Have Luxembourg Ever Played in a Major Football Tournament?

Luxembourg flag over football

In the world of international football, there are several European sides whose main role at the Euros or World Cup qualifiers is to turn up, get thrashed, and go home. Microstates such as San Marino, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg may have impressive GDP stats per capita, but on the football pitch, no amount of (allegedly) shady banking can make up for their tiny populations.

San Marino are regularly considered to be the worst team in the world and Liechtenstein are the only nation they have ever beaten! Luxembourg are certainly not quite as bad as those two but it is safe to say they won’t be challenging their Benelux partners Belgium and Netherlands any time soon nor will they be challenging for major silverware… or even minor, for that matter.

But just how bad are they? And have they ever managed to make it through to the finals of the World Cup or Euros? With both tournaments having expanded considerably over the years, and that pattern set to continue, making the finals is getting more achievable but how have Luxembourg faired?

Have Luxembourg Ever Played at the Euros?

Luxembourg, or the Red Lions as they are known, have – at the time of writing – never made it to the finals of the European Championship. They did not enter qualification for the inaugural tournament back in 1960 but they did get involved for the 1964 edition. Since then they have played in every Euros qualification campaign without success.

What About the World Cup?

Unsurprisingly the picture is very similar for the World Cup and the tiny nation has never made it to the finals of that either. Once more, they did not enter the first edition of the competition in 1930, declining their invitation, but in 1934 they threw their hat in the ring and have had their hat firmly tossed back to them every four years since.

An Unwanted Record But Some Olympic Consolation

Olympic Rings Japan

Whilst many countries have tried and failed to reach the finals of a major tournament, none can match the remarkably consistent and persistent failure of Luxembourg. They hold the unwanted record for the most attempts at qualifying without success in both of these competitions.

They have tried and failed to qualify for the World Cup on 21 occasions. After 17 attempts between 1934 and 2006 inclusive they had won just two qualifying matches, a dismal effort. Since then things have improved and they won one game in qualification for the next three tournaments and a massive three when they missed out on Qatar 2022.

Even so, their overall record at the sport’s showpiece event stands at played 142, won eight, drawn 10, lost 124. With a goal difference of -374! As for the Euros, things are little better.

There have been 15 failed attempts to make it to the continental championship. They managed to win one of their five qualifiers in 1964 but failed to win a single match in nine of their next 10 attempts. Since 2008, however, results have improved and they won a single game in trying to earn a place at each of the Euros of 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020. In 2024, as we shall see, they took a huge leap forward.

Before we consider their performance in Euro 2024 qualification, however, let us look at one tournament they have at least been involved in, the Olympics. They took part in the football tournament at six Games between 1920 and 1952. Admittedly they didn’t cover themselves in glory, and their record in the Olympics stands at played eight, won two, lost six. But it’s the taking part that counts – at least at the Olympics.

Could 2024 be the Year Everything Changes?

Euro 2024 - Luxembourg group J

Luxembourg have just enjoyed their most successful qualification campaign ever and at the time of writing are just two positive results away from booking their place in Germany. In truth, we do not expect them to make it and nor do the bookmakers. But all Luxembourg football fans will be hoping that maybe, just maybe, they can get over the line.

On Thursday the 21st of March they travel to Georgia and if they are able to get a result in Tbilisi they will then face the winners of Greece versus Kazakhstan for a place at Euro 2024. They will be underdogs for both those games, if they even make it to the second one, but who knows? They certainly seem a better outfit than they have at any point in their history.

In the initial qualifiers they finished third in Group J and advanced to the play-off thanks to their performances in the Nations League. However, finishing third was undoubtedly a huge achievement for them. Portugal and Slovakia took the two automatic qualification places but Luxembourg did tremendously well to finish third.

They ended Group J with 17 points, winning half of their 10 games and finishing fully seven points clear of Iceland and eight ahead of Bosnia, whom they beat twice. They also beat Liechtenstein, who lost all 10 of their games, twice, and Iceland at home.

In the 2022/23 Nations League they finished second to Turkey in League C1, once again winning half of their matches. That gave them this second bite of the cherry for Germany 2024 and they will certainly hope they can grasp it. As said, they remain long shots but Luxembourg football is most certainly on the up and they no longer deserve to be ranked alongside the real minnows such as those teams mentioned earlier and others like Gibraltar and Andorra.

Head coach Luc Holtz, who is the longest-serving international manager in world football, recently extended his contract by a further two years. With Luxembourg’s player pool boosted by a significant influx of Portuguese immigrants, Holtz has a promising young squad and they now boast several professional footballers. That was not always the case and with the World Cup set to expand to 48 teams, even if they miss out on Euro 2024, they might just have a chance of making it to the next World Cup.