Canada and Wales break long streaks of World Cup absences with appearances at Qatar 2022

Photo Credit: AP

At the 2022 World Cup, two of the nations taking part will finally end long spells on the sidelines. Canada and Wales both return to the FIFA World Cup stage later this year when they get kickoff in Qatar.

With the stories of the Canada and Wales World Cup qualifiers rising to the surface of the sports news, we take a look through some interesting facts about who is and who is not, taking part  at this year’s tournament.

Canada’s comes in from the wilderness

A 32-year absence from a World Cup has been ended by Canada after a superb qualification campaign. Coming in from the World Cup wilderness happens at an important time for Canada too.

They will be joint hosts of the FIFA World Cup in four years time, sharing duties with the USA and Mexico.

Englishman John Herdman was installed in 2018 as Canada’s head coach, and he has helped the national team take some big strides in what was his first attempt at getting them to a World Cup.

The only previous appearance for Canada at a FIFA World Cup happened at Mexico ‘86. They had a forgettable time of things in that campaign. It was three losses in three pool stage matches in which Canada failed to produce a single goal. Later on this year, they face Belgium, Morocco and Croatia in the group stage.

While they are outsiders in the 2022 World Cup odds to get through the challenge in front of them in Group F this year, Canada have plenty of reasons to be positive.

Last year they reached the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, getting eliminated by a single-goal margin by Mexico. Given that during their World Cup 2022 Qualification campaign they went undefeated in their fixtures against both Mexico and United States, hints at the progress Canada are making.

Wales make it back to the big time

But the 36-year gap between World Cup appearances for Canada, is nothing compared to that of the time Wales have spent away from the tournament. Wales’s one previous appearance at a FIFA World Cup happened in Sweden back in 1958.

The Welsh did spring a surprise in that campaign, qualifying behind hosts Sweden from the group stage to make it to the Quarter Finals. Wales were eliminated by Brazil there as Pele got the only goal of the game. But the Welsh underdogs left with their heads held high.

Their 64-year absence from the FIFA World Cup is a record for a European team between appearances. That’s all behind them now and the Welsh, who were third-place finishers at Euro 2016, may have a decent chance once again of making it past the group stage.

Wales line up against neighbours England, Iran and the United States in Group B at the World Cup. Wales are second-favourites behind England in World Cup odds, to top that section.

Qatar make their debut

Talking about absences from the World Cup, the 2022 hosts Qatar have had eleven previous failed qualification attempts to reach the tournament. They were never quite able to go all the way but did go close to earning a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

This year therefore, Qatar will make their World Cup debut after qualifying as hosts. They are the reigning AFC Asian Cup champions, a title earned in 2019. That was the same year they were invited to play at the Copa America too, and they ended the group stage campaign with a D1 L2 record there.

Further international tournament experience came Qatar’s way, when again as an invitee, they were given a place at the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Qatar topped their group and made it through to the semi-finals where they were edged out by the United States.

Can they make an impact on home turf later this year? Qatar are one of the big outsiders in World Cup odds. They are drawn in Group A along with Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands.

Who aren’t at the 20202 World Cup

As interesting as learning about those who have booked a spot at Qatar 2022 in November is, it’s equally fascinating to see who didn’t get there.

One of the biggest shocks is that the reigning European Champions Italy couldn’t reach the tournament.

The Azzurri were upset in their group stage qualifying campaign, as they were beaten to the automatic qualification spot by Switzerland. That sent Italy to the qualification play-offs.

In the play-off semi-finals, Italy looked to have a favourable draw at home against North Macedonia.

But Italy were toppled in Palermo as the visiting North Macedonia produced a stunning 92nd-minute winner. That strike left Italy in disarray and shell shocked.

It was the second successive World Cup qualification campaign that they failed to successfully navigate. Italy are the only former World Cup champions not appearing at Qatar 2022.

North Macedonia were defeated by Portugal in their World Cup qualification play-off Final, denying them a first World Cup appearance.

