After two years of qualifying competitions across Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, South America and the combined North, Central America, and Caribbean groups, the competition was whittled down to the elite field that will contest the 2018 World Cup, with Russia receiving a bye through to the finals as the host nation.
This process, however, was not without its casualties, with several highly ranked sides not making the finals.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest names to miss out…
1 Bosnia & Herzegovina
Finishing third behind the emphatic Belgians and the dogged Greeks, Bosnia & Herzegovina rued their missed opportunities against the big-hitters in their European Group H.
With five points out of a possible 18 against Belgium, Greece and Cyprus, ‘Zmajevi’ or ‘The Dragons’ failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament after making their debut in the 2014 version.
Manager Mehmed Bazdarevic copped a majority of the flack for his tactical negligence and has subsequently lost his job, but with star man Edin Dzeko the wrong side of 30 it’ll be a struggle for Bosnia & Herzegovina to build momentum ahead of the Euro 2020 qualification.
After finishing second to a masterful Spanish side, ‘Gil Azzurri’ failed to make to World Cup finals for the first time since 1958 after losing out to Sweden in the playoffs.
With an underwhelming 3-0 defeat to Spain in Madrid becoming the focal point for Italian unrest, Gian Piero Ventura’s philosophy was under the microscope with the side failing to fall back on their vast experience in a tightly contested two legs against the Swedes.
Ciro Immobile’s six goals weren’t enough over the qualification period and with Gianluigi Buffon, Daniele De Rossi, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli announcing their retirement from the national side, ‘The Blues’ find themselves at a crossroads.
The USA have scraped through qualifications in the past, however, after gathering a miserly twelve points in ten matches against the other CONCACAF competitors, the United States were left in fifth place in their group of six.
With a 4-0 loss to Costa Rica summing up the shambolic campaign of ‘The Stars and Stripes’, the old guard must now make way for a new breed of talent as they miss out on their first World Cup since Mexico 1986.
Chile’s CONMEBOL campaign was nothing short of a disaster. Back-to-back
Copa America champions and back-to-back World Cup last 16 competitors; ‘La Roja’ struggled in their topsy-turvy qualification campaign.
With just two points separating Argentina in third and Chile in sixth, losses to Paraguay and Bolivia in their last four matches stung the tale of Alexis Sanchez’s side as they fell within three goals of piping Peru into the playoff place.
5 The Netherlands
In a group consisting of France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, and Belarus, 19 points would always be a questionable amount to sneak ‘Oranje’ into the finals.
A 2-0 defeat in Sofia to Bulgaria wobbled Danny Blind’s side, with a 4-0 defeat in Paris signalling their deep-rooted issues in tactics and talent. There were patches of bad luck along the way, however being out-gunned by Sweden on goal difference proved the final nail in the coffin as the Dutch finished third in Group A. The ‘Orange Army’ will be sorely missed in Russia.
Who will you miss most at the World Cup? Comment below...
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?