The qualification competition for the 1990 FIFA World Cup was a series of tournaments organised by the six FIFA confederations. Each confederation — the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Confederation of African Football (CAF), CONCACAF (North America), CONMEBOL (South America), Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), and UEFA (Europe) — was allocated a certain number of the 24 places at the tournament. A total of 116 teams entered the competition, with Italy, as the host, and Argentina, as the holders, qualifying for the final tournament automatically.
The first qualification match was played on 17 April 1988 and qualification concluded on 19 November 1989. A total of 735 goals were scored in the 314 qualifying matches (an average of 2.34 per match).
At the close of entries on 30 September 1987, a total of 116 football associations had entered the 1990 World Cup. This entry figure was five lower than those who originally entered the previous tournament, a then-World Cup record of 121 entries.
Three entries were rejected by FIFA: Belize, Mauritius and Mozambique due to their outstanding financial debts, taking the number of accepted teams down to 113. With both the hosts and holders qualifying automatically for the finals, 111 nations were therefore scheduled to compete in the qualifying competitions. Gabon, Oman and Pakistan were making their first appearance in the World Cup.
Seven teams withdrew during the qualifying process without playing a match: Bahrain, India, Lesotho, Maldives, Rwanda, South Yemen and Togo. Mexico were disqualified from the CONCACAF qualifying tournament before playing a game for fielding overage players in the qualifying stages for the 1988 Olympic Games. Libya withdrew during the CAF group stage, but had already (successfully) played in the first round. Therefore, the total number of teams playing at least one fixture during the 1990 World Cup competition was 105 (103 during qualifying).
To see the dates and results of the qualification rounds for each continental zone, click on the following articles:
The winning team of the OFC qualification tournament played the CONMEBOL group winner with the weakest record in a home-and-away play-off. The winner of this play-off qualified for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.
|Team 1||Agg.||Team 2||1st leg||2nd leg|
The following 24 teams qualified for the 1990 FIFA World Cup:
|Previous best performance|
|Argentina||Champions||10th||5||Winners (1978, 1986)|
|Austria||UEFA Group 3 Runners-up||6th||1 (Last: 1982)||Third place (1954)|
|Belgium||UEFA Group 7 Winners||8th||3||Fourth place (1986)|
|Brazil||CONMEBOL Group Winners||14th||14||Winners (1958, 1962, 1970)|
|Cameroon||CAF Final Round Winners||2nd||1 (Last: 1982)||Group Stage (1982)|
|Colombia||CONMEBOL v OFC Play-off Winners||2nd||1 (Last: 1962)||Group Stage (1962)|
|Costa Rica||CONCACAF Championship Winners||1st||1||–|
|Czechoslovakia||UEFA Group 7 Runners-up||8th||1 (Last: 1982)||Runners-up (1934, 1962)|
|Egypt||CAF Final Round Winners||2nd||1 (Last: 1934)||First Round (1934)|
|England||UEFA Group 2 Runners-up||9th||3||Winners (1966)|
|Italy||Hosts||12th||8||Winners (1934, 1938, 1982)|
|South Korea||AFC Final Round Winners||3rd||2||Group Stage (1954, 1986)|
|Netherlands||UEFA Group 4 Winners||5th||1 (Last: 1978)||Runners-up (1974, 1978)|
|Republic of Ireland||UEFA Group 6 Runners-up||1st||1||–|
|Romania||UEFA Group 1 Winners||5th||1 (Last: 1970)||Group Stage (1930, 1934, 1938, 1970)|
|Scotland||UEFA Group 5 Runners-up||7th||5||Group Stage (1954, 1958, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986)|
|Spain||UEFA Group 6 Winners||8th||4||Fourth place (1950)|
|Sweden||UEFA Group 2 Winners||8th||1 (Last: 1978)||Runners-up (1958)|
|United Arab Emirates||AFC Final Round Runners-up||1st||1||–|
|United States||CONCACAF Championship Runners-up||4th||1 (Last: 1950)||Third place (1930)|
|Uruguay||CONMEBOL Group Winners||9th||2||Winners (1930, 1950)|
|Soviet Union||UEFA Group 3 Winners||7th||3||Fourth place (1966)|
|West Germany||UEFA Group 4 Runners-up||12th||10||Winners (1954, 1974)|
|Yugoslavia||UEFA Group 5 Winners||8th||1 (Last: 1982)||Fourth place (1930, 1962)|
8 of the 24 teams subsequently failed to qualify for the 1994 finals: Austria, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, England, Scotland, United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay. Yugoslavia would later be banned from the 1994 finals due to sanctions that were imposed on them by the United Nations as a result of the Bosnian War, bringing the total number of teams who failed to qualify for the subsequent tournament to 9.