Colombia are another of the big nations that won’t be lining up at the World Cup 2022. Los Cafeteros reached the Round of 16 at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. But failure to get back, means that they have qualified from just two of their last six campaigns.

More notable absentees from Qatar 2022

At the end of the day there was only room for 32 nations at the 2022 World Cup. That will change in four years when the tournament is expanded to 48 nations for the first time in the tournament’s history.

For now, let’s look at some more nations that won’t be in attendance this year.

  • Austria have once again failed to reach a World Cup since their last appearance at France 1998. That’s six failed qualification campaigns on the spin for Das Team.
  • Bolivia haven’t been seen on the World Cup stage since USA 1994. La Verde have come through in just 3 of 17 previous qualification campaigns.
  • China’s wait for a second World Cup appearance will roll on after not qualifying for the 2022 tournament. Their only previous appearance was in 2002.
  • New Zealand’s loss against Costa Rica in their inter-confederation playoff, means that the OFC nation’s absence from the big stage moves on to twelve years since appearing at South Africa 2010.
  • Sweden reached the quarter-finals of the last World Cup, but couldn’t make it back to this year’s tournament. It leaves them with one qualification in their last four attempts after losing a play-off against Poland.
  • Nigeria are one of the big absentees as they lost in the play-off to Ghana. That snapped a run of three straight World Cup appearances by them.
  • Israel football team will also not be appearing, making it 52 years since they last played in the World Cup.
  • Ukraine were surprise quarter-finalists at Germany 2006, the only appearance that the country has made at the FIFA World Cup. They came very close to reaching Qatar 2022 but lost in a play-off final to Wales.

World Class players missing

Along with some stronger nations not reaching Qatar 2022, it means that some notable Premier League stars will be missing from the FIFA World Cup.

For example, Manchester City’s Riyadh Mahrez won’t be putting in a World Cup appearance as Algeria failed to get through the CAF qualifiers.

Despite winning the first leg of their playoff tie against Cameroon away from home, the Desert Foxes were dramatically eliminated. In the second leg in Blida, Cameroon pegged Algeria back and the tie went to extra time. The Indomitable Lions scored a winning goal in the 124th minute of the match.

Liverpool’s Mo Salah agonisingly fell short of helping Egypt make a return to the World Cup stage. They were handed a playoff tie against Senegal and Egypt won the first leg at home 1-0.

But Senegal tied things back up at home, before winning the tie on a penalty shoot-out. Salah’s then Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane scored the decisive spot kick for Senegal.

New Manchester City signing Erling Haaland won’t be on the world’s biggest stage. Despite his brilliance, he couldn’t get Norway through the qualifiers.

The evergreen Zlatan Ibrahimovic won’t be at the World Cup as Sweden just failed to get there. Was that the 40-year-old’s last chance to play at the tournament?

Barcelona striker Pierre Emerick Aubamayang won’t be there entering fans at the tournament with his trademark backflips as Gabon struggled in the CAF qualifiers.

With Italy’s failure to make the World Cup again, it means that a host of top Serie A stars like Nicolo Barella and Federico Chiesa won’t be there.

Who makes a return to the World Cup after missing 2018?

Of the 32 nations participating in the 2022 World Cup, twenty-four of those played at the previous edition four years ago.

Interestingly, every team that successfully got through a qualifying process for this edition, has some previous experience on the World Cup stage.

Qatar, as mentioned above, are the only nation making their debut this year. They are hosts, so didn’t have to qualify. Qatar incidentally are the first hosts of the FIFA World Cup to also be debutants, since Italy back in 1934.

Five of the participating nations at the 2022 FIFA World Cup make a return after missing the 2018 edition:

  • The Netherlands
  • Ecuador
  • Ghana
  • Cameroon
  • United States

The aforementioned Wales and Canada both make their return after  significantly longer absences than just having missed the previous edition.

Who didn’t make it back?

The other side of this of course is that some teams who played at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, haven’t made a return to this edition. That includes 2018 hosts Russia. The other teams not to make a return after having qualified for the 2018 edition are:

  • Egypt
  • Panama
  • Colombia
  • Peru
  • Iceland
  • Sweden