Leon Wobschall: Yes, 2018 World Cup will miss Italy and Holland colour but don't mourn their absence

Gigi Buffon retired after the two-leg defeat to Sweden having made 175 caps for Italy
Gigi Buffon retired after the two-leg defeat to Sweden having made 175 caps for Italy
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IT was former Anfield Boot Room stalwart Roy Evans who once famously remarked: 'Liverpool without European football is like a banquet without wine.'

Listen to many and on the wider global stage, a World Cup without Holland and now Italy is like a feast minus not just vino but a glass of cognac and nice cigar to round things off.

No Robben, Buffon, Bonucci, Chiellini, De Rossi at next summer's extravaganza in Russia - with their respective countries' crushing eliminations having brought forward several international retirements.

No swathes of Oranje supporters or Azzurri followers in Saint Petersburg or Sochi or Kaliningrad or Kazan either.

But time stands still for no man or team. The exits of both three-time World Cup finalists Holland and four-time winners Italy were perhaps, accidents waiting to happen.

The absence of Italy - knocked out by the Swedes in this week's play-offs - is the biggest cross to bear for a nation whose proud haul of four World Cup wins is second only to Brazil.

Arjen Robben's Netherlands failed to finish in the top two of their World Cup qualifying group

Arjen Robben's Netherlands failed to finish in the top two of their World Cup qualifying group

Present at 18 out of 20 previous World Cups, the humiliation at not being involved in their first World Cup since 1958 is as bad as it gets.

It was the respected Gazzetta dello Sport's apocalyptic headline, which simply read: "The End", adding "Italy out of the World Cup for the first time in 60 years", which succinctly summed things up the best.

Recent history, though, would suggest that their demise is not necessarily the shock it seems.

The memories of Italy's glorious triumph incomparably led by the inimitable Buffon and Fabio Cannavaro in Germany in 2006 may be strong in mind's eye, but those who know their football also remember their lamentable campaigns in Brazil 2014 and South Africa 2010.

History will show that they failed to make it past the group stages and toiled against the likes of Slovakia, New Zealand, Paraguay and Costa Rica.

The only team that Italy have beaten in a competitive World Cup fixture since lifting the gleaming trophy in Berlin? Yes, you have guessed it - England..

It was, in the end, a perfect storm for the Italians. A ageing manager with a moderate record in Gian Ventura, who will be seventy at that time of the World Cup and arguably the nation's weakest group of players for decades and the sight of one of Italy's few match-winners in Lorenzo Insigne on the bench for the definitive play-off game with the Swedes in Milan.

That one of Italy's veterans in Daniele De Rossi angrily told Ventura to bring on one of their few code-breakers in Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne on Monday night told you all you needed to know about present-day Italy.

A weak coach without the belief of his senior players and toxic atmosphere in the dressing room, clearly. Factor in some average players and what do you get, elimination and a heap of hand-wringing.

For the Dutch, too, the cocktail has been a similarly toxic one.

A group of players at nowhere near the level of many previous groups, but still a few egos, to boot.

A team who finished third at the 2014 World Cup have now failed to qualify for their last two international tournaments. To miss one international showpiece for a country like Holland is unfortunate, to miss two is plain careless.

Holland's reliance on the fading powers of Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie - has been exposed over the past few years. The supporting cast has been weak and the cupboard bare.

Lest we forget that Holland finished fourth in a five-team group in failing to qualify for Euro 2016 and finishing behind the Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey. Total football was a distant apparition.

Bang average, functional players totally devoid of the wit and grace of many of their predecessors. No celebrated youngsters from Ajax emerging anymore with conviction.

Yes, we will miss the colourful and nostalgic presence of both the Dutch and Italian supporters. But in the contemporary sphere, we should not overly mourn the loss next summer.