Qualifying for the World Cup isn’t meant to be a tough task for the best footballing nations, but it hasn’t exactly been a stroll in the park for a few of them. We’re nearing the qualification play-offs and there are still a few favorites who aren’t guaranteed qualification.
The Netherlands are inches away from failing to qualify (again!) and the two best players in the world, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, may not even feature in Russia 2018 unless their teams step on the gas.
Could we really see the likes of Holland, Argentina, and Portugal fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup? Let’s take a look at where they stand and their future prospects.
Russia 2018 Odds: Failure to Qualify
The Netherlands: 2/3
These are trying times for Dutch football. The Netherlands are currently third in their UEFA group, three points below Sweden and four below France. With just two more fixtures left (which includes a game against Sweden), the Netherlands could win their remaining games and still fail to qualify. To ensure their survival, they’ll have to close a five-goal differential against Sweden. And even then, that would just earn them a spot in the second-round playoff.
After failing to qualify for the 2016 Euro, another choke would be absolutely devastating for Dutch fans. Judging from their recent performances, it’s looking pretty likely as well.
Could Argentina really fail to qualify?
They remain one of the favorites to win the World Cup outright, but their qualification is somehow under threat. They are currently in sixth place, tied on points with fifth-place Peru but below on tiebreakers. A win against the Peruvians on Thursday (October 5th) would have bumped them up to fifth, earning them a spot in the inter-confederation play-offs. But the match ended 0-0, despite Argentina dominating the game and setting up countless chances to score.
Argentina faces Ecuador (who are already eliminated) on October 10th for the final group game. Peru faces a tough Colombia. A win for Argentina should be enough to get them through to the play-offs. Then it should be an easy stroll through a lowly New Zealand.
It’s very doable for the star-studded Argentinian side, but a slip-up in their next game could see the 2014 finalists out of Russia 2018.
A World Cup without Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo?
It’s unlikely but it could happen. The qualification process hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for Portugal. They’re second in their group at the moment, three points below Switzerland. They’ll face the Swiss in the last of their two remaining games, and a win should guarantee qualification. However, if they remain in second, they’ll advance to the UEFA play-offs where they could face some tough challenges.
The Euro 2016 winners should be able to get the job done. But they haven’t been too consistent lately and if the stars don’t align correctly for their remaining games, they could fail to even qualify.