With its four world championship titles (won in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006), its great players who have crossed the ages and its coaches who have shaped the evolution of the game, Italy sits down, with Brazil and Germany, at the table of the greatest nations in the history of football. As inconceivable as it may seem, the Azzurri will miss the World Cup for the second time in a row. However, in 2021, it was the selection of Roberto Mancini who had conquered the title of European champion.
This time again, italy has been ousted at the play-off stage after narrowly missing direct qualification in the Europe Zone Qualifiers. Eliminated by Sweden before the 2018 edition, Leonardo Bonucci and his partners experienced this time a disappointment at home in front of North Macedonia, by cashing a goal in added timeon March 24 in Palermo.
For the selection of the Balkans, this feat was not enough to integrate the list of thirty-two teams engaged in Qatar. The Macedonians then lost the fateful match to Portugal, another recent European champion (winner of the 2016 edition, in France), who found themselves in danger at the end of the group stage of the qualifiers.
African Champion in 2019, Algeria saw fly away his dreams of Mondial in the last qualifying round, at home, in an even more tragic scenario. On March 29, in Blida, the Fennecs conceded the fatal goal of Cameroonian Karl Toko-Ekambi in the dying seconds of extra time, a few minutes after believing they had scored the saving goal (final score: 1-2 after a 0-1 victory of Algeria in the first leg). Eighth finalist of the World Cup in 2018, the Colombia failed to qualify in the ever tough South American playoffs.
Host country of the last edition, the Russia will not be present in Qatar either, for other reasons. Under pressure from Western governments following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, the International Football Federation (FIFA) excluded Sbornaya from the race for the World Cup while it was supposed to compete in the play-offs in the Europe zone. A final stage of qualification which saw theUkraine lose on the sports field, in Scotland.
Other absent nations include Sweden, Chile, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Nigeria, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey. So many selections that will have more chances of participating in the next edition, FIFA having decided to widen the plateau of the final phase from thirty-two to forty-eight teams from 2026.
Twilight of a great career
In Qatar, several big names in football are missing. This is the case of the Egyptian Mohammad SalahLiverpool star striker, always placed in the top 10 of the Ballon d’Or – the trophy which rewards the best footballer each year – for five years, but also the Norwegian Erling Haaland, the Manchester City striker who panics every week the counters of the English championship (eighteen goals in thirteen games this season). Like Norway, Sweden did not qualify, which therefore means that Zlatan Ibrahimovic (41) will surely no longer have the opportunity to participate in a World Cup. For their part, the Algerian Riyadh Mahrez (31 years old) or the Italian Marco Verratti (30) still have some hope.
Both at the twilight of a great career, the Spaniard Sergio Ramos (36 years old) and the German Mats Hummels (33) have not been called up by their respective coaches. The Liverpool player Roberto Firmino was also left at home, which says a lot about the amount of great Brazilian strikers.
Regarding injured players, the tricolor world champions are largely weakened : the defender Presnel Kimpembe and midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante forfeited. Last absence and not the least, that of the Ballon d’Or in title Karim Benzemavictim of a muscle tear during warm-up, Saturday, November 19, three days before the first match of the Blues.
Spanish side, the left side Jose Gaya breath from a sprained ankle. Victim of a sprained knee during his last match with Olympique de Marseille, Sunday November 13, the Moroccan Amine Harit is also absent.
Finally, long uncertain, the Senegalese Sadio Manesecond in the last Ballon d’Or, had to give up due to a fibula injury contracted just two weeks before the start of the most prestigious of competitions.
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