The World Stage is set! The final 32 teams have qualified and are set in stone for next summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Countries all over the world fought for just 31 spots in a go hard or stay home worldwide battle.
Russia automatically lands a spot in the World Cup for being the host nation.
The biggest stories were countries who haven’t made the World Cup in decades, or have never been to the world cup ever, or — teams that flatout did not make the World Cup..
Iceland, a country with about the same population as Stockton, CA has become the smallest nation to qualify for the world cup, their first time ever.
After finalizing their spot by beating Kosovo 2-0 and shocking the football world, Iceland did the only thing Icelandic natives do to celebrate, the Viking clap.
For the first time since 1958, Italy did not qualify for the World Cup.
Italy was predicted as a sure shoe-in for the World Cup like they have been every World Cup in 60 years, but after losing to Spain 0-3 and being forced into a two leg matchup against Sweden, it was elimination time for both nations.
Sweden took a 1-0 win on the 10th of November, and Italy looked to score just 1 goal to solidify their spot on the World Stage just three days later, but couldn’t make it happen.
The game went scoreless, and Sweden qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2006 when ironically Italy was the host nation, but this time, Italy would have to stay home.
Players, coaches and fans everyone were stunned by the outcome of the second leg, since most thought Italy had the sure advantage over Sweden, but their offense could not hit the back of the net.
The news only gets more heartbreaking from here on out, as legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon announced after the heartbreaking 0-1 aggregate that he has played for Italy for the final time.
This would have been Buffon’s sixth World Cup appearance, and Buffon would have been all alone in the top of the record books for most World Cup appearances of all time. Now Buffon stays at five appearances (1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014) and ties with Antonio Carbajal of Mexico and Lothar Matthäus of Germany for most World Cup appearances.
On the positive side, for the first time in World Cup history, four Arab nations have made it to the big stage. Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Tunisia stamped their tickets to Russia after beating favorites like Ivory Coast, Ghana and Algeria. The Moroccan national team has made big waves during qualifying play, not allowing a single goal throughout their six matches played. This will be Morrocco’s fifth World Cup appearance and first since 1998.
FIFA will draw group stages and set the scene for all teams on December 1st, 2017 to see where each country will land and which teams will fight for spots in the round of 16.