Four-time world champions Italy have failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 after a 1-0 aggregate play-off defeat against Sweden.
Most editions of the summer showpieces have lacked at least one of the major nations due to an upset in qualifying and here Press Association Sport looks at some famous examples from history.
SCOTLAND – 1962
Scotland have never been a major player on the world stage but 55 years ago a fantastic post-war squad spearheaded by Denis Law, Jim Baxter and John White were understandably dreaming of potential glory in Chile. Honours were even between the Scots and Czechoslovakia in a three-team group, meaning a play-off was required in Brussels. Ian St John twice gave Scotland the lead but twice they were pegged back and, in extra time, Tomas Pospichal and Andrej Kvasnak scored to clinch a 4-2 triumph for the Czechs. It was not until 1974 that Scotland played in a World Cup again.
ARGENTINA – 1970
In October, ahead of their crucial match in Ecuador, which they ultimately won, Argentina faced the prospect of failing to qualify for the first time in almost half a century. Back then, under Adolfo Pedernera, recent World Cup quarter-finalists Argentina were drawn against Bolivia and Peru in qualifying – the campaign started with a defeat in La Paz and they would go on to lose to Peru, also. Meeting the west-coast nation for a showdown at Buenos Aires’ Bombonera in August 1969, they could only draw 2-2. Peru took their place and Argentina fans watched in horror from home as Brazil swept to glory.
USSR – 1974
Next year’s hosts, back in the days of the Soviet Union, were regular fixtures in the later rounds of the World Cup across the late 50s and 60s. And things looked rosy for the USSR throughout the process of qualifying for West Germany 1974 as a team boasting the likes of Oleh Blokhin and Vladimir Fedotov won three out of four matches to top a group which also included France. However, their goalscoring record was inferior to those of three other European nations and they were therefore drawn against Chile in an intercontinental play-off. The Soviets refused to visit Santiago due to the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and so Chile turned up alone to claim a 2-0 walkover victory.
HOLLAND – 1986
Holland’s World Cup record is wildly inconsistent – some years they qualify and go the distance, some years they are nowhere to be seen – but a late 80s squad boasting the likes of Marco van Basten, Wim Kieft and the Koeman brothers really should have made it to Mexico. The Oranje finished second behind Hungary in a tough qualifying group and were forced into a play-off against neighbours Belgium. Franky Vercauteren’s strike gave Belgium a first-leg home win and Georges Grun’s away goal in a 2-1 victory for the hosts in Rotterdam confirmed Holland’s absence from the 1986 finals.
ENGLAND – 1994
The 1966 world champions had twice looked like earning another shot at football’s top prize after reaching the last eight in 1986 and then placing fourth in 1990. But that momentum fizzled out under Graham Taylor, who could not secure victories over either Norway or Holland across four attempts in qualifying, despite overseeing big-scoring wins over the likes of Turkey, Poland and San Marino. Norway won the group, with Holland pipping England to a place in the United States by two points.