Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ll be aware that the 2018 Soccer World Cup is took place over the past month or so. It’s one of the most watched sporting occasions on the planet. At the last event four years ago, 3.2 billion viewers tuned in to watch the final. Which other sporting occasion can compete with that? Soccer truly is a global sport and is one that’s played and taken very seriously by most countries around the globe. Pretty much every nation wants to grace the biggest soccer event of them all. But it’s tough to get into the World Cup. Qualifying itself isn’t easy. You might be a superstar soccer nation. But you can’t take it for granted that you’re going to be at the World Cup.
However, there are some that you can pencil in. But the rest of the places are up for grabs. Teams not at this World Cup are probably watching the matches, thinking about their journey, the obstacles they have to overcome in order to reach the next one in Qatar in 2022. And there could possibly be more than the 32 teams – the number we have at this tournament. There are debates as to whether or not to increase the number of teams to 48. Here are 10 countries that would be hoping to be among them.
Judging by how some of the teams are performing at this tournament, they’re on a downwards curve. If this continues, you can’t see them playing in Qatar. Here are 10 from this tournament we may not see next time, and 10 that will be looking to take their places.
20 Will Qualify: The Netherlands
In every World Cup we normally see all the big names, the big footballing nations, then the minnows, and a few surprises thrown into the mix. But no one was expecting this surprise. The Netherlands not gracing a World Cup finals is just unheard of. Well, this time around, people have had to get used to hearing the list of teams and not The Netherlands in amongst them. But it’s highly unlikely that’s going to happen twice. It was a blip – sure, it was a major blip – for the Netherlands. They’re not going to let history repeat itself. Pencil them in for the next World Cup.
19 Won't Qualify: Saudi Arabia
Time and time again Saudi Arabia qualify for the World Cup. Time and time again they prove to be woefully inadequate. Somehow, Saudi Arabia always do enough to qualify. The western Asian team are one of the best in their region. But that’s not saying a lot.
They don’t have many other top nations to contend with. But in recent years there’s been a lot of emphasis on trying to develop talent in Asian countries.
Slowly but surely, more Asian teams are beginning to compete on the world stage. Next time around, when it comes to qualifying, Saudi Arabia may just be edged out of a World Cup place by one of these teams.
18 Will Qualify: Chile
Chileans possess a tremendous amount of passion for the game. Like most South American teams, they possess flair and are exciting to watch.
A lot of people can’t fathom how Chile failed to make it to this World Cup. They’re one of the best teams in South America. They’ve won back-to-back Copa America titles. They reached the Confederations Cup final last year. But when it comes to qualifying for the World Cup, they choke. This time around, a lot of people attributed their failure to the coaching staff. The team looked muddled, and wasn’t sure how to play. A change in personnel and some stability may bring them more success next time around.
17 Won't Qualify: Egypt
Egypt reaching these finals was a major achievement. Their success in qualification can be attributed to one man; Mo Salah. The Egyptian forward came out of nowhere to have a stellar season for Liverpool. He’s one of the world’s greatest players this year. Egypt are certainly over reliant on him. And who’s to say he’s going to replicate the success he enjoyed last season? He could be a one-season wonder. He hasn’t performed consistently, season after season. Salah is also considering retiring from international football. If he does call time on his international playing career, Egypt can wave by by to their chances of qualifying for the next World Cup.
16 Will Qualify: Qatar
Remember when Qatar were in the World Cup? You’ll have to have an inventive memory because Qatar have never featured at the finals. So, why might they be in the next? Because they’re hosting the tournament in 2022, hence they get – unless anything changes – automatic qualification to their own event. Will they be up for it? We expect them to be ready to host the event.
Qatari fans shouldn’t get their hopes up when it comes to cheering on their national team.
They haven’t done anything to make us think they’ll be a force in the competition. Qatar will almost certainly be in the next World Cup, gaining entry the only way they could.
