Since Cymru’s exit from the World Cup last week the usual suspects have been rushing to judgement to issue their predictably uninformed, pompous and crappy opinions in all the usual outlets (the London press, Media Wales, internet chat rooms etc). This deluge of told-you-so guff, why-oh-why handwringing, obnoxious opprobrium and Cymruphobic gloating should be completely ignored, simply because there is one overarching and overwhelming fact that eclipses everything else: Cymru qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 64 years.
This achievement alone renders all other considerations irrelevant. To put it in context: the 64-year gap between our last qualification in 1958 and our participation in 2022 is the longest ever absence from the tournament by any team in the entire history of the World Cup. It is, indeed, an authentic world record.
By making it to Qatar, Cymru comfortably broke the previous record of 56 years between tournaments held jointly by Egypt and Norway. Here is the ‘top ten’ position as it now stands*:
1 CYMRU 64 years (1958-2022)
2 EGYPT 56 years (1934-1990)
NORWAY 56 years (1938-1994)
4 TURKEY 48 years (1954-2002)
5 BOLIVIA 44 years (1950-1994)
NORTH KOREA 44 years (1966-2010)
7 CANADA 36 years (1986-2022)
PERU 36 years (1982-2018)
9 AUSTRALIA 32 years (1974-2006)
10 HONDURAS 28 years (1982-2010)
NEW ZEALAND 28 years) 1982-2010)
The only way Cymru’s record would be immediately broken is if Cuba or Indonesia ever qualified for a second World Cup. Both last qualified in 1938 (Indonesia was then called Dutch East Indies, prior to achieving independence in 1949), so by the next World Cup in 2026 (triple-hosted by Canada, Mexico and US and expanded to 48 teams) the gap between tournaments will have reached 88 years.
In the longer term, the record might in theory also be broken should any of the following countries* eventually qualify again after continuing to extend these ever-lengthening absences from the tournament (total years calculated to 2026). The earliest that this could happen is if Israel had three more failures and then qualified after a 68-year gap in 2038.
1 ISRAEL 56 years
2 HAITI 52 years
ZAIRE 52 years
4 EL SALVADOR 44 years
KUWAIT 44 years
6 HUNGARY 40 years
IRAQ 40 years
NORTHERN IRELAND 40 years
9 UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 36 years
10 AUSTRIA 28 years
JAMAICA 28 years
NORWAY 28 years
ROMANIA 28 years
SCOTLAND 28 years
This is the amazing context in which Cymru’s participation in the 2022 World Cup should be viewed. The time to talk about individual performances, team tactics and so on will come, but for now it is quite enough to revel in the simple truth that we were there.
*NOTE: Not including countries that no longer exist: Czechoslovakia, East Germany, USSR, Yugoslavia