The likes of Brazil, France, Argentina and England are all being heavily tipped for glory this year. However, one of the most notable absentees from Qatar 2022 is European champions Italy.
Roberto Mancini’s side beat England on penalties at Wembley last summer to win the delayed Euro 2020 tournament. It was seen as a formality that the Gli Azzurri would cruise to qualification for Qatar 2022.
However, the four time World Cup winners failed to qualify for the tournament despite being one of the most successful teams in the competition’s history. It has now been eight years since Italy last competed at football’s showpiece tournament.
But where did it go wrong for Italy during their qualification campaign and what other major nations are missing from this year’s tournament?
Is Italy in the World Cup 2022?
Italy were drawn in Group C for their 2022 World Cup qualification campaign and were joined by Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Lithuania. Roberto Mancini’s side were heavily backed to top their group and were desperate for redemption after missing out on the last World Cup in 2018.
Italy’s failure to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia had been viewed as a national embarrassment - it was the first time the country had failed to qualify for the tournament since 1958 and the dreadful qualification campaign ultimately led to the sacking of veteran head coach Gian Piero Ventura in 2017.
Did Italy qualify for World Cup 2022?
Former Manchester City and Inter Milan manager Roberto Mancini was appointed manager of Italy in 2018 and successfully steered his country to Euro 2020 qualification.
The Italian national team entered their World Cup qualification campaign in excellent form by recording 2-0 victories in all of their opening three games against Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
This strong form was ultimately extended into Euro 2020 and Italy were crowned European Champions for only the second time in their history and the first time since 1968. Mancini’s side ultimately went on a 37 game unbeaten streak in the process - the best run in the national team’s history.
Italy resumed their World Cup qualification campaign in September 2021, just two months after their historic triumph at Wembley. However, the Italians looked off the pace and recorded a lacklustre 1-1 draw with Bulgaria and a 0-0 draw against Switzerland.
Mancini’s side would subsequently only record one win from their final three games which ultimately condemned Italy to second place in the group and a play-off place in the tournament. Meanwhile Switzerland secured top spot and an automatic place in Qatar.
What happened to Italy in the World Cup play-offs?
Despite an unsuccessful qualification campaign, Italy were handed a lifeline in the form of the World Cup play-offs and were placed in Path C. Path C consisted of Euro 2016 champions Portugal, Turkey and North Macedonia. Only one nation could prevail from this path and Italy were drawn in the semi-finals against a largely unfancied North Macedonia side.
The general view from the pundits was that Italy would face Portugal in the all important decider for Qatar 2022. However, that wasn’t the way things panned out and Italy crashed out in the semi-finals of the play-offs after a shock 1-0 defeat at home to North Macedonia.
The game was viewed as a formality for the Italians, however, despite the disparity in quality between the two sides Italy failed to find the cutting edge and hit the target just five times from 32 shots against a stubborn North Macedonia defence.
Has any other Euro winner failed to qualify for the World Cup?
Most football fans would automatically assume that the reigning European champions would breeze through their qualification campaign for the World Cup.
However, Italy joined Czechoslovakia 1978, Denmark 1992 and Greece 2004 in the exclusive list of nations to have had a disappointing World Cup qualification campaign whilst being European champions.
Who else has failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar?
Several major countries have missed out on a place in Qatar meaning a number of star players will have to watch on from afar. England and Wales are the only countries from the UK to qualify for the tournament whilst Scotland and Northern Ireland both missed out on the tournament through the qualification stage.
Manchester City star Erling Haaland will also be watching the World Cup from home. His Norway side failed to qualify after finishing behind Netherlands and Turkey in the group stage.
Here are some of the most notable teams to miss out from this year’s tournament in Qatar:
- Northern Ireland
- Republic of Ireland
- Czech Republic
- Ivory Coast