The course of world history (following the pattern of ever more de-colonialisation) was echoed clearly in the increasing number of entries for the World Cup in England, which passed the seventy mark for the first time. The number of recently independent states was the major factor behind this enlargement, which ended disappointingly from a sporting point of view. The fact that only one place was available for two entire continents led to a mass withdrawal. At the end only one applicant was left, but what a surprise they provided!

Little or nothing was known about the Korea DPR team. Three dozen players had apparently been assembled in 1962 in order to build up a strong national team in a systematic manner. They played a number of friendly matches, but little was heard about them in the West. Yet wins by 6-1 and 3-1 over Australia in the play-off matches gave a hint of how the North Koreans would perform in England.

In Europe there were a few upsets in the qualifiers; two semi-finalists from 1962 were eliminated, Czechoslovakia (Portugal won that group) and Yugoslavia (France). With a rejuvenated team, Hungary had little difficulty in overcoming the German DR and Austria. England were automatically qualified as hosts - and, as in 1962, they were the only representative from the United Kingdom.

From South America came the three most fancied teams, Argentina, Colombia and Chile, along with Brazil, of course, who were coming to defend their title. Once again Mexico were the CONCACAF representatives, sailing through their qualifying matches undefeated and bringing their long-serving goalkeeper Antonio Carbajal to his fifth World Cup.