For the first time the number of entries passed the one-hundred mark (even if the actual total fell back to two figures after various withdrawals). Among the most prominent teams not to survive the qualifiers were Uruguay, who were eliminated in the South American preliminaries.

Brazil and Peru were the other two South American teams in addition to the hosts, Argentina; Bolivia went into an inter-continental play-off against a strong Hungarian side and lost both matches. The Hungarians had left the Soviet Union behind them in their group, and Czechoslovakia also failed to make it. England lost only once in their six matches, against Italy in Rome, but the Italians went through thanks to a better goal difference.

Mexico, as usual, had a long road to the final round. In the preliminary group they ended level on points without the USA and Canada, also only managing to qualify thanks to goal difference; at home they had won all five of their matches and scored 20 goals in the process.

After almost 50 games in the Africa zone and a 4-1 win over Egypt, Tunisia earned their tickets to Argentina. They were probably the most fortunate of all, having overcome their very first opponent, Morocco, on penalties (4-2) after two drawn matches.

In the Asia/Oceania zone Iran set the tone this time; they won convincingly four times in the first phase, earned six wins in the final elimination round, plus two draws against Korea Republic, and were never in danger of being overtaken.