Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 – a jaw-dropping upset. AFP / Miguel MEDINA
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Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years showed that football still has a unique knack for toppling the mighty, although such upsets are far more likely in the international game. The club game, on the other hand, is increasingly the preserve of an affluent few – as shown by further titles for Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Juventus.Four-time world champions Italy, last absent from the finals in 1958, were beaten 1-0 on aggregate by Sweden in a two-leg playoff, their fate being sealed by a goalless draw on a surreal November night at San Siro.The chances of the traditional powers missing out will diminish greatly from 2026 onward after global football body FIFA voted last January to increase the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams.Real Madrid won the Champions League for the third time in four seasons, beating Juventus in the final, and Zinedine Zidane's side also won La Liga and the Club World Cup where they beat South American champions Gremio 1-0 in the final.
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