For the qualifying round of the fifth FIFA World Cup, which had been assigned to Switzerland back in 1946, 45 national associations entered teams, of whom ten eventually did not play. Of the Eastern European countries, the Soviet Union again did not participate, this time for a sporting reason, namely their disappointing showing at the Olympic Football tournament in 1952. Egypt, the only applicant from Africa, had to face Italy directly for their place, a task that proved well beyond them.

Once again the British contingent of four teams were all there, with places in the World Cup for the top two. Again England finished ahead of Scotland, but this time the Scots did not turn down the opportunity.

Hungary did not have to play their qualifying games, since Poland withdrew, but they had shown their strength emphatically, defeating England twice within six months, 6-3 at Wembley and then topping that with 7-1 in Budapest. Definitely the team of the moment.

Back in the FIFA family, both Germany FR and Japan took part in the preliminary round. The Germans' successful route saw them eliminate Norway and also the Saar Territory, for a short period an independent state. Japan played against Korea Republic, which was in the throes of civil war, and was eliminated.

For the first time there was a preliminary round in South America too, even though Argentina yet again declined to participate. Brazil was clear winner and accompanied the automatically-qualified reigning World Cup champions Uruguay on the latter's first trip to Europe.