The 2022 FIFA World Cup is fast approaching and the stage is set for top teams across the world to prove their mettle. The preparations for the tournament, scheduled for November later this year, have begun with players joining their national squads for one final international break.
Some teams are yet to qualify for the tournament and the second stage of the qualifiers had some surprising results. The most shocking one would probably be Italy’s abrupt end to the campaign after a defeat to minnows North Macedonia.
Four Euro champions have failed to qualify for the subsequent FIFA World Cup
Here, we take a look at how these four European Champions failed in their qualifying rounds and missed out on a chance to play in the FIFA World Cup:
#4 Czechoslovakia: 1978
Czechoslovakia were part of Group 7 of the European qualifiers for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. Now split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the nation was a European powerhouse and the reigning European Champions, having won the competition in 1976.
The Czechs were with Scotland and Wales in the qualifying group and it seemed like an easy route to the FIFA World Cup. They defeated the two nations from the United Kingdom in the first leg with a 2-0 win over Scotland and a 1-0 win over Wales. However, things didn’t quite go according to plan in the reverse fixtures.
A brace from Wales’ Leighton James and a third goal by Nick Deacy saw the Welsh obtain a crucial 3-0 win. The Scots also ensured that they took a giant step towards World Cup qualification with a commanding 3-1 victory. Joe Jordan, Asa Hartford, and Kenny Dalglish were all on the scoresheet against the Czechs.
The qualifiers concluded with Scotland grabbing the coveted spot in the World Cup with six points, while Czechoslovakia came in second with four points. The Czechs have never won the World Cup, and the closest they have come was when they finished second in 1934 and 1962.
#3 Denmark: 1994
Denmark were part of the qualification race for the 1994 FIFA World Cup and were placed in Group 3 of the European zone. The qualifiers took place between 1992 and 1993 and consisted of two legs. Denmark were alongside Albania, Latvia, Lithuania, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Spain.
Having won the Euros in 1992, Denmark’s confidence was on a high. However, they had a poor start to the qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup.
The Danes frustratingly drew their first three matches against Latvia, Lithuania, and the Republic of Ireland. Their trip to Northern Ireland provided some joy as Denmark emerged 0-1 winners after a Henrik Larsen goal in the second half.
As the tournament progressed, Denmark managed to win against Spain, Lithuania, Latvia, Northern Ireland, and Albania. However, two draws against the Republic of Ireland and defeat against Spain in their final game meant that they missed out on qualifying by the narrowest of margins.
Spain and the Republic of Ireland qualified for the tournament as the first and second-placed sides respectively.
#2 Greece: 2006
In 2004, Greece stunned the footballing world when they got their hands on the European Championship in Portugal. The Greeks beat the host nation 1-0 in the final and created history. However, their spectacular form didn’t last for long and they failed to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in an unconvincing campaign.
Greece were in Group 2 of the European qualifiers alongside the likes of Albania, Denmark, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Ukraine. Much to the dismay of fans, they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Albania in their first qualifier match. The loss was followed by draws against Turkey and Ukraine.
The Greeks did manage to string together a few wins in the following games but a poor overall performance meant that they had to miss out on the World Cup. Ukraine qualified for the tournament with 25 points whereas Turkey, who finished second, went into the next round. Greece ended their qualifying campaign in fourth position with 21 points.
#1 Italy: 2022
The second stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers saw a shocking result as European giants Italy were defeated by North Macedonia. The Italians, who are the reigning Euro champions, have now missed two FIFA World Cups in a row.
It is quite staggering to see a nation with impeccable players such as Jorginho, Marco Verratti, Giorgio Chiellini, Gianluigi Donnarruma and more miss out on the greatest footballing spectacle.
Italy began the qualifiers in Group C of the European bracket alongside Bulgaria, Lithuania, Northern Ireland, and Switzerland.
The Italians were quite dominant throughout the qualifying stage but draws against Bulgaria, Switzerland and Northern Ireland meant that Roberto Mancini’s side had to settle for second place in the group.
This marks the second time since 1958 that the Italians have failed to qualify for the World Cup after failing to secure a spot in the 2018 edition of the tournament. Aleksandar Trajkovski scored the only goal of the game in second-half stoppage time as North Macedonian fans erupted with elation.
The Italians had 32 shots throughout the game but were lackluster in front of goal and failed to convert any of them. The Macedonians will face Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in a few days’ time and the winner will book a spot at the FIFA World Cup.
Also check out: FIFA World Cup 2022 Schedule