Shockwaves were sent through world football in March 2022 as European champions Italy were eliminated from the World Cup after losing their play-off against North Macedonia. But they’re far from the first major footballing nation to fail to make the World Cup.
Forget that Italy were also absent from the 2018 edition; the four-time winners are World Cup royalty and the tournament always feels slightly strange without the Azzurri and their usual melodrama.
The expansion of the World Cup and the seeded nature of qualifying means it’s rare for one of the game’s big guns to miss out on the finals in this era.
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