Italy will miss the World Cup in Qatar after hilariously screwing up their play-offs. They’re just the latest major nation to buckle in qualifying.
As of 2010, here are the nations ranked highest according to FIFA for staying at home in major tournaments…
World Cup 2010 – Croatia (FIFA Rank: 10)
England took some revenge for being eliminated by Croatia at Euro 2008 by leaving Slaven Bilic’s men at home while the rest of FIFA’s top 10 left boisterously for South Africa.
The Three Lions didn’t laugh long as they had a torrid time in the final, where they scraped through an easy group before being humiliated 4-1 by Germany. They were, after all, which Croatia weren’t after finishing third in the qualifying group led by England, while Ukraine finished second to progress through the play-offs.
Croatia were beaten 5-1 and 4-1 by Sven’s men in qualifying and Theo Walcott’s hat-trick capped a memorable evening for England in Zagreb. All of this led to Bilic staying in Europe along with Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic. Russia and Egypt, the countries ranked 11th and 12th, also missed out.
Euro 2012 – Switzerland (21)
Fifty-one nations attempted to join co-hosts Poland and Ukraine in the finals, with the Swiss missing out on the best-placed of the 37 teams.
Switzerland stayed at home after finishing third in a qualifying group again led by England, unbeaten under Fabio Capello. The Swiss were ousted by Montenegro, who secured their place in the play-offs and promptly squandered it by losing both games to the Czech Republic.
Switzerland didn’t even make it to the final day of qualifying. Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side were held by a side from Wales, ranked 90th in the world, while Montenegro drew with England to secure a play-off spot with a game to go.
England’s player ratings as Southgate’s men docilely succumb to Nations League relegation
World Cup 2014 – Ukraine (17)
England again had a hand in the highest-ranked nation missing out on a major tournament, with the Three Lions topping qualifying Group H, a single point ahead of Ukraine.
This led to Ukraine facing France in the qualifying play-offs. Everything started so well that the hosts won the first leg in Kyiv 2-0.
Then they screwed up. Mamadou Sakho scored twice on 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 at the 1998, 2002 and 2010 World Cups.
Euro 2016 – Holland (14)
Holland have failed to reach a major tournament for the first time since 2002 after failing to finish one of the three qualifying spots in a group of six.
The Dutch finished fourth behind the Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey, while the Czechs ended Oranje’s hopes in the penultimate game. The hosts lost 3-2 in Amsterdam, with Robin van Persie’s own goal decisive.
Boss Danny Blind tried to look to the future: “It’s very disappointing for the players, for me, for the Netherlands, but we have to look ahead and the new goal is to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.”
They missed that too.
World Cup 2018 – Chile (9)
Holland prevailed in consecutive major tournaments by dodging Russia and Italy were also absent, but it was Chile who suffered the most losses in qualifying, much to the amusement of a continent.
Chile were reigning Copa America champions and frankly they were starting to get on everyone’s nerves with their bravery. “This is the best national team in the world. It’s the one that plays best. No matter which rival, we always play the same,” said Arturo Vida in 2016. A year later they wiped the pudding from their chops.
Although Chile overturned a 0-0 draw with Bolivia in court, Chile still needed a result for the final day of qualifying, but sitting third with five qualifying sessions gave them hopes of progressing. They then fell 3-0 to already qualified Brazil and slipped 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 to 24 teams meant nations had to really screw things 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 in their group and Ukraine and Portugal progressing, the Serbs had to survive the play-offs.
They had home advantage against Scotland but let Steve Clarke’s side dominate regular time, with Luka Jovic’s 90th-minute equalizer saving their skin. But it was a temporary respite as David Marshall saved Aleksandar Mitrovic’s crucial penalty kick to send Scotland to their first major tournament since 1998.
World Cup 2022 – Italy (7)
Italy triumphed at the Covid-delayed Euros but Roberto Mancini’s men were brought back to earth within a year when they failed to reach the World Cup final for the second tournament in a row.
The Azzurri were edged to first place in qualifying Group C by Switzerland despite going unbeaten. As a result, Italy had to navigate through the play-offs after progressing to the second round.
There they blew it in a hilarious way. Third-placed lost 1-0 at home to ninth-placed North Macedonia, who scored the only goal in added time in Palermo. At least there weren’t any Relegation to the Nations League.