Knocked out! The top ten nations who will definitely not be at the 2022 World Cup

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With only three places left to decide, the last Euro play-off place (between Ukraine, Scotland or Wales), the COMNEBOL 5th place (Peru) vs AFC play-off champions (Australia or UAE) and the Concacaf 4th place (Costa Rica) vs the Oceania group winners (New Zealand).

Taking this into account there are some established footballing nations who will not be gracing the tournament in Qatar. In this article, I will list the top 10 and explain how they ended up knocked out of the 2022 World Cup.

*The list is based on FIFA Rankings (31st March 2022)

It will not be 'Coming Rome' this year as Italy miss out on World Cup

1) Italy (7th)

Starting off with the most notable exclusion to this years tournament, the four times winners have failed to qualify for consecutive tournaments after losing 1-0 to North Macedonia in the play-off semi-final. This is even more shocking after their Euros victory last year at the expense of England, at Wembley.

The Italians also fell in the play-offs for the 2018 World Cup, losing to Sweden (1-0 agg), this was the first failure to qualify since 1958 and their inability to reach the World Cup finals in Qatar means that this is the first time they have failed to reach consecutive tournaments.

The Italians were one of only seven European teams to go unbeaten in qualifying but four draws, most notably two in their final two games (1-1 vs Switzerland and 0-0 vs Northern Ireland) utimately meant they finished two points behind Switzerland.

What makes Italy failing to qualify much worse is the chances they had in both Switzerland games, Jorginho missed a penalty in both games and in the second game this was in the 90th minute, had this gone in and Italy still got the draw against Northern Ireland, it would be them in the draw for the World Cup tomorrow and not Switzerland.

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Jorginho's missed penalties against Switzerland contributed to their failure to qualify for the World Cup

The most surprising thing is that they defeated by North Macedonia, a team whoonly made their tournament debut at the Euros and lost all three games, the fact that North Macedonia scored with the only shot to knock Italy out adds to this pain for the Italians.

Fun fact: Italy’s last knockout win at the World Cup was the 2006 World Cup final in which they defeated France (1-1 and then 5-3 on Penalties), since then they have drawn to Paraguay and New Zealand before losing to Slovakia (3-2) to finish bottom of their group in 2010. They lost to Costa Rica and Uruguay in 2014, with their last World Cup win against England in Brazil.

Their successive failures to qualify since show a real weakness in Italian Football and another revival is needed to challenge at the World Cup in 2026.

2) Colombia (15th)

This is where my prediction in my last article went pear-shaped. While I guessed Colombia would win against Venezuela, my belief was that it would be enough to displace Peru for 5th.

For that, Peru surprised me and ran out comfortable winners against Paraguay (2-0) and in doing so knocked Colombia out of the 2022 World Cup.

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New Liverpool star, Luis Diaz will not be going to the World Cup in Qatar

Colombia made the last two World Cups and qualified from their group in both of them. They were the surprise package in 2014, making the quarter-finals before being narrowly edged out 2-1 by hosts Brazil. In 2018, they topped the group again, finishing ahead of Japan, Senegal and Poland, this time they faced England in the last 16.

Despite a heroic stoppage-time equaliser from Yerry Mina, they lost on Penalties as Jordan Pickford became England’s hero saving Carlos Bacca’s penalty allowing Eric Dier to confirm England’s first ever World Cup penalty shoot-out win and first since David Seaman’s heroics against Spain in 1996.

This time ran they fell short, in most part down to the surprise package of Ecuador who tore up the traditional top four and contributed to the 3rd placed side at last year’s Copa America failing to secure a play-off place.

A key contributing factor was a lack of wins for Colombia, they lost 5 matches which is one less than both Uruguay and Ecuador (3rd and 4th) and three less than 5th placed Peru but they drew 8 matches including at home to Paraguay (8th) and away to Bolivia (9th), both these games had late red cards for Colombia’s opponents.

Their late loss in January to Peru, was also key in the Peruvians snatching 5th spot from under their noses and knocking them out of the World Cup in the process.

Fun Fact: Colombia only have one international trophy (2001 Copa America).

4) Sweden (18th)

An unlucky inclusion in this list as they had the daunting task of facing Poland in the play-off final, who have the best striker in world football Robert Lewandowski.

That being said they did have another chance, in winning their group. They fell short to Spain by 4 points and will look to key defeats in matchday 6 to Greece (2-1), Greece finished 3rd, a defeat to 4th placed Georgia in matchday 9 (2-0) and the ultimate six pointer loss to Spain in the final match (1-0) knowing a win would see them through.

