Fourteen teams have already booked their places at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and over the coming days and weeks that number will rise to the final total of 32 as the qualification campaign reaches the final straight.
Many of the biggest nations are assured of their plane tickets - including Argentina, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands - but a few are still at risk; in particular, European heavyweights France and Portugal, who will both almost certainly have to take part in the hazardous European playoffs next month.
Below, we take a look at the best 10 teams from the past who failed to qualify for the World Cup finals.
|10. England 1974
The 1970s were a dark period for the England national team as they failed to progress to a single major tournament between 1970 and 1980. The most notable disaster was not qualifying for West Germany ’74. Requiring a win against Poland in their final match in London, England could only manage a 1-1 draw as goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewki – labelled as a "clown" before the game by a certain Brian Clough – performed miracles to deny Sir Alf Ramsey’s men.
|9. Netherlands 1986
After a spell of disappointment in the aftermath of the 1978 World Cup, where they had finished runners-up, an exciting new generation of Dutch youngsters burst onto the scene in the mid-1980s including the brilliant Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Rob de Wit. However, Oranje lost their World Cup playoff to bitter neighbours Belgium on away goals after a late goal by Georges Grun in the second leg.
|8. USSR 1978
Despite possessing many of the great Dynamo Kiev team that conquered the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1975, including the legendary Oleg Blokhin, the USSR finished second in Group 9 behind Hungary, with a shock 1-0 defeat to Greece in Thessaloniki doing the damage. Another talented Soviet team had been expelled from the 1974 World Cup when they refused to play Chile in a World Cup playoff after Fifa had incredibly requested the second leg be played at the Estadio Nacional, which had been used as a concentration camp just weeks earlier.
|7. Italy 1958
The 1950s was a miserable decade for Italy internationally – the country had suffered terribly from the 1949 Superga Air Disaster that wiped out almost the entire Grande Torino squad. Despite this, the Azzurri would still have expected to qualify for Sweden ’58 but a final day defeat in Belfast to Northern Ireland saw the home nation upset them. Undoubtedly the worst period in Italy’s history, it would be until 1960 – more than two-and-a-half years – until the Nazionale even won another game.
|6. Portugal 1998
With the Golden Generation of Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Joao Pinto, Portugal had their best chance since the days of Eusebio and Mario Coluna in 1966 to make a major impact on a World Cup but, just like in 1990 and 1994, the Seleccao didn’t make it to the finals in France. Portugal finished third behind Germany and Ukraine, with a controversial draw in Berlin when Rui Costa was dubiously sent off while the visitors led 1-0 sealing their fate.
|5. England 1994
England manager Graham Taylor had somehow managed to hold onto his job following the disastrous Euro ’92 finals in Sweden, but had no such luck after The Three Lions failed to make it to USA ’94. England lost away to qualifiers Norway and Holland, and even humiliatingly conceded a goal after just seven seconds to the not so mighty San Marino.
|4. Yugoslavia 1994
Yugoslavia didn’t even take part in qualifying for the 1994 World Cup – they were suspended following the outbreak of war that led to the dissolution and division into Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and later Serbia and Montenegro. At the time of hostilities, it can be argued that Yugoslavia were the most talented team in the world – boasting the likes of Dragan Stojkovic, Zvonimir Boban, Dejan Savicevic, Davor Suker, Darko Pancev, Sinisa Mihajlovic, Robert Prosinecki and Srecko Katanec.
|3. Netherlands 2002
Despite possessing a host of world class players in their ranks such as Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Marc Overmars and Jaap Stam - Louis Van Gaal’s Oranje finished third in their qualifying group behind Portugal and Ireland, losing to the latter 1-0 in a decisive clash in Dublin. Van Gaal has since returned to coach Holland and had no problems qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
|2. Scotland 1970
In the late 1960s and early 70s Scottish football was feared and respected all over Europe, with Celtic winning the European Cup in 1967 and Rangers the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972. Scotland took the cream from the Glasgow giants – the likes of Jimmy Johnstone and John Greig – as well as England-based stars such as Denis Law and Billy Bremner, but finished behind the mighty West Germany in their qualifying group after a classic 3-2 defeat in Hamburg.
|1. France 1994
France, who four years later would win the World Cup in their own country, were cruising to the United States after picking up 13 points out of a possible 16 in UEFA Group 6. Les Bleus, containing stars such as Jean-Pierre Papin, David Ginola, Eric Cantona (pictured above), Didier Deschamps and Marcel Desailly, required just one point from their last two home games but conceded injury time strikes to lose both games against Israel and Bulgaria - the latter poaching their place.