It is time for another guest article of the season, once again it is by regular contributor Anthony Kendrick, this time he runs down who will not be going to the World’s biggest party next Summer. A big thanks to Anthony (you can follow him on Twitter here) so without further delay, Anthony it’s over to you.
The qualifying Group Stage saw Italy paired with Spain. While they were not expected to win the group, they finished comfortably in second with very little competition elsewhere. However, criticisms were made throughout the campaign of the experienced Gian Piero Ventura. Over two legs, a lacklustre Italy side lost 1-0 on aggregate to a determined Sweden side, in a sad end to international careers of Barzagli, De Rossi, Chiellini and most notably Gianluigi Buffon.
Louis van Gaal lead the team to third place in the World Cup 2014 but have been on a downward spiral since, with Guus Hiddink and Danny Blind both being dismissed. Dick Advocaat took over and improved their form, losing only once against group winners France. In the end, a seven goal win over Sweden was required to steal second, but was not achieved as Arjen Robben scored both goals in a 2-0 win. This was his final game for the Netherlands.
The North and Central American qualifying sees six teams in a group, with Mexico finish top. Also qualifying were Costa Rica and Panama, with Honduras advancing to an inter-confederation playoff. The US appeared to be on track, and needed victory in their final game against bottom side Trinidad and Tobago to finish third. But it wasn’t to be, losing 2-1 to the shock of the American fans as they missed out for the first time since 1986. The manager Bruce Arena immediately resigned.
The South American qualifying is very competitive, with one group of ten teams. The top four qualify automatically with fifth place going into an inter-confederation playoff.
Brazil topped the group, with Uruguay finishing second. Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Chile’s campaigns went down to the wire. The final matchday saw Argentina pick up a nervy win over Ecudaor, and a draw between Peru and Colombia saw them into the top five.
With a FIFA World Ranking of 9 at the start of qualifying, Chile are the highest ranked team at that point to miss out. Their home record was certainly good enough, with Estadio Nacional noted as a very difficult place to travel to. However, only two away wins cost them dearly. They lost their final game 3-0 to Brazil to drop three places, leading to the loss of their manager Juan Antonio Pizzi. Alexis Sanchez, Gary Medel and Claudio Bravo will all not be travelling to the World Cup next year.
The African qualifying system sees five groups of four, with the group winners alone qualifying. The Ivory Coast finished second in their group behind Morocco. They qualified to the last three World Cups in 2006, 2010 and 2014, and won the AFCON in 2015. Home defeats against Gabon and eventual group winners Morocco saw them finish second. Key players Didier Drogba, Kolo and Yaya Toure are no longer part of the team as they also disappointed in the AFCON with a group stage elimination in 2017.
Another African side who qualified for the last three world cups, this time they missed out to eventual group winners Egypt after drawing their three home games. A turbulent qualifying campaign made headlines when manager Avram Grant was replaced by the returning manager James Appiah. Asamoah Gyan captains the side which contains some talent in Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey, Jeffrey Schlupp, Andre and Jordan Ayew from the Premier League but little else of note.
There has been the suggestion of organising some sort of mini-tournament, similar to a Europa League for those who have not made the tournament. It could prove to be very watchable, should it come together. However, it is very unlikely to actually happen despite the fantasy, with only six months to organise, issues with getting the tournament FIFA sanctioned and confirming player involvement.
It will be a shame to see these countries miss out, with some fantastic individuals such as Gianluigi Buffon and Arjen Robben not being part of the tournament. But ultimately it shows that no nation can take qualification for granted as some familiar faces have been left behind and have not been invited to the party.
Thanks Anthony once again for your guest article, I look forward to your next offering.
if you would like to get involved then feel free to send your work over to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll make sure it has a home here at Real Football Man HQ.