Having won their first three, including a home win against Spain in November 2021, they were in the driving seat but winning 2 of their next five cost them automatic qualification.

With this being Zlatan Ibrahimović’s last chance at a World Cup (he will be 44 by the start of the next World Cup), Sweden have failed to give their top scorer and best ever player the send-off he deserves.

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Zlatan Ibrahimović will not get to add to his 2006 World Cup appearance

After qualifying for the last World Cup, topping their group ahead of Mexico, South Korea and Germany, and reaching the quarter-finals before defeat to England (2-0), they will be disappointed they will not be able to add to this progress.

Either way, they will once again be in and amongst those fighting for qualification for the 2026 World Cup.

Fun Fact: Sweden are one time World Cup finalists, losing 5-2 to Brazil in 1958, with a 17 year-old Pele scoring twice. Sweden actually led the final after four minutes.

4) Chile (28th)

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Chile were despondent at the end of their match against Uruguay 

Whilst this is a chance this spot may go to Wales if they fail to beat the winners of Scotland and Ukraine in June, for the time being the birthplace of Alexis Sanchez will take this spot.

Chile have failed to qualify for the last two World Cups despite consecutive success in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America.

Like Colombia, they were lost out to a shock Ecuador side but unlike Colombia, they lost too many matches.

Chile lost nine out of their 18, this is more than 8th placed Paraguay and only Bolivia and Venezuela lost more matches in the COMNEBOL.

As I mentioned in my last article, Chile was missing their new striker, Ben Brereton Diaz who had impressed with three goals in six matches but they still had experienced winners in their team. While he did play the final qualifier his lack of fitness meant he failed to have the needed impact.

In their final match against Uruguay, they could boost the Champions League, multiple league title winning pair Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal. These two were also key parts of their Copa America victories.

The issue for Chile is that their team is an ageing team Sanchez (33) and Vidal (34) and are very much part of the old generation.

They will need more players like Diaz (22) to inspire a new generation and have a chance of returning to the World Cup in 2026.

5) Nigeria (30th)

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The Super Eagles fans will have to wait four more years for another chance at the World Cup

A heart-breaking exit for Nigeria at the hands of Ghana (on away goals) meant that the Super Eagles would be missing their first World Cup since 2006.

The three-time AFCON winners overcame Cape Verde, Liberia and the Central African Republic to finish top of their group and set up the play-off with Ghana.

Having drawn the first leg 0-0 in Ghana, a Thomas Partey opener for the Ghanaians in Nigeria could not be fully overturned and they could only manage a 1-1 draw.

This rounds up a disappointing few months for Nigeria as they were one of the favourites for last year’s AFCON, before losing to the unfancied Tunisia in the round of 16.

They have an exciting squad for the future, striker Victor Osimhen (23, Napoli) has 11 goals in 20 Serie A matches this season, Joe Aribo (25, Rangers) have impressed in the Europa League, Wilfred Ndidi (25, Leicester City) has being one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League for the last three years and Frank Onyeka (24, Brentford) has been impressive in his debut Premier League season.

They have the makings of a good team, the next four years will be critical to see of their potential can be met and key in success in the 2026 FIFA World Cup in USA, Mexico and Canada.

Fun Fact: Nigeria is the nation that has achieved the highest ever FIFA rank in Africa, they did this in April 1994 (5th).

6) Egypt (32nd)

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The Pharaohs have failed to back up their 2018 World Cup qualification

The AFCON runners-up suffered the same fate in the World Cup qualifying play-offs, losing to Senegal on penalties again.

Leading 1-0 from the first leg, hopes were high for revenge for the Pharaohs but their hopes were dashed by a Senegal equaliser after four minutes from Boulaye Dia. This sent the game to penalties.

Senegal captain Kaldou Koulibaly stepped up and missed, allowing Mo Salah to give Egypt the lead. After not having a chance to take a penalty in the final, he then failed to convert as he blazed the ball over.

Eduoard Mendy and Sadio Mane were Senegal’s heroes once again as Mendy saved from Mostafa Mohammed to give Mane the chance to repeat history. He took the chance and sent Senegal to the World Cup.

Egypt had qualified for 2018 World Cup, but have only done so on two other occasions (1934 and 1990), and they will have to wait four years to have a chance to make it a fourth.

Mo Salah was targeted by bottles and lasers from Senegal fans after the game in an ill-tempered responses despite their success.

