As the countdown to the 2022 Qatar World Cup is firmly on, countries are gearing up to celebrate the biggest tournament around in football. For the first time ever, the World Cup will take place throughout the winter, making a change to its regular June-July time slot. This brings extra unpredictability — not only to injuries and form, but to World Cup winner odds.
The heat in the Middle East, the travel times, and the tournament arriving midway through domestic seasons are all extraneous variables to consider when picking a winner for Qatar, with the likes of Brazil, Argentina and reigning champions France all tipped to lift the trophy at the end of December.
Of course, there are a handful of big nations that failed to qualify for Qatar at all. From experienced sides with plenty of World Cup history, to overachievers that just got pipped to the post at the death, lets take a look at some of the most notable absences from this year’s World Cup.
This time last year, Italy were riding the crest of a wave having won the rescheduled 2020 European Championships. Fresh off the back of victory against England at Wembley, their form nosedived at exactly the wrong time. Some inconsistency cost Roberto Mancini’s side some valuable points in World Cup qualification, and after failing to top the group they had to try and earn their spot in Qatar via the play-offs.
Alas, the Azzuri came up short in a shock upset at home at the hands of North Macedonia, with Aleksandar Trajkovski’s last-gasp goal enough to knock them out in their own back yard. A further loss to Argentina in the Finalissima capped off a disappointing year for Italian football, which sees them watch the World Cup from home.
For the second time in two months, Egypt were beaten on penalties by Senegal when it mattered most. Having been trumped in the Africa Cup of Nations final back in February, the Egyptians had their sights set on Qatar, but Mohamed Salah’s band of underachievers would have to earn their spot in the Middle East by beating Senegal in the continental play-off.
In a tight, two-legged affair, the two sides beat each other 1-0 in either fixture and after drawing level on aggregate, it was Senegal who were victorious on penalties. Sadio Mane, Salah’s Liverpool teammate, was the man to score the decisive penalty and send his nation through to Qatar.
One of the shining stars in the 2014 Brazil World Cup, Colombia were hoping to once again represent South America at a major tournament, but just five wins from 18 games saw them finish sixth in the group, with Peru earning the spot above them in the inter-confederation play-offs.
It’s a strange state of affairs when you think of the talent on display for Colombia — the likes of Luis Diaz, James Rordiguez and Radamel Falcao should have enough quality to ensure their side made it to Qatar. However, losses like the 6-1 thrashing to Ecuador and draws with Bolivia proved to be their undoing, with their supposed golden era side spending another tournament sat at home.