The 10 Countries With The Most Miserable Soccer Fans
Soccer has fans in all the nations of the world, with countries as small as San Marino (population 33,000) and as big as China (1.38 billion) fighting for the World Cup trophy.
Regardless of size, some countries, like Uruguay, are far more successful than others, say, Indonesia.
But what sets the following nations apart isn’t their success or failure, it’s their fans' relationship with the latter.
Here is The18’s ranking of the 10 nations' fans who suffer the most in men’s international soccer – a.k.a. the most miserable fans in football.
Ten years ago Spain might have been near the top of this list, but after dominating international football from 2008-2012, La Furia Roja get bumped to #10.
Prior to this recent success, Spain went six decades between appearances in the World Cup semifinals and fans were generally starved of success in the interim. In 1982, despite hosting the World Cup (above), they couldn't finish better than 12th.
Spain ranks sixth with 13 World Cup appearances but has only made two semifinal appearances, finishing fourth in 1950 and winning it all in 2010.
Of course, La Roja followed that triumph by finishing 23rd in the 2014 Cup, including an ignominious 5-1 defeat to the Netherlands to open their title defense.
The ease with which Spain qualifies for World Cups (77 wins to 11 losses in 111 qualifiers) begs for a better record in the World Cup. Add in just one European Championship before the back-to-back titles from 2008-12, and Spain’s fans expect more from a country that has produced some of the world’s best, from Alfredo Di Stefano to Andres Iniesta.
It doesn’t help that parts of the country hate one another vehemently. That does wonders for morale, as America is learning now.
Since the 1990s, Japan has been a dominant force in Asia, winning four AFC Asian Cups and qualifying for every World Cup since 1998, keeping them from being higher on the list.
Once they get into the World Cup, however, the Blue Samurai underwhelm.
While Japan did make it to the Round of 16 in 2002 (as co-host) and 2010, their overall record of 4-9-4 on the world stage has left the sports-crazy country wanting more.
To make matters worse, in 2002 they had to watch co-host South Korea reach the semifinals, despite the Taeguk Warriors having much less history of football success.
While most Japanese stars, like Yasuhito Endo, never make it to the West, there are plenty of well-known stars like Shinji Kagawa (Dortmund) and Shinji Okazaki (Leicester) who haven’t been able to get Japan over the hump.
Nowadays, the Americans are a shoe-in to qualify for the World Cup and they regularly win the Gold Cup, but after ending a four-decade run without a World Cup, the USMNT has yet to reach a true breakthrough.
The team is undoubtedly in a much better position than it was 30 years ago, before it went nine cycles without a World Cup appearance following a shock 1-0 win over England in the 1950 World Cup (above). It will take reaching the semifinals of the World Cup to be considered among the world’s elite, despite the ever-growing love for the sport in the country.
What makes life particularly tough for soccer fans in America is the constant struggle they deal with in the American sports world.
American football dominates the culture, whether it’s high school, college or the NFL. Baseball is the national pastime and basketball one of the few worldwide sports America can claim to definitively be the best at. Those sports typically claim the top athletes.
Nonetheless, the U.S. has a strong core of soccer fans who get frustrated every four years when the rest of the country gets interested in the World Cup only to forget about it a week later.
Throw in a giant population soccer haters and the weird way Americans call the sport soccer (stupid Americans), and you get a fanbase that deals with constant misery.
In the 1980s and 1990, it looked like Cameroon would become the first African nation to advance deep into the World Cup.
The Indomitable Lions went undefeated in the 1982 tournament, drawing three successive matches before going out in the group stage. The next time they qualified, in 1990, Cameroon finished seventh, becoming the first African side to reach the quarterfinals.
Since then, despite being regular participants, Cameroon fails to show up at the big tournament. From 1994 to 2014 (with one hiccup not qualifying in 2006), Cameroon’s average finish at the World Cup has been 26th, including 31st and 32nd the last to tournaments.
Cameroon has produced some magnificent players, including Rigobert Song, Samuel Eto’o and Roger Milla (above), who scored four goals at the 1990 World Cup at the ripe age of 38.
Though Cameroon trails only Egypt (seven) with five African Cup of Nation wins, the Indomitable Lions have merely frustrated Cameroonians everywhere else on the big stage.
Along with England, Scotland is the oldest national team in the world, having first played international football in 1872. What else happened in 1872? Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting.
Scotland and England tied that first international friendly 0-0, a sign of things to come for the Scots, though they did go unbeaten in 41 of their first 43 international matches.
