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The excitement and tension of the qualifying campaigns are over, and we now know the 32 teams that are confirmed for the 2018 World Cup. There are surprises both ways - who's going and who's not going. For example, Panama and Iceland which are the two teams making their debut - although Iceland's inclusion is not so difficult to understand in light of their crowd-pleasing performance at Euro 2016. 

But amongst those not going are some big names; countries that won't be there for the first time in the lifetime of many supporters and officials. We take a look at the top 10 ranked nations that we won't be seeing in action next June or July. 

Chile: 9

Chile really bombed-out in the testing qualifying campaign of South America, not even making the fifth position for the play-off spot against the Oceania winner. Yet, they've been so good in the past four years. At the last World Cup, they almost knocked Brazil out in the quarter-finals. They have won the past two Copa Americas. They were runners-up in the Confederations Cup this year to Germany. The question is: will we see the likes of Claudio Bravo and Alexis Sanchez (pictured) in action again in a World Cup, now that they're absent next year? It's possible, but not likely. By the time the 2022 version rolls around, Bravo will be 39 and Sanchez will be pushing 34.

Wales: 14

A little like Iceland, many neutral fans were pleased to see Wales progress to the semi-finals at Euro 2016, but for World Cup qualification, where they were in a group with Serbia, the Republic of Ireland and Austria (amongst others), they could not even make the play-offs. Wales hasn't qualified for the World Cup since 1958 and, unless Gareth Bale is fit and firing, they may be pushing the proverbial uphill for 2022 also. Bale will be 33 by the time the 2022 World Cup is staged.

Italy: 15

We wrote about Italy missing out here, and the outpouring of emotion that went with it. They had to battle Spain for the automatic group winner's spot, were easily second in their otherwise ordinary group, and were favourites - on paper - to progress against Sweden, but were less than impressive in their qualifying campaign. 

Netherlands: 20

It hasn't been a good few years for Dutch football. Their so-called 'golden generation' did not deliver any major trophies and they failed to make Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. 'Where to from here?' for the Netherlands FA will be interesting to watch. It means we won't see the likes of Arjen Robben (main picture), now 33, again at a World Cup. In the meantime, Dutch coaches are apparently on the radar of Australia's FFA again with this report suggesting there have been talks with Dick Advocaat and Bart van Marwijk. 

Northern Ireland: 23

If any team was hard done-by in the play-offs, it was Northern Ireland. The only goal in the two games against Switzerland came from a penalty which was a controversial call with many commentators agreeing it should not have been awarded. The return leg was a dour affair on a pitch that looked as if a herd of Swiss cows had been staying there the previous night. 

Slovakia: 24

England romped it in to the top position in Group F, and Slovakia battled for second position with Scotland but the 18 points they each earned (Slovakia with a better goal difference than Scotland) were not enough to even put them into the play-offs as a highly ranked second team. 

Republic of Ireland: 26

They started off okay with a 0-0 result away in Copenhagen in their first-leg play-off against Denmark. It should have been a good platform for them to progress to the World Cup - but they had an absolute shocker at home, losing 1-5 to Denmark including a hat-trick to Tottenham's Christian Eriksen. 

USA: 27

It was almost as if we put the mockers on them when we wrote here that they were "in the box seat" to finish third in the qualifying campaign and earn automatic qualification. Instead, they completely bombed-out by losing to lowly Trinidad and Tobago who had mustered only one win before that in the entire campaign. It shouldn't have happened, and FIFA will no doubt be ruing the ticket sales that now won't come their way for Russia 2018. American fans are big purchasers of tickets to follow their team. 

Scotland: 29

As mentioned above, they were in the same group as England and Slovakia, and were tied on points with Slovakia for second place but were third on goal difference. Scotland managed a 2-2 draw with England, but the two games they should have won - against Lithuania and Slovenia - were instead another two draws that saw them drop two points. (Darren Fletcher and Gordon Strahan pictured here).

Ukraine: 30

If only for the fact that this World Cup is being held in Russia, it would have been good to see the Ukraine there also. They haven't been to a World Cup since Germany 2006, when their now manager, Andriy Shevchenko, was still playing. Ukraine's group included Iceland (automatic qualifiers), Croatia (qualified after play-off), Turkey, Finland and Kosovo. They finished third, three points behind Croatia, starting in a lively fashion with a 1-1 draw against Iceland, but the rest of their results were predictable but not enough to put them into contention.


Categories: Analysis | World Cup

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