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Ranking the worst failures in World Cup qualifying

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So many high expectation nations missed the 2018 World Cup that a second-tier tournament is being bandied about, enough so that people are legitimately intrigued at the idea.

That begs the question: How did we get here? In some cases, sides missed the big dance due to wonky qualifying schedules. Others had tough draws and couldn’t rebound in a playoff. Another group just flat out flopped in red, white, and blue.

[ USMNT-PORTUGAL: Match recap | Player ratings ]

Who’s failure was most heinous? Let us count the ways, er, teams.

7) Netherlands — This is a nation that, like England, has overachieved so many times that neutrals expect more from them that, perhaps, is rational. Their domestic league is not what it once was, but finishing behind Sweden is a tough pill to swallow for a side which has been on the proverbial podium the past two World Cups and four times in its history.

6) Ivory Coast — Africa’s qualifying is brutal, but Les Elephants lost two of three home qualifiers and managed two scoreless draws away from home. In fact, the team was blanked thrice despite a unit with Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, Jonathan Kodija, and Wilfried Zaha. Yes, the nation is on a downswing, but still were the favorites to advance past Morocco.

5) Bosnia and Herzegovina — Perched atop the group for a decent period of qualifying, a loaded BNH side drew Greece home and away, lost in Cyprus, and lost at home to Belgium in a cycle which could’ve seen them make a deep run powered by Edin Dzeko, Sead Kolasinac, Asmir Begovic, and Miralem Pjanic.

4) Italy — The highest-ranked ELO team to miss the tournament, Italy had the misfortune of being drawn with Spain (and vice versa). Second-place there was no shame, but being unable to finish over two legs against Sweden may be understandable — Blågult only allowed nine goals in qualifying — but Gian Piero Ventura’s keeping Lorenzo Insigne out of the starting lineup will be questioned for a long, long time.

[ MORE: Arena’s baffling pregame comment ]

3) Chile — CONMEBOL qualifying is as difficult as any confederation, and probably the toughest. Still, La Roja was shutout in six of its nine away qualifiers, including losses to eighth place Ecuador and ninth place Bolivia. For a side with Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal to be blanked that many times? Brutal.

2) Ghana – At least the Ivory Coast finished second in its group! Ghana drew all three of its home matches, managing its only win at the Republic of Congo. That means Apparently the Black Stars couldn’t imagine a World Cup without the USMNT.

*1b) United States — With respect to the improving nature of CONCACAF, the confederation’s relative weakness and wildly forgiving Hex means the Bruce Arena’s men did as poorly as any decent nation in the world. To not even make a playoff is embarrassing, and the first leg of Honduras versus Australia lets you know all that’s needed about the quality of the lesser friends of CONCACAF.

*1a) Australia — The asterisks is important because the Socceroos dominated Honduras in the first leg only to not find a goal, and can still advance to the World Cup with a win at 4 a.m. ET in Sydney. But losing to Honduras after finishing behind Saudi Arabia on the weakness of handing Thailand one of its only two points of qualifying? Wooooof.

US Soccer looking into tourney for non-World Cup teams

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The U.S. Soccer Federation is looking into the possibility of an event next year involving nations that did not qualify for the World Cup.

The idea of an exhibition tournament has been floated for soccer teams such as the United States, Italy, Chile and Ghana that won’t be playing in Russia.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

The USSF confirmed it was exploring the idea after a report Tuesday by Fox. The United States was eliminated from World Cup contention when it lost 2-1 at Trinidad and Tobago last month.

The tournament idea, first suggested on social media, gained traction Monday when Italy was eliminated by Sweden, which advanced with a 1-0 aggregate playoff win. The Italians will miss soccer’s premier event for the first time in six decades.

It is not clear whether FIFA would allow exhibition games during the World Cup, which runs from June 14 to July 15.

Pro Soccer Talk’s second-chance World Cup tournament

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In the wake of Italy’s failure to reach World Cup 2018, Pro Soccer Talk thought it would be fun to come up with an “NIT”-like tournament that FIFA could potentially present next summer for those that missed out on the world’s most prominent football competition.