Egypt’s future success may rely a lot on the form of Mo Salah (who will be 33 by the time of the next World Cup.)

Fun Fact: Egypt have never won a World Cup match, despite winning AFCON seven times (the record), they have drawn two matches and lost the other five (including three losses in 2018 to Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia).

7) Czech Republic (33rd)

One of the surprise packages at last year’s Euros, they also boasted the joint top scorer, Patrik Schick (five goals).

The Czech Republic made the quarter-finals of that tournament, beating Scotland at Hampden park (2-0), before drawing 1-1 against World Cup finalists, Croatia. Their narrow defeat to England (1-0) saw them through in third and to face the Netherlands.
Schick’s fantastic goal against Scotland

They beat the Dutch, 2-0 but their run was ended by the other surprise package, Denmark. They showed real promise but couldn’t manage a play-off spot for the World Cup. They finished behind Number One in the World, Belgium and Euro 2016 semi-finalists, Wales.

A defeat to Wales in matchday 3 proved pivotal as they were edged out by one point, especially as the goal came in the 81st minute, courtesy of Dan James.

Schick was the villain that day, getting sent off early in the second half, but they will need a return to form for their talismanic striker if they want to qualify in 2026.

Fun Fact: When the Czech Republic played as Czechoslovakia (1930-1990) they played Brazil five times at the World Cup and never won, losing three and drawing twice.

8) Austria (34th)

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David Alaba and his Austria team fell short against a Gareth Bale inspired Wales

A team that finally managed to break their Euros winning duck (having failed to win a game in 2008 and 2016). They beat North Macedonia and eventual quarter-finalists, Ukraine (1-0), their run was ended in extra time (2-1) by eventual champions, Italy at Wembley.

Once again a team with a successful Euros that was followed up by a failure to qualify for the World Cup. They had a miserable qualifying, finishing 4th in their group, behind Denmark, Scotland and Israel (level on points but worse goal difference). This included a 5-2 loss to Israel in September 2021.

They were aided by their successful UEFA Nations League campaign, topping a group of Norway, Romania and Northern Ireland in League B. In this they were handed a play-off lifeline. They lost 2-1 to Wales in away from and were knocked out.

Fun Fact: They have a best place finish of third in the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, in which they lost the semi-final to eventual winners West Germany.

9) Hungary (40th)

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Orban is one of the stars of the Hungary national team

This spot could be taken by Scotland (who are currently 39th) if they fail to beat Ukraine and Wales in June, but for the time being the birthplace of Ferenc Puskas will occupy this spot.

Hungary were another team that had a decent Euros, they were put in the group of death, alongside Portugal, France and Germany but more than held their own. They may have only got two points (draws against Germany and France) but were actually behind the least amount of time behind out of the teams in their group.

This was even without star man, Domnik Szoboszlai (RB Leipzig, 21), who was injured just before the start of the tournament.

They had an extremely disappointing qualifying finishing 4th behind England, Poland and Albania. They lost both games to Albania which severely cost them because they were only three points Poland in second. One win may have been enough for a play-off spot but they finished in a disappointing fourth.

Fun Fact: Hungary hold the unfortunate fact of having beaten the team they lost the World Cup final to in the group stage. In 1954, Hungary beat West Germany 8-2 in the group stage, but in a game which inspired the film ‘Das Wunder Von Bern’ (the miracle of Bern; Switzerland) West Germany got their revenge 3-2 in the final.

10) Norway (41st)

When will Haaland and Norway play in another international tournament?

Norway have only competed in three FIFA World Cups (1938,1994 and 1998) and the Euros in 2000. Their success was mostly pinned on the striking prowess of former Manchester United player and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

In this generation, they have a striker who is even better than Ole, Erling Haaland, who has scored 13 goals in 16 caps, and is viewed as one of the best strikers in world football.

He has been monitored by some of the best clubs in the world and is very much seen as one of the stars of the present and future.

His impact was not enough to get above Netherlands and Turkey, a 0-0 draw against Latvia and a 2-0 defeat to the Netherlands ended their chances of even a play-off place as they finished 3 points behind Turkey.

In fact, Haaland missed the final three games through injury and Norway in which they only got four points.

Norway has an exciting team with Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard but will need more players of a similar elk to qualify for the World Cup in 2026.

Fun Fact: Alongside Senegal, Norway is one of the two sides to be unbeaten against Brazil at the World Cup, beating them in their only match-up to date in 1998 in France. They won thanks to two late goals by Flo and Rekdal. This helped them through to the last 16, in which they lost 1-0 to Italy.

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