15 Won't Qualify: Panama
Panama are absolutely obsessed with soccer. They failed to reach the World Cup in 2014. This time around they qualified in dramatic style. Upon securing their place at the World Cup, their President declared a national holiday. The fans came out in their masses to support their team in Russia. But they’ve been a massive disappointment. They seemed overwhelmed with being at the finals.
Despite their soccer obsession, Panama is an up-and-coming team. It’s the first time they qualified for the World Cup. Could they do it again? It’d be a tough ask. Judging by how they struggled through qualifying and performed dismally at this World Cup, I’ll say not; there’s more work to be done.
14 Will Qualify: USA
Soccer in the USA is slowly beginning to change. It wasn’t that long ago when people poo-pooed soccer. But soccer’s certainly been on the rise. Team USA’s women’s team has been doing mightily well over the years. They are in fact, ruling the roost when it comes to women’s soccer and have been doing so for some time. But the men’s team is a bit hit and miss. But due to the changes that are taking place in the USA, the number of American players who are rubbing shoulders with some of the greats of the game who are now in the U.S., these players might be ready to make some sort of an impact in four years’ time.
13 Won't Qualify: Tunisia
A lot of cash and effort has been ploughed into making African countries better footballing nations. The sport, is after all, the main one in Africa and the top players are revered like gods. At the start of each World Cup, there’s always anticipation as to which African team will go far in the competition. Tunisia, despite qualifying, are never tipped to go far. They don’t possess the flair and don’t have the attacking mindset of other African soccer playing nations. It’s as if they’re happy just to compete. At this year’s finals they proved to be dismal. In a way, they were the worst team of the tournament. In four years they probably won’t even be there.
12 Will Qualify: Italy
Like it was with The Netherlands, it was an almighty shock when Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup. When it comes to major tournaments, you can pretty much pencil Italy into the lineup, and tip them to go quite far, if not all the way.
They’re one of the most successful teams in World Cup history, having won the tournament four times and appearing in the final on two other occasions.
This time around they failed to qualify, the first time they didn’t appear at a finals since 1958. A number of their players retired and now they’re in the rebuilding phase. You can’t see this blip happening again in four years.
11 Won't Qualify: Colombia
Ok, so this may raise a few eyebrows. Colombia has after all made it into the last 16; by the skin of their teeth, but even so, they made it. But then, they fell short to England in a penalty shootout. In every World Cup there’s an unfancied team that manages to do rather well. But coming down off that devastating loss is going to be tough. Plus, some of nation’s best players are in their 30s and are nearing the end of their careers. Top scorer, Radamel Falcao for example, is 32. Chances are he won’t be at the next World Cup. Due to the competition for places among South American countries, there’s a good chance that Colombia won’t be either. They’ve had their time in the sun.
10 Will Qualify: China
China is trying to take over soccer. The big money of the Chinese Super League has lured many top pros onto Chinese shores. It’s all in an effort to develop the game in China. For Chinese players, rubbing shoulders with the best has got to have an impact. Sharing dressing rooms and the pitch with such big names, and the federation ploughing money into the sport and being eager to develop the game, must all have an effect on the national team’s soccer. Perhaps in four years’ time we’ll begin to see the fruits of the labor so to speak.
9 Won't Qualify: Peru
Peru is another nation that’s football-mad but doesn’t have a lot to show for it. Their fans haven’t had much to shout about over the years. That didn’t change at this World Cup. Los Incas flattered to deceive.
They put in decent performances against some of the lower ranked sides. But when it came to playing the big boys, they put in a dismal showing.
That’s been Peru’s problem over the years. It’s also why they might not feature in the next tournament. Qualifying from South America is getting tougher and tougher. Teams are getting better. Peru’s soccer team though, have stagnated. They need to grow if they’re going to be in the competition next time around.
8 Will Qualify: Ghana
The Ghana national soccer team has done tremendously well over the years. People might actually be surprised to learn what they’ve achieved. They’ll be even more surprised to learn that and then that they didn’t feature at this year’s World Cup. Ghana has won the Africa Cup of Nations four times. They went through the entire 2005 season unbeaten. The team plays with flair and aggression and plenty of passion. It’s a style that’s meant they featured in the last three World Cups. They even reached the quarterfinals in 2010. They’ve taken a step back not qualifying for these finals. But they’re a team full of natural flair and talent. They’re surely going to feature in Qatar.