[ MORE: Italy misses the World Cup for first time since 1958 ]

For those that aren’t familiar, the NIT is the “other” college basketball tournament held each March for college teams that failed to be selected for the NCAA tournament.

To make USMNT supporters and fans of Chile, Italy, Ghana, Holland and others feel better, PST created a mock 18-team competition for next summer.


Here’s a look at the teams that could potentially be included in the tournament and how the bracket would stack up.

UEFA — Italy, Scotland, Wales, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Greece

CONMEBOL — Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador

CONCACAF — USMNT

AFC — Syria, Uzbekistan

CAF — Ghana, DR Congo, Ivory Coast, Uganda

Play-in games — Honduras-Australia loser & Peru-New Zealand loser

For hypothetic purposes, we’ll say that Honduras and Peru advance to the World Cup, leaving Australia and New Zealand eligible for the second-chance tournament.

From there, the teams are seeded 1-18 based on the latest FIFA rankings, with the top seeds (Chile and Wales) awaiting the winner two play-in matches.

What do you think of the concept of this sort of competition? Where would it be hosted? Which nations should be included?

Watch Live: Final group stage matches at U-17 World Cup

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The final knockout round spots remain up for grabs on Saturday, the last day of group stage play at the U-17 World Cup.

[ LIVE: Watch U-17 World Cup, here ] 

France, England, and Iraq have qualified already, while the remaining five nations all have a chance to advance depending on the day’s results.

Crucially, Mexico and Chile tangle at 10:30 a.m. ET in the hopes of avoiding the group’s cellar.

Here’s a look at Wednesday’s schedule. You can live stream every game through Telemundo Deportes.


Group E

Japan vs. New Caledonia — 7:30 a.m. ET
France vs. Honduras — 7:30 a.m. ET

Group F

Mexico vs. Chile — 10:30 a.m. ET
England vs. Iraq — 10:30 a.m. ET

CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying preview: Last call for Russia

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A World Cup without Lionel Messi is a very real possibility, but Argentina is not the lone big name in danger of missing out on Russia.

Tuesday brings the final five matches of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, and only Brazil and — to a lesser extent — Uruguay can feel confident about their places in this summer’s big dance.

[ MORE: USMNT scenarios for final day of WCQ ]

The penultimate match day saw Argentina draw at home to Peru amongst a number of interesting score lines.

Table heading into Matchday 18
Brazil (qualified) — 38 pts, +27 GD, 38 goals
Uruguay (clinched at least 5th) — 28, +10, 28 goals
Chile — 26, +2, 26 goals
Colombia — 26, +2, 20 goals
Peru — 25, +1, 26 goals
Argentina — 25, +1, 16 goals
Paraguay — 24, -5, 19 goals
Ecuador (eliminated) — 20, -1, 25 goals
Bolivia (eliminated) — 14, -20, 14 goals
Venezuela (eliminated) — 9,-17, 18 goals

Matchday 18
Brazil vs. Chile
Ecuador vs. Argentina
Paraguay vs. Venezuela
Peru vs. Colombia
Uruguay vs. Bolivia

The one to circle is Peru vs. Colombia, the only match where both sides are alive on the Road to Russia.

Chile’s trip to Brazil is troubling because even the hosts’ B Team is powerful and no player will risk not impressing with a place in Russia on the line.

Argentina’s visit to Ecuador could be what’s best for Messi and Co., as La Tricolor may still be reeling from elimination on Matchday 17.

Paraguay is home to Venezuela and Uruguay to Bolivia, with both feeling confident about their chances.

The predictions

Chile cannot get past Brazil, but earns a good-looking point

Messi drives Argentina over the line with a win at Ecuador.

Paraguay edges Venezuela

Peru and Colombia split the spoils in Lima.

Uruguay handles Bolivia.

World Cup berths for Uruguay, Argentina, and Colombia. Paraguay finishes fifth an earns a playoff date with New Zealand. Peru and Chile are left out of the 2018 World Cup.