Germany have failed to impress in their last three major tournaments.

13 international teams that are long overdue a renaissance: Germany, Mexico, Ireland…

International football is more fluid than the club game with no one side dominating for too long – but some nations have spent far too long in the doldrums.

Whether they’re struggling to qualify for the World Cup or failing to do themselves justice on the biggest stages, there are a plethora of nations struggling to recapture former glories.

We’ve picked out 13 nations we’d love to see back to themselves on the world stage, encompassing all the confederations.


Germany haven’t been any good since they won the World Cup in 2014. Yes, they got to the semis of Euro 2016 but do you remember anything about that run? Exactly.

Their inept title defence at Russia 2018 was seen as a freak one-off at the time, but Die Mannschaft lost meekly to England at Euro 2020 and bombed out in the group stages again at the last World Cup.

In 2023, Germany lost to Belgium, Poland, Colombia, Japan, Turkey and Austria to confirm their status as international football’s Manchester United.

We’ll come to regret this, but tournaments feel weird without an imperious German side. Perhaps they’ll rise to the occasion in front of their own fans at Euro 2024.

An aerial view of Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, Germany. The stadium will be one of 10 host venues for Euro 2024.

READ: The 10 amazing stadiums that will host Euro 2024 matches this summer


Mexico broke their run of seven successive last 16 defeats at the World Cup by bowing out in the group stages in 2022. Worse than that was the sheer poverty of their performances.

We associate Mexico with daring attacking raids, flamboyant defending and colourful supporters. All we got in Qatar was three displays blunter than your straight-talking uncle.

The United States, and arguably Canada, have more talented players than the Mexicans these days. They’ve got two years to cobble together something exciting before World Cup matches at the Azteca.


Absent from major tournaments since Euro 2000, Norway at least have the raw materials to end that run in the coming years.

Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard are two of the best players in world football, while Oscar Bobb’s emergence at Manchester City suggests the Norwegian well is deeper than many suspect.

They were bobbins in Euro 24 qualifying though, finishing well behind Scotland and failed to even make the participation-badge-for-all play-offs.

Which is a shame, because Norway will be the darkest of horses for the next tournament they reach.

Republic of Ireland

It hasn’t really happened for the Irish since 2002, despite a stirring appearance as battling underdogs at Euro 2016.

Shambolically run by the FAI, the Republic of Ireland have seen talent dwindle and fortunes nosedive over the past two decades all while Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland enjoyed spells performing above themselves.

The Stephen Kenny experiment, intended to introduce progressive football to the Emerald Isle, is now over after a series of underwhelming qualifying performances.

But the future looks brighter – Evan Ferguson, Nathan Collins and Caoimhin Kelleher is a fine spine on paper and there are more talented youngsters dotted about English clubs.

With Dublin primed to host matches at Euro 2028, the incentive for Ireland to get their a*ses in gear has never been greater.


Everyone’s favourite team back in 2010, Ghana have stunk out the last two AFCONs and have become the butt of jokes across the African continent.

Like Norway, the raw material is there for better – Mohammed Kudus is enjoying an excellent season at West Ham, while Antoine Semenyo, Tariq Lamptey and Kamaldeen Sulemana have also shone in English football.

With a competent manager, Ghana will hope to reach America in 2026 and play the hosts; they’ve beaten them in two of their three previous World Cup matches.


Yes, Cameroon usually make the World Cup but they haven’t been out of the group stages since 1990 – and rarely threaten to do so either.

Instead of rowing over bonuses and elbowing opponents in the back (hello, Alex Song), the Indomitable Lions should concentrate on replicating their Italia ’90 heroics and making your da go watery-eyed with nostalgia.

Cameroon's Alex Song leaves the pitch after being given a red card during the group A World Cup soccer match between Cameroon and Croatia at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

READ: An ode to Alex Song & the stupidest red card in football history


With an insatiable love of football, talented players and a rich domestic league, Turkey severely underperform on the international stage.

We all remember their mad-cap runs to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2008, but we also remember them losing every match at Euro 2020 after everyone in the office tipped them as a dark horse.

The Turks haven’t reached the World Cup in two decades, but have several talented youngsters coming through including Arda Guler at Real Madrid and Juventus forward Kenan Yildiz.

Getting out of the groups in Germany this summer would constitute a baby step towards Turkey fulfilling their undoubted potential.


The Reggae Boyz have been absent from the World Cup since France ’98, but there’ll be no Canada, Mexico or the USA blocking their path to the 2026 finals.

Jamaica are blessed with some technically gifted players, including Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey, and progressed to the CONCACAF Nations League semi-finals with a victory over highly-rated Canada in November 2023.

One to watch in 2026 qualifying.


A stalwart of World Cups at the turn of the millennium, Paraguay have failed to qualify for the big event since 2010 and aren’t much fancied to end that unwanted streak in two years time.

But their under-23 side beat Brazil to a place at the Paris Olympics and both Miguel Almiron and Julio Enciso have impressed in the Premier League.

Traditionally a staunch defensive outfit, albeit kitted out in fetching red and white stripes, Paraguay need to marry their heritage with youthful promise if they’re to rival their South America compatriots.


If somebody told you FIFA expanded the World Cup to 48 countries solely to ensure China has a better chance to qualify, you’d believe them. Right?

Long seen as future hosts of the tournament, China haven’t reached the finals since their goalless and pointless debut in 2002 and investment in the Chinese Super League has slowed from a flood to a intermittent trickle.

With eight teams from Asia guaranteed to reach the 2026 finals, you’d imagine China have an outside chance of rectifying their embarrassing record.

If they did, the celebrations in Beijing might just drown out the ecstatic groans of FIFA executives.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every country to compete at a FIFA World Cup?


Cult heroes of the 1990s, Romanian football has been in the doldrums for most of the last two decades.

Aside from a glittering stadium in Bucharest, investment in the national game has been minimal and both its clubs and its national team slipped into irrelevancy.

But Romania will be at the Euros after topping a qualifying group including Switzerland and centre-back Radu Dragușin made a big-money move to Tottenham in January 2024.

Are they on their way back? Maybe.


Another team whose 90s exploits keeps your da warm at night, Bulgaria haven’t reached a single tournament since losing all three matches at Euro 2004.

Back then, Dimitar Berbatov lined up alongside both Stiliyan and Martin Petrov. There are no Bulgarian footballers fit to lace their boots in 2024.

With a domestic game dogged by corruption and racism, it may be a while before Bulgaria return to the international spotlight.

South Africa

With the best infrastructure in Africa and a deep love of the game, South Africa will back themselves to claim one of nine spots now available for the 2026 World Cup.

Despite having no players in the class of Steven Pienaar, Benni McCarthy or Quinton Fortune, Bafana Bafana were surprise semi-finalists at AFCON earlier this year.

South Africa charmed the world in 2010 – we still shout ‘Tshabalala!’ at inappropriate moments – and their return to the World Cup stage will be welcomed by many.

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