When Italy were crowned the Euro 2020 champions in July 2021, hardly anyone expected that Roberto Mancini's men would miss the flight to Qatar 2022. In fact, they were on a world record 37-match unbeaten run until their UEFA Nations League loss against Spain in October 2021.
However, Italy crashed out of World Cup contention with a 1-0 loss to North Macedonia on Thursday. The defending Euro champions conceded late in the play-off to seal their fate. Aleksandar Trajkovski scored the winning goal with a low strike from outside the box.
But this is not the first time that a reigning European champion has failed to qualify for the World Cup. Let us take a look at the three other instances when a team after winning the Euro Cup has still failed to secure a berth in the ensuing World Cup.
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Erstwhile Czechoslovakia went on to win the Euro Cup in 1976 after defeating West Germany in tiebreakers in the final. The scores were locked at 2-2 after regulation time and the Czechs became the champions after winning 5-3 in penalties. But in the 1978 World Cup qualifiers they crashed out in the group stage after finishing second to Scotland in Group 7.
The Danes were in brilliant form in Euro 1992. In the semifinals, they knocked out Netherlands in penalties and went on to defeat Germany by 2-0 in the final. John Jensen and Kim Vilfort scored in either half to break German hearts at Gothenberg in Sweden. However, the Red and Whites finished third in the group stage of the World Cup qualifiers behind Spain and Republic of Ireland to miss a World Cup berth. On the final matchday, they needed a draw, but they went down 1-0 to Spain which dashed their hopes of going to the United States.
Greece proved themselves to be a serious contender for the European Championship in 2004 when they beat France in the quarterfinals. However, in the finals, Portugal were the overwhelming favourites but Angelos Charisteas scored the eventual winner in the second half to leave Cristiano Ronaldo and co. in tears at the end of the match. But the Greeks could not continue their form in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers and finished fourth in the group behind Ukraine, Turkey, and Denmark to miss out on a berth in Germany.