The 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers have not ended yet, as there are several spots to be determined through the European and intercontinental playoff rounds. But we already know most of the teams that will qualify for the tournament. And as there are surprises every four years, there are also disappointing teams that fail to qualify. Even if they have star-studded squads at their disposal.
Here are the three biggest disappointments of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers so far.
There is no question that Chile have been one of the most consistent teams in the CONMEBOL region over the past decade. They qualified for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, finished third in the 2007 U20 World Cup, and won both the 2015 and 2016 Copa America. As if that was not enough, they also reached the FIFA Confederations Cup final only a few months ago. Therefore, his absence in the World Cup definitively surprises experts and pundits alike.
However, Chile did not end the qualifying phase on a positive note. The numbers do not lie, and La Roja lost three of their final four matches. And even though they only needed a one-goal loss to make it to Russia in their final match against Brazil, an 0-3 defeat buried their chances of reaching the World Cup for a third straight time. This result might signal the end of Chile’s most successful generation of players, and changes will be needed. But there is no doubt their fate should have been different. Especially when we analyse some of the players that featured for the side regularly.
Notable players: Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez, Claudio Bravo, Gary Medel
If Chile were a disappointment in the CONMEBOL region, what can we say about United States in the CONCACAF Final Qualifying round? The USMNT have always been a contending team in that region, but they failed miserably and finished fifth in the Hexagonal standings. What makes it worse is that they depended on themselves to make it to Russian soil. They entered the final game in third place, and were in absolute control of their own destiny.
The USMNT needed a win over Trinidad & Tobago to secure the third place in the standings. But a 1-2 loss – coupled with Honduras and Panama winning over Mexico and Costa Rica, respectively – will force them to watch the tournament on television next year. Maybe this is the moment the U.S. finally changes their league system and their youth teams planning. Because there are no suitable replacements options for the likes of Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley on the roster. And they can’t depend on those veterans. It is time for a change, and it needs to happen now. Otherwise, their status of perennial contender in the CONCACAF region might become a thing of the past sooner than later.
Notable players absent: Clint Dempsey, Christian Pulisic, Michel Bradley, John Brooks
The Netherlands were on a tough spot entering the final match of the UEFA World Cup Qualifiers. Sitting in Group A behind France and Sweden, the Dutch side needed a seven-goal win over the Scandinavian side solely to make the playoffs as one of the best second-placed teams. And while they clinched a 2-0 victory over their opponents, that was not enough. As a result, Netherlands failed to qualify for their second straight big tournament. They also missed out on the 2016 European Championship.
Much like U.S.A., the Netherlands need to define what they will do going forward. Robben already said he is not returning to the National Team. Several other established veterans such as Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie might follow him, too. They have a decent core of young players on the national pool. However, it would be foolish to compare them with the side that ended third and fourth in the past two World Cups. They need to re-structure themselves quickly. Because otherwise, they are at risk of becoming a middle-of-the-pack team in the European stage for the foreseeable future.
Notable players absent: Arjen Robben, Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay, Daley Blind
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