Last night, Italy failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after going down 1-0 in their own backyard against the minnows of North Macedonia. The game itself saw Italy create chance after chance with North Macedonia offering very little going the other way. Domenico Berardi missed a lot of the guild-edged chances for the Italians but he wasn't solely to blame for the country's latest catastrophe. As so often happens in games like these, when a team fails to take their chances, the opposition gets one of their own and take, which is just what happened in stoppage-time when Trajkovski. a former Palermo player, tried his luck from outside the box, sending the North Macedonia, fans, players and staff into hysteria.
So Italy have crashed out of qualifying and will be the biggest name missing from the World Cup in Qatar later this year but it did get us thinking, Who else of the so-called ‘big boys' have missed out on World Cups in the past and is this the biggest shock of them all? Quite possibly. We're going to take a look back over the year at some of the big names in international football that have failed to qualify for the tournament.
Yugoslavia – 1966
A lot of you might not see Yugoslavia as a big name in international football or in some cases, you might not even of heard of the former country before but they made the semi-finals of the 1962 World Cup and reached the final of the 1968 European Championship, so failing to qualify for the World Cup in England was a big shock at the time. In qualifying, Yugoslavia had to finish above both one of the group favourites France but didn't and it cost them dearly.
Argentina – 1970
To put this shock into perspective, Argentina and Brazil are the top dogs in South American football and between them both, they have only failed to qualify for one World Cup in their history, 1970 in Mexico. Argentina had what would have been considered ‘easy' games in their opening two qualifiers against Peru and Bolivia but lost them both. The team's preparation for the qualifiers had been poor with managers coming and going leading to an unsettled group of players. However, they went into the final qualifying game against Peru still in with a chance of making it to Mexico with Brazil, but the game ended in a draw and this failure remains the biggest in South American World Cup history.
England – 1974 & 1994
Just 8-years after winning their one and only World Cup, England with Alf Ramsey still at the helm, failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. This was a humiliating failure for the once-great England manager and was highlighted on English television. In England, the greatest manager never to be offered the England job, Brian Clough, stated the Poland goalkeeper, Jan Tomaszewski, was a clown despite the fact that he had a fantastic game against Ramsey's men. clearly, Clough was bitterly disappointed by the result, just like all England fans, especially as it brought a bitter end to what was an amazing time in charge for Sir Alf.
England made it to the semi-finals of Italia 90 and with the likes of Shearer, Wright, Gascoigne, Platt, Ince and Pearce in their side, Graham Taylor has a talented bunch of players to work with. Not only that, England faced the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Turkey and San Marino in their qualifying group yet somehow they finished in third place and failed to qualify for the World Cup. Taylor never recovered from this failure and was hounded by the British press and never really taken seriously as a manager again, despite doing so much good work during his career.
France 1990 & 1994
The French team of the 80s was one of the best in the nation's history, finishing fourth at the 1982 World Cup and third in 1986. However, in qualifying for Italia 90, France finished third in a five-team group that consisted of Yugoslavia, Scotland, Norway and Cyprus. Michel Platini took over as manager after the opening draw but even a man of his pedigree within the game couldn't stop this France side from failing as they went on to finish up in third.
Just 4-years later and France were at it again, this time Gerard Houllier was in charge. The team had a strong backbone including the likes of Blanc, Deschamps, Desailly and Cantona, and there was a lot of expectation from within the nation that this team would make up for the failure in 1990. However, with two games left in qualifying against Israel and Bulgaria and France only needing a couple of draws to ensure their safe passage to USA 94, they lost 3-2 against Israel to two late goals. The match against Bulgaria would become infamous as once again France conceded a late goal but this time the manager would put the blame all onto the shoulders of David Ginola who came on as a sub and ended up giving the ball away in the Bulgarian half, only for the underdogs to go up the other end of the pitch and score, stopping France from qualifying for a second World Cup on the run.
Netherlands 2002 & 2018
The Dutch national team is often referred to as the greatest country never to have won the World Cup due to the beautiful football and fantastic footballers they have produced over the years. However, the country also has a history of failing to make it to the finals and we have picked out their most recent and infamous two failures to look at today. The 2002 Netherlands side was packed with talent, from Seedorf and Kluivert to the De Boer's and Van Der Sar, yet this team finished behind Portugal and the Republic of Ireland in qualifying, something that was deemed scandalous by the national press and their supports.
The Netherlands made it to the final of the 2010 World Cup and then the semi-finals of the 2014 tournament. However,m after failing to qualify for Euro 2016, there was a sense of dread surrounding the team heading into the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, and with good reason. In a group that consisted of France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Belarus, the Netherlands finished 3rd on goal difference, with Sweden taking the runners-up spot behind France. While the world was in shock, the Dutch fans had anticipated another disappointing result.
Italy 2018 & 2022
Italy are one of the most successful teams in international football and heading into the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, they had qualified for each of the last 14 tournaments consecutively. The qualifying group Italy were in had Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Israel, Albania and Spain in it with the Spanish being big favourites to top the group and for the upcoming tournament in general. There was no shame finishing second behind Spain as Italy were still odds on to qualify via the play-offs even though they drew one of the tougher sides in the form of Sweden. Sweden won 1-0 at home in the 1st leg but everyone still expected Italy to qualify only for the return leg in Italy to finish goalless, bringing an end to their long consecutive run of appearances at the World Cup.
When Italy saw the group they had been drawn in for the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, they must have been left with a huge smile upon their face. Switzerland, who represented the toughest challenge, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Lithuania were the teams Italy would face and many predicted that Mancini's men would take maximum points from all eight games. However, whilst Italy never lost a game in the group stage, they did only win four times as well with the other four games ending in stalemates but that was still enough two finish comfortably in second place behind the Swiss. Italy had to play in the play-off semi-finals ahead of a possible class with Portugal to see who would make it to Qatar. However, despite having the home advantage and dominating the 90-minutes against North Macedonia, Italy failed to take any of their chances and in stoppage-time, they were punished by a goal from 29-year-old Aleksandar Trajkovski, who once played in Italy for Palermo and will probably not be welcomed back into the country anytime soon.