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Netherlands, Australia and the USA - plus eight heavyweights who could miss the World Cup

Thursday 17th November 2016
The recently concluded 2018 World Cup qualifying games provided us with lots of puzzles to ponder over. Issues like the possibility of some top footballing nations unexpectedly missing out on the Mundial, which would be a great shock to some fans around the globe.
Nine teams will qualify automatically from the European groups, with four others joining them via the playoffs. Africa has five slots while Asia (four), South America (five) and CONCACAF (three) will produce one other team which advances to the inter-confederation playoffs.

It is rather too early to jump to any conclusion yet but as things stand, here are the top dogs likely to miss the quadrennial showpiece.

1 - Netherlands

The Netherlands currently trail France by three points in Group A of the UEFA qualifiers. The Oranje haven't been particularly impressive in their four games - winning two, losing one and drawing one. The three-time finalists are level on points with third-placed Sweden, and one ahead of Bulgaria making for a highly competitive final set of fixtures.

2 - Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portuguese team might just narrowly miss out on a ticket to Russia. The reigning European champions have nine points and are three behind leaders Switzerland. Despite winning their last three games, Fernando Santos' lads are still playing catch up after losing their first game to the Swiss national side.

3 - Bosnia

They may be ranked 28th in the world at the moment but Bosnia just might not make the 32-team cut to the biggest sporting fiesta. The Dragons are presently third in a group which also contains both Belgium and Greece. Bosnia, who've only won twice in the series, have seven points - three and five behind the aforementioned duo.

4 - Turkey
Turkey faces a daunting task to reach their fourth World Cup finals after winning just once in four games. The nation which finished third at the 2002 edition, are fourth in Group I behind Croatia, Ukraine, and Iceland.

5 - Cameroon

Four-time African champions, Cameroon, might have kissed a place in Russia goodbye following back-to-back stalemates against Zambia and Algeria. The Indomitable Lions who have appeared in six out of the last seven Mundials currently trail Nigeria on four points.

6 - Algeria

Algeria's current ordeal is even more pathetic considering the country's large pool of talents such as Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani, and Nabil Bentaleb. The Desert Foxes are the bottom of a group which has Nigeria at the summit after picking just one point from two games.

7 - Senegal

When you think of Senegal, names like Sadio Mane, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyaté and Mame Biram Diouf comes to mind. But these crop of players could be absent from their fourth successive tournament after picking up one victory - behind Burkina Faso and South Africa.

8 - Ghana
Egypt's reawakening is turning a nightmare for Ghana as the Black Stars are now fighting hard to catch-up with the Pharaohs who are five points ahead. Ghana are yet to win in the series and suffered a humiliating 2-0 loss to Egypt last weekend.

9 - Colombia

Colombia's quest to reach its fifth World Cup finals suffered a major blow during the last qualifiers. The nation ranked fifth in the world were held to a boring stalemate at home on Thursday by Chile before being hammered 3-0 by Argentina six days later. Their recent setback takes them to sixth and out of the World Cup picture.

10 - Australia

Australia might just have jeopardised their opportunity to be in Russia following three successive draws in the Asian qualifiers. The Socceroos, who are on a mission to make it to their fifth finals, currently trail Saudi Arabia and Japan and level on points with UAE.

11 - USA
Jürgen Klinsmann is apparently fighting to keep hold of his job after two successive defeats in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. First, the United States lost 2-1 at home to Mexico on Saturday, before they were crushed 3-0 by Costa Rica on the road. The USMNT are currently bottom with no points and must turn things around in order to appear at their 11th Mundial.
Toby Prince

If the sport has 11-men on each side, a ball and lasts for 90 minutes then I'll write about it. Simply put, I'm an unrepentant soccer freak that other freaks will, however, call a geek. I do find time for music when not watching the beautiful game, though and have been known to produce the odd track. 

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