The minnows who made waves in 2020

30 Dec 2020
  • The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the international football calendar in 2020

  • Various smaller nations still managed to pull off excellent results

  • San Marino, Comoros, Malta, Burundi, Gibraltar and Equatorial Guinea in focus

As nobody will need reminding, the international match calendar was severely disrupted in 2020. The end result was fewer international games than in any single year since 1987, when 323 were held.

However, despite the constraints, a total of 353 internationals were still able to go ahead – and they produced a number of notable exploits, sensational displays and historic feats. recaps the standout performances of 2020 from some of the planet's smallest football nations.

San Marino

📈 FIFA ranking – 210th

💪 Key achievement: recording back-to-back competitive draws

Never before in their history had La Serenissima clinched positive results in two consecutive games. They finally put that right this year by securing draws with Liechtenstein and Gibraltar in the UEFA Nations League. San Marino's point against Gibraltar was all the more remarkable given that they were reduced to ten men in the 49th minute, when they lost captain Davide Simoncini to a red card.


📈 FIFA ranking – 130th

💪 Key achievement: ending the year joint top of their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying group

Some wins are more valuable than others. The 2-1 victory claimed by Comoros against Kenya on 15 November must go down as absolutely priceless. That allowed Les Cœlacanthes to move joint top of qualifying Group G for the 2021 CAF Africa Cup of Nations alongside Egypt, albeit with an inferior goal difference. Although Comoros have never taken part in the continental showpiece or any other major tournament, that dream is now within reach.


📈 FIFA ranking – 176th

💪 Key achievement: posting two straight wins in competitive games

Malta wrote history in October courtesy of a 1-0 defeat of Latvia followed by a 3-1 success against Andorra. Those Nations League wins represented a landmark first for Les Chevaliers, who had never previously pulled off back-to-back victories in competitive action. On top of that, they had never actually managed to score three times in a single competitive match. The goal they conceded against Andorra, meanwhile, also ended an unprecedented run of four straight clean sheets.

FIFA Coca/Cola Ranking Biggest Movers


📈 FIFA ranking – 138th

💪 Key achievement: securing the year's biggest rise in the FIFA ranking

Burundi excelled in 2020 thanks to a record of two wins and a draw from three games, with their opponents including 2019 Africa Cup of Nations contenders Mauritania and Tanzania. That came in stark contrast to their form last year, when they suffered losses to Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia – each of them lower than Les Hirondelles in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.


📈 FIFA ranking – 195th

💪 Key achievement: winning an away game for just the second time

Almost two years to the day after triumphing 1-0 in Armenia on 18 October 2018, Gibraltar celebrated only the second away victory of their history by winning a Nations League fixture in Liechtenstein on 10 October. Just a few weeks later, that exploit was followed by draws against San Marino and Liechtenstein. It represented a superb sequence for the nation ranked 195th, who had never previously remained unbeaten for more than one match.

Equatorial Guinea

📈 FIFA ranking – 134th

💪 Key achievement: registering two consecutive wins

Equatorial Guinea contested only two games in 2020 and both were Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Libya – a team placed 23 spots higher in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Impressively, the Nzalang Nacional won both, the first time they had recorded two straight competitive victories since 2015. Those results helped Sebastien Migne's men take a big leap up the world ranking while also bolstering their bid to reach the 2021 continental showcase.