The World Cup Alphabet – Q is for…





While the first World Cup saw teams being almost begged to take part it’s now an honour and a sign you are half decent to be one of the 32 teams at the tournament.


In 1934 there were only 26 games to see who would qualify, for Russia 2018 there was a staggering 618 games played between 211 countries to see who the 31 would be to join hosts Russia. This was over Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa, North and South America over three years. The body of the last tournament is still warm when the qualifying for the next tournament begins three years out from the first ball being kicked in the finals.


The teams that normally start it all in the campaign are never there in the final 32. For Russia it was Timor Leste v Mongolia but Mongolia decided to forfeit like it was a Tuesday night 5-a-side game at a rec centre. Monserrat, Belize, Tahiti and New Caledonia have also kicked it off in recent times. A documentary called the ‘Other Final’ about one of the early games between the two worst ranked teams in the world at that time is worth checking out. Bhutan and Monserrat being the teams.



The champions used to get a free ticket to the World Cup but the capitulation of the French in 2002 saw the law changed as they just didn’t have any hard games to get them up for the cup. Australia played in a total of 20 games to qualify for Russia visiting 10 different countries across Asia and Central America.

Some say that it isn’t fair that better confederations do not have more places and four come from Asia or three or four from Central America but that isn’t what the tournament is about. Big names always miss out. This tournament alone will see Italy, USA and Holland not there. England not qualifying for USA 94 was a disaster. The French capitulation for the same tournament saw them completely change their set up and turned them in to team that may paste us in a couple of weeks. Australia’s ‘Trail of Tears’ over the years we all know about.

If FIFA get their way (and they always do) then it could be a 46 team World Cup in the years ahead which means it wouldn’t be such an achievement to qualify and ruin the spectacle a little. Half of it is getting there sometimes. It would be tragic to deny a team something like the sheer joy we had on November 15 2005.




At the 1978 World Cup, Peru’s goalkeeper Ramón Quiroga, aptly nickamed El Loco, committed what was surely the funniest foul in the tournament’s history. It takes a certain type of footballer to earn the nickname El Loco. He was one of those players who glared at you from a sticker book then came to life on the screen to play a starring role.


You see, when you select a goalkeeper known for his extravagance and unpredictability, you’ll get some impossible saves and interceptions from time to time, as shown by the 50 stops racked up by Quiroga in six World Cup games in 1978. You’ll also get things like his tackle on in the 1978 World Cup.



Peru had topped their group in 1978, avoiding defeat against Iran, 1974 finalists the Netherlands, or self-proclaimed favourites Scotland.With the likes of Teófilo Cubillas in such fine form, even the prospect of a tough second group stage against Brazil, Poland and hosts Argentina didn’t seem all that daunting. It’s all about momentum, right?



Well, it was certainly all about momentum when Quiroga flew through Poland’s legendary Grzegorz Lato, wiping him out in the Polish half of the pitch, not his own. Earlier in the game, Peru’s defence presumably trusted in their Argentina-born stopper enough to ignore their actual responsibilities, leaving Quiroga to pull off an important interception a good 8-10 yards outside his area.In fairness, the nonchalant reaction, calmly taking a couple of extra touches before relinquishing the ball, suggests this was something he had done successfully plenty of times before.



When he took out Lato though that was something different. Again, the reaction was very El Loco. Standing, hands behind his back like a schoolboy who has just been caught smoking behind the bike sheds suggested  this was also not a first for Quiroga.



Baddiel and Skinner, the two comedians behind ‘Fantasy World Cup’ and the hit song ‘Three Lions on a Shirt’ did a retro segment on the game.



He would also be in goal when Peru somehow let in six goals against Argentina to ensure the hosts went through to the next round at the expense of Brazil.


About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Dilettante. Traffic Nerd. Behind the Almanac World Cup 100. Keen Cat, Cardie, Socceroo/Matilda, Glory Bhoy.


  1. Peter Fuller says

    Thank you for the reminder of Quiroga. A favourite author of mine is Brian Glanville, who produced a short story collection “Goalkeepers are Crazy”, with the title supplied by what presumably he or the publisher considered the best of them. I suppose it’s almost a cliche, but it does emphasise what a special level of eccentricity Quiroga exhibited. I also appreciate the shout out for Baddiel & Skinner.

  2. It seems it was an exclusive South American thing. You also had Higuita going off the reservation too. Then there was Jose Chilavert. An alpha male if ever there was one.

  3. Peter, have gone through a heap of the old ‘Phoenix from the Flames’ and still brilliant albiet ‘of their time’. Frank Skinner has appeared on the excellent ‘Quickly Kevin will he score’ podcast recently.

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