In total and after 92 years of history, the World Cup has been played by only 80 of the 211 National Teams affiliated to FIFA. This is already a great filter. Then, the privilege and the great sacrifice of playing the decisive match of this tournament is an even bigger hurdle.
Thus, only 13 national teams have been able to play at least once in the decisive match of the 21 editions of the FIFA World Cup to date. Of these, only eight have been crowned: Uruguay (2), Italy (4), Germany (4), Brazil (5), England, Argentina (2), France (2), and Spain.
In Qatar 2022, a new member will be added to the list of National Teams that have had the opportunity to compete in the World Cup, and that is precisely the host country, which obtained this distinction simply for organizing this event, not for having achieved it after the tough Qualifiers in Asia.
The statistics are very clear: of the 21 World Cup finals played to date, only in 6 (1930, 1934, 1954, 1958, 1978, and 2010), no world champion has been involved. It is a fact that being able to play in the final of this tournament is not for everyone. Will there be any surprises in Qatar 2022?
National Teams that have played the World Cup Final but have never been able to win it
While it is a source of pride to be world runner-up, it must also be a source of bitterness. A lot of hard work went into earning a place in the final of the FIFA World Cup. Starting with the 4-year wait and having to survive the Qualifiers, and ending with having to overcome 6 previous matches already in the World Cup.
It should be clarified that there are countries that have tasted both sensations: winning and losing a World Cup Final. Thus, the country with the most lost finals in the history of the World Cup is at the same time the second most winner of the same: Germany (4 finals lost to 4 won). On its behalf, Argentina has played in 5 finals, winning 2 and losing 3 (1930, 1990 and 2014).
Hence, this bittersweet feeling of having come so close to glory and never being able to achieve it has been experienced by few FIFA-affiliated National Teams. Specifically five who played a FIFA World Cup Final at least once, but have never been able to win it.
As such, the Czech Republic has never played in a final, as it acquired this name in 1993 and has only played in one World Cup since then (Germany 2006). However, as Czechoslovakia, the Czech team reached two finals, in 1934 against Italy and in 1962 against Brazil, but never won the FIFA World Cup.
The mighty Magyar team experienced the best moments of its soccer history when the FIFA World Cup was still very young. They reached the Final of France 1938, which they lost to Vittorio Pozzo's Italy. Later, with a dream team that looked like the big favorite, they played the decisive match in Switzerland 1954, but lost surprisingly to Germany. Since then they have not advanced beyond the Quarter Finals and have not played in a World Cup since Mexico 1986.
The Swedish national team perfectly exemplifies the increased potential of those squads that play at home. Driven by their home crowd, Sweden reached the final of the 1958 FIFA World Cup, but succumbed to the Brazil of the then very young Edison Arantes do Nascimento Pelé. They have never again played in the deciding match of this tournament.
A similar story to that of Argentina until the time came to stop counting losses and start celebrating World Cups. The Netherlands has played 3 finals in this tournament, in 1974, 1978 and 2010, but has never been able to come out with its hands up. Its team of the seventies, known as the Clockwork Orange, which was twice runner-up in the World Cup, remains in the memory.
The most recent example that although it is extremely complicated, playing in a World Cup Final is not impossible. The Croatian team surprised all and sundry and made it to the Final of Russia 2018, but Kylian Mbappé, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and company deprived them of winning their first World Cup.