Record Entries for World Cup

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The Independent Online

Next Tuesday's qualifying round draws for the 2002 football World Cup finals will include a record breaking 197 countries.

Next Tuesday's qualifying round draws for the 2002 football World Cup finals will include a record breaking 197 countries.

This means that all but five of the 203 nations affiliated to world football's governing body FIFA, will vying for a place in the final 32 for the next World Cup Finals in Japan and South Korea.

Only North Korea officially refused to take part in the competition for political reasons. The five remaining absentees (Afghanistan, Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Niger and Papua New Guinea) simply failed to reply to FIFA by the deadline.

A total of 174 applied for the last World Cup, which was held in 1998 in France. The first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930 had just 13 competing nations.

All but three of the countries will now play qualifying rounds against other countries in their region to decide who takes part in the finals in June 2002.

The three nations who do not have to compete are, France (who qualify as champions) and Japan and South Korea (who qualify as hosts).

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