Are Moldova all that bad? Six of Europe's perennial strugglers

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Cyprus

Population: 568,000

Capital: Nicosia

Year of Formation: 1934

Registered players: 23,500

Registered clubs: 91

National Stadium: Makarion Athetic Centre (20,000 capacity)

Five wins in 114 European Championship and World Cup qualifying games is a poor record by any standards. After victories against Switzerland in 1968 and Northern Ireland in 1974, the Cypriots waited almost 20 years for another big win. However, two victories over the Faroe Islands and a draw with Czechoslovakia during the qualifying stages for USA 94 meant that for once avoided the wooden spoon. Home draws with Denmark and Belgium during qualification for Euro 96 indicate that over-confident teams now enter the Makarion Athletic Centre stadium at their peril. could create panic among their illustrious Group Five opponents, Russia and Bulgaria, but history suggests that it may be time for them to return to their familiar positon at the foot of the table.

European Championship Record

P W D L F A Pos

1968 qualifying 6 1 0 5 3 25 Last

1972 qualifying 6 0 0 6 2 26 Last

1976 qualifying 6 0 0 6 0 16 Last

1980 qualifying 6 0 1 5 2 19 Last

1984 qualifying 8 0 2 6 4 21 Last

1988 qualifying 8 0 1 7 3 16 Last

1992 qualifying 8 0 0 8 2 25 Last

1996 qualifying 10 1 4 5 6 20 5/6

World Cup Record

P W D L F A Pos

1962 finals 2 0 1 1 2 7 1st rd

1966 qualifying 4 0 0 4 0 19 Last

1970 qualifying 6 0 0 6 2 35 Last

1974 qualifying 6 1 0 5 1 14 Last

1978 qualifying 6 0 0 6 3 24 Last

1982 qualifying 8 0 0 8 4 29 Last

1986 qualifying 6 0 0 6 3 18 Last

1990 qualifying 8 0 1 7 6 20 Last

1994 qualifying 10 2 1 7 8 18 5/6

Estonia

Population: 1,595,000

Capital: Tallinn

Year of Formation: 1921

Registered players: 12,000

Registered clubs: 40

National Stadium: Kadriorg Stadium (6,000 capacity)

Estonia competed in their first competitive international match in 1920, when they gave a clear indication of future intent by finishing on the wrong end of a

6-0 scoreline against Finland in Helsinki. They improved little after that baptism of fire and by the time the country was ceded to the Soviet Union in 1939, they had managed just a handful of wins in 113 matches. Since regaining their independence following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Estonia have failed to make any further impression on the footballing world. Their last win came away to Liechtenstein in 1993 and since that famous victory they have endured a fruitless run of 33 matches in search of another. With the likes of Sweden, Scotland and Austria in the same qualifying group, Estonia will almost certainly have to concentrate their efforts on a bottom-of-the-table dogfight against their East European foes Belarus and Latvia, if they are to repeat the success they enjoyed in the qualifiying stages for the 1938 World Cup, when they managed to avoid rock bottom by a single place.

European Championship Record

P W D L F A Pos

1994 qualifying 10 0 0 10 3 31 Last

World Cup Record

P W D L F A Pos

1938 qualifying 3 1 0 2 4 11 3/4

1994 qualifying 10 0 1 9 1 27 Last

Faroe Islands

Population: 46,986

Capital: Torshavn

Year of Formation: 1979

Registered players: 2,900

Registered clubs: 172

National Stadium: Svangaskard Stadium, Toftir (8,000 capacity)

12 September 1990 will go down in the annals of football history as the day the part-timers from the Faroe Islands, in their first European Championship match, defeated a red-faced Austrian side, 1-0, in Sweden. Goalkeeper Jens Martin Knudsen became an immediate hero with a series of acrobatic saves and a natty line in wintery head-gear. Sadly this was not to be the birth of a football power as their next seven matches yielded just a single point - at Windsor Park against Northern Ireland. As if to emphasise the point they lost all 10 of their 1994 World Cup qualifiers, scoring just once. The 1996 European qualifiers appear to have provided the Faroe Islanders with something to be more positive about, yielding two victories. But those successes were both against San Marino, who have yet to win a competitive international. Their lack of success is just a little surprising considering about one in 10 adult males in the Faroe Islands is a registered player.

European Championship Record

P W D L F A Pos

1992 qualifying 8 1 1 6 3 26 Last

1996 qualifying 10 2 0 8 10 35 5/6

World Cup Record

P W D L F A Pos

1994 qualifying 10 0 0 10 1 38 Last

Luxembourg

Population: 379,000

Capital: Luxembourg

Year of Formation: 1908

Registered players: 23,300

Registered clubs: 129

National Stadium: Stade Municipal (100,000 capacity)

Since reaching the quarter-finals of the 1964 European Championships by knocking out the Netherlands, the Grand Duchy have scarcely scaled international football's heights. In fact, their next victory in the Championships came over 20 years later, in February 1995, when they defeated Malta in Valletta. Confirmation of their recent renaissance was evident during Euro 96 qualification, when they beat the Czech Republic with a last-minute goal from Guy Hellers. But their World Cup form has been unremarkable, yielding just three wins in 74 games.

