World Cup Debutants: Nations who set the world on fire the first time around

World Cup Debutants: Nations who set the world on fire the first time around

Ahead of Iceland and Panama making their debut in this summer's tournament here is a look back at the best debutant performances at the World Cup.

Danial Kennedy

​With football's biggest tournament just days away excitement is beginning to hit overdrive, no more so than in the nations of Iceland and Panama who will make history for their countries next week. 

The tournament in Russia will be the first time that these countries will have participated in the World Cup, with not many expecting much from either nation on their first go around. 

It would be naive to rule them out before a ball is kick especially considering Iceland's run to the quarter-finals in Euro 2016, and there has certainly been a history of World Cup debutants making an impact on their debut. Today we will be looking at some of the best World Cup debutants across the years. 


North Korea (1966)

Only two Asian sides had made the tournament itself before the competition arrived on English Shores in 1966, but North Korea changed the tide with their passage into the last-eight. Nobody gave them a chance having been drawn with former champions Italy and suffering a defeat to the Soviet Union in the opening game, but proved solid in second game on Teesside with solid draw against Chile. 

They went and pulled off one of the shocks of the tournament with a 1-0 victory over the Italians, that set up a quarter-final clash with Portugal and looked to be in dreamland having took a 3-0 lead after 30 minutes. It wasn't meant to be however as Eusébio inspired a 5-3 comeback, but North Korea certainly paved the way for Asian teams after them. 


Croatia (1998)

​Many will be surprised to hear that Croatia didn't take part in the biggest international competition until just before the turn of the millennium, but it was Croatia who are the most successful debutants thus far. 

Most of their success hung on the form of talismanic striker Davor Šuker who was crucial in the group stages to ease past both fellow debutants and Jamaica and Japan, before a slight tumble in the final group game saw them finish behind Argentina. Šuker would be on hand to thwart Romania to set up a quarter-final clash with one of the favourites Germany. 

The experience in the tournament between the two sides on paper was telling, but it certainly didn't matter out on the pitch as Croatia breezed past them 3-0 in Lyon to face the hosts France in the semi's. The romance of the tournament was what saw Croatia fall at the penultimate but finished a very respectable third after defeating the Netherlands, many consider Croatia dark horses for many tournaments in the modern era mainly due to the fact that they have the record to back it up. 


Senegal (2002)

As tournaments went on and on through the 90's and into the 00's African teams were beginning to become stronger and stronger, with Senegal hitting the crest of the wave following the success of Cameroon and Nigeria in the 1990 and 1994 tournaments respectively. 

It certainly looked to be something special when they defeated the reigning champions France in their opening match, with Papa Bouba Diop's now infamous celebration seen around the world once over. 

Two draws would follow but it would be enough to take them through behind Denmark to take on fellow Scandinavians Sweden in the last-16, with Henri Camara's golden goal taking them to the last-eight. Senegal were look to go one step further than Cameroon had 12 years previously, however the golden goal would prove their down fall as Turkey took a place in the last four but Senegal will be looking to emulate their 2002 triumphs again this year. 


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