For just the third time ever, the Italians will not be at the World Cup Finals tournament having gone down to Sweden 1-0 over two legs. Having won the tournament most recently in 2006 the Azzuri will be in an unusual position having to watch the tournament from the outside but they will not be the only side team to miss out despite being viewed as almost sure things to qualify.
1958 – Italy
It is worth starting this list by going back to the last time Italy missed a World Cup, which was hosted by Sweden. Having been drawn in a group with Northern Ireland and Portugal, with only one side advancing, it came down to the final fixture in Belfast where the Italians just needed to avoid a defeat. The initial fixture had to be postponed due to the referee’s day job and the weather preventing him from travelling to the game. Just over a month later Northern Ireland sprung a big upset and the Italians were left at home that June.
1970 – Argentina
When backroom dramas spill out onto the pitch, there will only be frustrating results and that is how best to sum up the Argentine qualification campaign. Drawn in the three team group for CONEMBOL they simply had to advance past Peru and Bolivia in late 1969 to progress to the World Cup. Two weeks before qualification began however, the head of the AFA resigned, taking his whole staff including the national team coach which threw preparations into chaos. First up losses away from home put them on the back foot but a 1-0 win over Bolivia gave them a chance. In their final match a draw with Peru consigned them to the bottom spot in their group and the only time they have failed to make the tournament.
1974 – England and USSR
Many people here will remember this tournament as the first time Australia made it, but there were a couple of big sides from Europe that did not take part. England were in the middle of a downward spiral and were left home at the expense of Poland whom they faced in the final game. It was also a lesson in not talking too much before the game with the Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski having the game of his life to keep it at 1-1 after being labelled a clown by Brian Clough before the game. For the USSR they drew Chile in the inter-continental playoff however were expelled after refusing to play due to the coup two months prior having deemed the venue unsafe and were unable to agree on a satisfactory alternative. FIFA still held the match in Santiago however with no opponent it was abandoned after 30 seconds, just enough time for a goal to be scored by the hosts.
1982 and 1986 – Netherlands
Coming off back to back runs to the final of the World Cup, the Dutch underwent an evolution in the 80’s that resulted in some lean years. A tough group draw with a talented Irish side, Euro finalists Belgium and Euro winners France in the 1982 campaign saw them fall just short with a loss in the penultimate fixture to France. Four years later they finished three points adrift of Hungary in Group B with a squad consisting of Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Rob de Wit. It sent them to the UEFA playoff where a late goal for Belgium in the second leg was enough to secure the tie on away goals.
1994 – England and France
Following a disaster at Euro 1992 England’s campaign for USA 1994 followed a similar theme as they missed out at the hands of Norway and the Netherlands. Home draws against those two sides forced them to chase the group leaders for the entire campaign and their fate was sealed at the end of the group stage with 2-0 losses to those sides away from home. The final ignominy was saved for their final game conceding a goal to San Marino in the first minute of the game, however that would be somewhat overshadowed by ending their campaign with a 7-1 win.
France also missed out having finished behind Sweden and Bulgaria in their group stage. With a massively talented side featuring Bernard Lama, Laurent Blanc, Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps, Emmanuel Petit, Frank Sauzee, Eric Cantona and Jean-Pierre Papin this team should not have been in that position. Having been in prime position with two games to go however a loss to Israel and Bulgaria defeating Austria, it meant the final game between these two sides needed a draw for the French to advance. With the ball in the corner and scores level France just needed to run out the clock but an overhit cross allowed Bulgaria to break for the ultimately critical goal. Four years later this side washed away plenty of bad memories with their run to the final however.
2002 – Netherlands
A star studded Dutch side would have been odds on to make it to the South Korean-Japan tournament however like many others in this story, a string of underwhelming performances meant they were watching the tournament at home. Louis Van Gaal’s side were undone by a Jason McAteer goal in front of a crazy Landsdowne Road crowd which gave the Irish a buffer in the group they would not relinquish.
2006 – Uruguay
Nobody can take away the phenomenal effort of the Socceroos to qualify for Germany 2006 but it cannot be forgotten that to get there, they had to get past a talent laden Uruguay side. With players like Alvaro Recoba, Diego Forlan and more it was always going to be a big ask to hold them off but they did. Plus it is another excuse to watch this video… again.
2018 – USA, Netherlands and Chile
In what might be one of the most brutal qualification periods in recent memory, famous sides from around the world will be missing the upcoming World Cup. The Dutch side which made the semi-final in 2014 will now be out completely having finished third in their European group behind France and Sweden. Having also missed Euro 2016 it will be at least six years between major tournament appearances for the Dutch now.
Over the course of a manic two and a half hours in October, both Chile and the United States wound up failing to secure their place in the World Cup. Chile missed out on direct qualification by just one point thanks to a final day defeat against the already qualified Brazil. Losing that match 3-0 sent the Chileans down to sixth spot on goal difference behind Peru who progressed to the playoffs against New Zealand.
As the top seeded team in the hexagonal stage of CONCACAF Qualifying, the USA were almost certain to progress to Russia however three draws and three losses from their first nine games meant they would need a win against the eliminated Trinidad and Tobago on the final day to advance or for Honduras and Panama to not win and they would at least have a playoff spot. A lacklustre first half had them chasing a 2-0 deficit and despite a Christian Pulisic goal, it was not to be for the USA ending their run of seven straight appearances. It did produce this amazing rant from Taylor Twellman after the final whistle which captured the emotions surrounding not making it.