7 Won't Qualify: Australia
The Australian soccer team doesn’t exactly get a load of plaudits for the way they play. They have a bullish, in-your-face style, not exactly pleasing to the eye. But in a way, that style’s effective. They’ve played their part in some big tournaments. At World Cups, they haven’t exactly done anything of note. Just qualifying is a big enough achievement as it is. But when they face skillful opposition, they get played off the park. Other teams have started to adapt and develop. Australia are still intent on sticking with their playing style. A number of their key players also won’t be around next time.
6 Will Qualify: Ukraine
It might be just as well Ukraine didn’t feature at this World Cup in Russia. There are plenty of political tensions between the two nations. They’re not exactly on the best of terms. But Ukraine is a strong soccer playing nation. They’ve boasted some world-renowned superstars over the years.
They have struggled in terms of their turnover of stars, blooding new world-beaters into the team. But four years is a long time.
Their players will be more experienced, hungrier for success after failing to qualify for this tournament. Ukraine narrowly missed out on qualification for Russia. They’ll be keen not to allow that to happen again.
5 Won't Qualify: France
Somehow, France always find a way. Whether that’s through qualifying or getting through matches into the knockout stages of World Cups and other major competitions, they generally do pretty well. You might therefore be thinking, why on earth are they on this side of the list? In recent years there’s been disharmony in the ranks. One of their best strikers – one of the best in the world – has essentially been exiled from the team. They also took part in one of the worst, most mundane matches the World Cup has ever seen, against Denmark. There’s always one big team that fails to qualify. That could very well be France next time around.
4 Will Qualify: Wales
It’s fair to assume that even the neutral would’ve been egging Wales on through qualification. At the Euro 2016 tournament, they gained a whole new fanbase. The unfancied Wales side made history by making it through to the semi-finals. Subsequently, everyone was eager to see how they’d progress during World Cup qualification. They couldn’t build upon that success, finishing third in their qualification group. But there’s no doubt they’re making massive strides in the soccer world. They have some great players, including one of the world’s best in Gareth Bale. Wales could be the minnows competing at the next World Cup. If they qualify, who knows how far they could go?
3 Won't Qualify: Iceland
Everyone loves the Icelandic soccer story. Even neutrals can’t help but marvel at how far they’ve come, and get engrossed in the atmosphere created by their fans. Iceland has a population of just over 300,000. In Iceland, it’s said that everybody knows everybody. A lot of the soccer team's players have second jobs. That’s just putting things into perspective.
The fact that they even qualified was amazing. They became the smallest nation to qualify for the finals this time around.
But they only have one style of playing – very direct. Teams will begin to work them out. One feels their soccer fairytale might be over.
2 Will Qualify: Catalonia
You history buffs will probably be aware that all is not harmonious in Spain, between Barcelona and the rest of the country. Barcelona is the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region. Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain. Catalans see themselves as separate from Spain. Catalonian independence is a real prospect. If that’s the case, the Catalonia soccer team might come onto the World Stage. The team already has some top players. A lot of the Spanish pros, who are Catalans, may also switch their allegiances. If independence happens, it won’t take long for the soccer team to become one of the best in the world, let alone qualify for all the major events.
1 Won't Qualify: South Korea
South Korea have actually done quite well in terms of qualifying for World Cups. They don’t exactly have a hard time of things in their Asian qualifying group. They’ve qualified for all the World Cups since 1986. During this time, their best showing was in 2002, the competition they co-hosted, in which they made it to fourth place. But South Korea rely too much on their star forward Son Heung-min. It’s dangerous to be overly dependent on one player, as the likes of Portugal have found out. If Son has a dip in form or gets injured, that could result in their Qatar World Cup qualification dreams being dashed.