European Championship Record

P W D L F A Pos

1964 finals 5 1 3 1 8 8 Q/F

1968 qualifying 6 0 1 8 1 18 Last

1972 qualifying 6 0 1 5 1 23 Last

1976 qualifying 6 0 0 6 7 28 Last

1980 qualifying 6 0 1 5 2 17 Last

1984 qualifying 8 0 0 8 5 36 Last

1988 qualifying 6 0 0 6 2 14 Last

1996 qualifying 10 3 1 6 3 21 5/6

World Cup Record

P W D L F A Pos

1934 qualifying 2 0 0 2 2 15 Last

1938 qualifying 2 0 0 2 2 7 Last

1950 qualifying 2 0 0 2 4 8 Last

1954 qualifying 4 0 0 4 1 19 Last

1958 qualifying 4 0 0 4 3 19 Last

1962 qualifying 4 1 0 3 5 21 Last

1966 qualifying 6 0 0 6 6 20 Last

1970 qualifying 6 0 0 6 4 24 Last

1974 qualifying 6 1 0 5 2 14 Last

1978 qualifying 6 0 0 6 2 22 Last

1982 qualifying 8 0 0 8 1 23 Last

1986 qualifying 8 0 0 8 2 27 Last

1990 qualifying 8 0 1 7 3 22 Last

1994 qualifying 8 0 1 7 2 17 Last

Malta

Population: 353,000

Capital: Valletta

Year of Formation: 1900

Registered players: 7,100

Registered clubs: 47

National Stadium: Ta'Qali Stadium (30,000 capacity)

The 1994 World Cup campaign allowed Malta to break their long- running duck in a competition which had seen 39 matches pass without even a faint scent of victory. A 1-0 win in Tallinn against Estonia with a goal from Kris Laferla hardly prompted dancing in the streets of Valletta, but it did enable Malta to escape the last place in the group for the first time. The quest for glory in the European Championships makes equally distressing reading for the Maltese with just two wins - one against Greece in 1975 and the second against Iceland in 1984 - to show for their efforts. The team are now deeply entrenched in another impressive run of 32 matches without a win in the Championships. They can expect little mercy from Spain, the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia and Slovakia in the battle from qualification from Group Six.

European Championship Record

P W D L F A Pos

1964 finals 2 0 0 2 2 9 1st rd

1972 qualifying 6 0 1 5 2 16 Last

1976 qualifying 6 1 0 5 2 20 Last

1980 qualifying 6 0 1 5 2 21 Last

1984 qualifying 8 1 0 7 5 37 Last

1988 qualifying 8 0 2 6 4 21 Last

1992 qualifying 8 0 2 6 2 23 Last

1996 qualifying 10 0 2 8 2 22 Last

World Cup Record

P W D L F A Pos

1974 qualifying 6 0 0 6 1 20 Last

1978 qualifying 6 0 0 6 0 27 Last

1982 qualifying 4 0 0 4 2 15 Last

1986 qualifying 8 0 1 7 6 25 Last

1990 qualifying 8 0 2 6 3 18 Last

1994 qualifying 10 1 1 8 3 23 Last

San Marino

Population: 22,000

Capital: San Marino

Year of Formation: 1931

Registered players: 1,040

Registered clubs: 17

National Stadium: Serravalle Stadium (7,000 capacity)

When Stuart Pearce exploded like an emotional time bomb during the penalty shoot-out against Spain during Euro 96, it was not merely the memory of his penalty miss against Germany in the 1990 World Cup that he was exorcising. On 17 November 1993, nine seconds into the final qualifying match for USA 94, Pearce's error enabled San Marino's Davide Gaultieri, a computer clerk, to slide the ball past David Seaman. To a country as small as San Marino, whose national stadium can house one-third of the population, that goal was a source of national pride, even though they went on to lose 7-1. Against the enthusiastic part-timers, who have conceded 132 goals in 34 winless European Championship and World Cup qualifiers, big teams usually consider it a case of how many goals they can notch. San Marino will find it harder than usual to score when under siege from Group Seven rivals such as Wales and the Netherlands. But the Wales coach, Bobby Gould, should remember Bologna - conceding even one goal could guarantee a lifetime's ridicule.

European Championship Record

P W D L F A Pos

1992 qualifying 8 0 0 8 1 33 Last

1996 qualifying 10 0 0 10 2 36 Last

World Cup Record

P W D L F A Pos

1994 qualifying 10 0 1 9 2 46 Last

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