Feature image: The National
Notable European absentees
Italy: the four-time World Champions will feel hard done by the loss against Sweden in the play-offs. The Italians failed to net a goal in both legs to cancel out Sweden’s solitary strike in the first leg. The Swedes would be pleased to be back in a major tournament having missed out on the Euros. The tournament will miss Italy’s array of superstars such as Marco Veratti, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. But the biggest upset has got to be the absence of legendary Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who announced his retirement from international football following the defeat.
Netherlands have found themselves in a sticky international situation in recent years with poor performances despite boasting household names in their ranks. Sweden again, in the group stage this time, effectively ruined Netherlands chances of grabbing a play-off berth after thumping Luxembourg with eight goals without reply. Leaving the Dutch powerless to overcome the huge goal difference.
Wales attracted world admiration for their run in the UEFA Euro 2016, only losing in the semi-finals to eventual winners Portugal. It was their first major tournament in a long time and many assumed Wales to qualify for the World Cup. Injuries and form however, prevented Welsh superstar Gareth Bale from replicating his performances in the Euros to help his country qualify in the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
Africa’s shifting paradigm of footballing strength
Ivory Coast failed to qualify for a fourth straight FIFA World Cup having previously participated in the 2006, 2010, and 2014 editions of the competition. They lost their final game to a strong Moroccan side who already booked a place for next year.
Cameroon, reigning champions of Africa have also found themselves without a ticket to Russia after putting in a dismal qualifying campaign. The African Champions’ assumed revival in major tournaments took a massive plunge back to square one following this unsuccessful qualification attempt.
Chile and USA’s surprising failure to qualify
Chile, back-to-back Copa America Champions in 2015 and 2016 will be disappointed to have narrowly missed out on a place. Hardworking stars such as Alexis Sanches, Arturo Vidal, and Eduardo Vargas make up the strong team and also saw Chile finish runners up to Germany in 2017 Confederations Cup.
Few points separated the sides in second to sixth place and the defining last match of the qualifying stage saw Chile dropping from third place to sixth after losing to Brazil. Chile having come out the worst of the five teams, failed to even secure a play-off berth which went to Peru who finished fifth. Peru eventually became the final team to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2018 after their win against New Zealand today.
The United States men’s national team faced the ire of home fans after missing out a spot for the first time since 1986 with a 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago. The USMNT also did not secure a play-off berth snapped up by Honduras despite the mercurial talent of Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic.
National teams that qualified for the FIFA World Cup 2018
Here’s a list of all 32 qualified nations: Russia (hosts), Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Uruguay.
Which national team not in the FIFA World Cup 2018 would you miss?