Italy will be missing the World Cup in Qatar after screwing up their play-off in hilarious fashion. They are just the latest major nation to cave in during qualifying.
Since 2010, here are the nations ranked highest according to FIFA to stay at home during major tournaments…
World Cup 2010 – Croatia (FIFA rank: 10)
England seized revenge of a sort for being dumped out of the 2008 European Championships by Croatia by leaving Slaven Bilic’s men at home when the rest of FIFA’s top 10 went on a jolly to South Africa.
The Three Lions weren’t laughing for long, mind, since they had a torrid time at the finals where they scraped through a simple group before being humiliated 4-1 by Germany. At least they were there, though, which Croatia were not after finishing third in the qualifying group topped by England, while Ukraine took the second place to go through the play-offs.
Croatia were beaten 5-1 and 4-1 by Sven’s men in qualifying, with Theo Walcott’s hat-trick crowning a memorable night in Zagreb for England. All of that led to Bilic staying back in Europe, along with Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic. Russia and Egypt, the 11th and 12th-ranked countries also missed out.
Euro 2012 – Switzerland (21)
Fifty-one nations sought to join co-hosts Poland and Ukraine at the finals, with the Swiss the highest-ranked of the 37 teams to miss out.
Switzerland stayed home after finishing third in a qualifying group again topped by England, who went undefeated under Fabio Capello. The Swiss were edged out by Montenegro, who took the play-off spot, and promptly wasted it by losing both legs against Czech Republic.
Switzerland didn’t even make it to the final matchday of qualifying. Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side were held by a Wales side ranked 90th in the world, while Montenegro drew with England to secure the play-off spot with a match to spare.
World Cup 2014 – Ukraine (17)
England again had a hand in the highest-ranked nation missing a major tournament, with the Three Lions topping qualification group H, a single point ahead of Ukraine.
That led to Ukraine being pitted against France in the qualification play-offs. And it all started so well, with the hosts winning the first leg 2-0 in Kyiv .
Then they f***ed it. Mamadou Sakho scored twice either side of a Karim Benzema goal in Paris to send France to Brazil. It was the latest in a long line of play-off failures for Ukraine, who suffered a similar fate for the 1998, 2002 and 2010 World Cups.
Euro 2016 – Holland (14)
Holland failed to reach a major tournament for the first time since 2002 after failing to take any of the three qualifying places up for grabs in a group of six.
The Dutch finished fourth behind Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey, with the Czechs ending the Oranje’s hopes in the penultimate game. The hosts lost 3-2 in Amsterdam, with Robin van Persie’s own-goal proving decisive.
Boss Danny Blind tried to look to the future: “This is very disappointing for the players, for me, for the Netherlands but we have to look ahead and the new goal is qualifying for the World Cup in Russia.”
They missed that, too.
World Cup 2018 – Chile (9)
Holland sat out consecutive major tournaments by swerving Russia and Italy were also absent but it was Chile who were the highest-ranked casualties in qualifying, much to a continent’s amusement.
Chile were the reigning Copa America champions and, frankly, starting to get on everyone’s t*ts with their bravado. “It’s the best national team in the world. It’s the one that plays the best. Doesn’t matter the rival, we always play the same,” said Arturo Vida in 2016. A year later, they were wiping custard from their chops.
Despite having overturned a 0-0 draw with Bolivia in the court, Chile still went to the final day of qualifying needing a result, but sitting in third place with five qualifying, they were fancied to go through. Then they caved in, 3-0 to already-qualified Brazil, to slip to sixth place.
It’s going to be a long summer for Chile. pic.twitter.com/htdj03SlZQ
— B/R Football (@brfootball) October 11, 2017
Euro 2020 – Serbia (25)
The expansion of the European Championships from 16 teams to 24 meant nations had to really screw up if they were to miss a party spread across the continent.
Serbia did just that by opening the door for Scotland instead. After failing to qualify from their group, with Ukraine and Portugal going through, the Serbs had to endure the play-offs.
They had home advantage against Scotland but allowed Steve Clarke’s side to dominate normal time, with Luka Jovic’s 90th-minute equaliser saving their skins. But it was a temporary reprieve, with David Marshall keeping out Aleksandar Mitrovic’s pivotal kick in the penalty shoot-out to send Scotland to their first major tournament since 1998.
World Cup 2022 – Italy (7)
Italy were triumphant at the Covid-delayed Euros but Roberto Mancini’s men were brought crashing back to earth inside a year when they failed to reach the World Cup finals for the second consecutive tournament.
The Azzurri were edged out for top spot in qualifying group C by Switzerland, despite going unbeaten. That left Italy needing to navigate the play-offs upon entering at the second-round stage.
There they blew it in hilarious fashion. The third-seeds lost 1-0 at home to ninth-seeds North Macedonia, who bagged the only goal in added time in Palermo. Still, at least haven’t been relegated in the Nations League.