The Road Not Always Well Traveled

Michael Lewis
Date Published: 
Soccer Digest

From hostile crowds to shout-outs to drug cartels, the history of World Cup qualifying is littered with oddities and quirk

IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY, PUT ON your seat belts, folks. It always promises to a bumpy ride to soccer's promised land, better known as the World Cup.

If the previous 15 attempts at qualifying are any indication--the first World Cup in 1930 was by invitation--the final months on the way to South Korea and Japan should be laden with controversy, heartbreak, and unexpected triumph. Presenting some of the more intriguing qualifying incidents, situations, and trivia through the years:

How the road to 2002 started

The 2002 World Cup kicked off in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on March 4, 2000 in less-than-inspiring conditions for a world-class competition. The scoreboard and game clock at Crawford Hasely Stadium did not work. The star striker of the home team--Manchester United's Dwight Yorke--was not allowed to play. And a meager crowd estimated at 8,000 turned up to watch Trinidad thrash the Netherlands Antilles, 5-0.