Freeman Cebu Sports

Missing the action

FEEL THE GAME - Bobby Motus - The Freeman

There were some opening match surprises, and yes, exciting matches in the group stages. Interesting was an understatement for Spain, Germany, Japan and Costa Rica in Group E. As of this writing, Australia, France, USA, England, Portugal, Brazil, Senegal, Netherlands, Argentina and Poland advanced to the Round of 16, the knockout stage, which will kickoff tomorrow.

Brazil had appeared in all 22 World Cup editions since 1930 and have the most number of championships with five. One powerhouse team, #6 in FIFA world rankings and had 4 FIFA World Cup titles, failed to qualify for the second consecutive time.

Reigning European champions Italy failed to qualify for Qatar 2022 when they lost a semi-final of a playoff match to North Macedonia in March 2022.  Given their triumphant Euro campaign last year, the playoff situation was surprising as they had been doing well in the preceeding qualifying rounds prior to Qatar.  They were WC winners in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006.

Here are the other heavyweight teams from Europe, South America and Africa with their corresponding FIFA world rankings who will watch the tournament at home.

COLOMBIA (#17) - their best finish was in Rio 2014 when they reached the quarter-finals.  It would have been fun to see James Rodriguez on the pitch, the 2014 FIFA Golden Boot winner.  Luis Diaz is another Colombian star who will miss football’s biggest showcase.

SWEDEN (#20) - Slatan Ibrahimovic is now 40 years old and Qatar would have been his swan song.  They reached the quarterfinals in Russia 2018 but failed to qualify this time when they lost to Poland in a playoff match.

CHILE (#29) - Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, he with the stylised mohawk, are the Chilean stars but they failed to win three of their last four qualifying matches.  They reached the round of 16 in the 1998, 2010 and 2018 editions.

NIGERIA (#31) - one of Africa’s top teams, Nigeria boasts of four Euro league players but they got eliminated on home turf by Ghana.  Their best showing at the World Cup was in 1994, 1998 and 2014 when they reached the round of 16.

RUSSIA (#33) - one of Europe’s favorite to make it to Qatar following their quarter final run in 2018 World Cup, the Russians are banned from all FIFA sanctioned tournaments following Vladimir Putin’s invasion to Ukraine.  There was an appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport but the Russians eventually withdrew it.

EGYPT (#40) - Liverpool FC’s Mohamed Salah ranks among the Ronaldos, Messis and Neymars of football, yet Egypts’s team captain missed his penalty kick in their playoff match versus Senegal.

The FIFA qualifiers are so tough that these top teams are on the outside looking in, thus missing the action.

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