As unthinkable as it may seem, 2 of International football’s heavyweights Argentina and The Netherlands look set to miss out on next summers World Cup.
A defeat away at Bolivia along with draws home and away to Venezuela sum up Argentina’s dismal qualifying campaign. The South American giants sit 6th in qualifying standings and with only the top 4 teams qualifying automatically, they are in serious danger of failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1970. Argentina need to win to guarantee a play off place and to qualify automatically they need to hope other results go their way. Argentina face already eliminated Ecuador tomorrow night. Although on paper this seems an easy game, Argentina have not won in Quito since 2001. Although you would think Argentina would win this game with so much riding on it, Argentina failed to defeat already eliminated Venezuela earlier in the campaign. Despite having an embarrassment of attacking options including arguably the worlds best player, there’s a distinct possibility Messi and Co may not be at Russia next year.
While Argentina have hope of making it to Russia next year, The Netherlands failed with their modern day miracle, already eliminated. Defeats home and away to France and a defeat in Sofia to Bulgaria have condemned the Netherlands to a second successive failure to qualify for an International tournament. The Oranje needed to defeat Sweden by an improbable 7 goal margin in order to leapfrog Sweden into a play off place.
With Argentina in real danger of missing out, and The Netherlands eliminated already, what other International heavyweights have failed to qualify for the World Cup in previous qualifying campaigns?
Whatever you think of the England team recently, at least they have qualified for the World Cup. Despite boasting players such as Alan Shearer and Paul Gascoigne, England failed to qualify from a seemingly easy group finishing behind Norway and the Netherlands. This led to manager Graham Taylor being ripped to shreds by the English media, with one paper comparing him to a turnip! England have reached every World Cup since, although given the quality of performances when they got there, they probably shouldn’t have bothered.
1994 was a tournament lacking in European heavyweights with France joining England in staying on the other side of the Atlantic for the summer of 1994. France seemed nailed on to clinch qualification needing simply to draw at home to Bulgaria. France were doing just this when in the dying seconds, David Ginola was in possession by the corner flag. Rather than shield the ball and try and keep possession for the last few minutes Ginola hit a wild cross gifting Bulgaria possession. Bulgaria scored a last minute winner sending them to the World Cup and sending Les Blues crashing out. This resulted in manager Gérard Houllier saying he’ll never forgive Ginola. In this instance David most certainly wasn’t worth it.
The Netherlands 2002
You would think that a team containing Edwin Van Der Sar, Jaap Stam, Patrick Kluivert and Ruud Van Nistlerooy would have absolutely no problems qualify. This wasn’t the case, with the Netherlands failing to qualify in 2002, missing out to Portugal and the Republic of Ireland. It was in Dublin that qualification was ultimately lost, with all the Dutchmen’s flair and talent cancelled out by a gritty Irish performance that lived long in fans memories.