2018 FIFA World Cup: Italy, Netherlands’ absence takes shine away from tournament
The FIFA World Cup 2018 has been plagued by a number of issues in the build-up to the tournament, but perhaps nothing will hurt Russia’s maiden hosting of the football extravaganza more than the lack of certain big-name teams.football Updated: May 28, 2018 20:47 IST
Russia have always been consistent performers in the FIFA World Cup, despite never once winning the coveted trophy.
However, as they gear up to host the quadrennial mega event, they have had to deal with a few issues they would much rather have avoided.
Russian fans are well-known for their vocal and aggressive nature, which often manifests itself in racist and homophobic taunts towards players and opposition fans.
But perhaps the biggest issue FIFA will have to deal with from a commercial standpoint is the fact that certain big teams won’t be part of the month-long event starting on June 14.
The absence of both Italy and Netherlands is arguably the biggest loss for the 2018 World Cup, with both sides featuring a number of superstars.
Four-time world champions Italy’s absence will particularly be felt, with the Azzurri failing to make the main draw for the first time since 1958.
Netherlands have never won the World Cup but are three-time runners-up and the Dutch team of the 1970s, led by ‘Total Football’ innovator Johan Cruyff, is one that is fondly remembered by football purists.
However, the fact that Italy and Netherlands continued to rely on stars whose best days are behind them during their respective qualifying campaigns might explain why they aren’t on a flight to Russia in the first place.
Developing nations also miss out
USA’s failure to qualify also came as a shock to many due to the fact that in terms of accomplishments and football development, they tower above other teams from the CONCACAF region.
Chile, who won the last two Copa America tournaments — including the centenary edition held in 2016 — and were praised for their attacking intent in the last World Cup, also missed out on qualification after a poor qualifying campaign.
The absence of African heavyweights Ghana, Cameroon and Ivory Coast — down at least in part to CAF’s qualification process that saw 53 nations eventually coming down to five groups of four teams each with only the group-winners securing qualification — will also see the competition devoid of African star power.