Scotland has made it to eight World Cups, 20th best in the world (even behind the U.S.) and has never finished better than ninth.
Even worse, Scotland has only made it to two European Championships, both times unable to advance past the group stage.
They do have a claim of going undefeated in the 1974 World Cup, but they failed to advance because they didn’t score enough against hapless Zaire.
At least they’ll always have Nessie.
Outside of the Netherlands, no team has been to more World Cup semifinals without a championship than Sweden.
The Swedes reached the semifinals in 1938, 1950, 1958 and 1994, only once even making it to the final, as host in 1958 before losing to Brazil.
Nowadays Sweden is most known for Zlatan Ibrahimovic (above), but the country has produced other notable stars in recent decades like Henrik Larsson (Barcelona) and Freddie Ljungberg (Arsenal).
Sweden now qualifies for many but not all major tournaments but doesn’t have the depth of squad to compete for titles like it once did.
Nonetheless, the Swedish fans show out in force at every opportunity, a mass of yellow with shades of blue.
If only there could be 11 Zlatans. We can all agree the world would be a better place.
There was a time when Hungary was the best soccer team in the world.
The Magical Magyars of the 1950s revolutionized the sport and set the stage for Total Football, adopted by Santos in Brazil and later popularized by the Netherlands.
Though Hungary claimed three Olympic gold medals and a pair of second-place finishes in the World Cup, the title of world champion has always eluded the nation. Since the loss in the 1954 World Cup final to West Germany (dubbed the Miracle of Bern), Hungary has been in decline.
Since the 1960s, Hungary has been nothing like the juggernaut it once was, having not qualified for a World Cup since 1986.
Until 2016, Hungary missed 10 straight Euros, but things have gotten worse since the France tournament. In World Cup 2018 qualifying, Hungary lost to Andorra, a humiliating defeat for any nation, let alone one with as much history as Hungary.
In case you didn’t realize, China is big. Like, ridiculously large.
You could combine the current population of the eight nations who have won a World Cup (~565 million) and it wouldn’t equal half of China’s population of 1.38 billion.
And yet, China has only qualified for the World Cup once, in 2002 when the Chinese went 0-3, conceding nine while scoring none.
The Chinese Super League is growing immensely with its massive influx of money paying guys like Carlos Tevez absurd amounts.
But the national team hasn’t followed suit to the disappointment of an expanding, rabid fan base that could soon dwarf the rest of the world.
It’s unlikely China will be back at the World Cup anytime soon. The Chinese are currently dead last in their group in the third round of Asian World Cup qualifying, with no chance of qualifying for Russia.
Chinese soccer fans will have to make do with luring European-based stars to their country like the U.S. did in the 1970s with the NASL.
The inventors of the game also invented the misery that goes along with rooting for a losing team, and I’m not just referring to being an Everton fan.
England fancies itself as one of the game’s top national sides, but in reality they don’t have the evidence to back it up.
Though England has the most popular league in the world and a fan base desperate for success, the Three Lions consistently flop on the big stage. The talent level of the teams they send to the World Cup only makes the failures more disappointing.
England’s lone World Cup victory was in 1966, at home, aided by a controversial goal. They haven’t even sniffed a championship before or since, only once making another World Cup final and twice finishing third in the Euros.
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
The Netherlands have played some of the most beautiful soccer the game has seen and some of the most influential players, coaches and tactics have come from the lowlands.
Names like Cruyff, Rijkaard, Kluivert, Bergkamp, Davids, de Boer, van Nistelrooy, van Persie, Robben, Sneijder and van der Sar are some of the best to play the game.
And all the Oranje have to show for it is a singular European championship.
And really, if you’re a footballing giant, can you really measure yourself by a tournament that has been won by Greece?
But the Netherlands isn’t No. 1 on this list just because they haven’t won. They’re No. 1 because of how often they’ve come close.
The Dutch have been in the semifinals five times, losing three finals. Only Germany (four) has lost more finals, but its fans can be satisfied by four World Cup trophies.
The Netherlands lost a heartbreaker in the 2010 final in South Africa, a brutal 1-0 loss to Spain in extra time during which John Heintinga was sent off.
The 1974 and 1978 finals were similarly devastating, losing both times to the host nation. The Dutch went ahead 1-0 effortlessly against West Germany in the ’74 final, only to lose 2-1 after being denied a late penalty.
The Netherlands lost 3-1 in extra time to Argentina in the ’78 tournament that had its own controversy.
So, whenever you feel bad about your team losing, just be glad you aren't Dutch. And if you are Dutch, well, our condolences.