The greatest sporting event on the planet, the FIFA World Cup, is shaping up in exciting fashion, with fresh young talents and world-class squads aiming for the ultimate glory. Despite being almost a year away, football fanatics across the world can hardly contain their excitement, as they look forward to watching their favourite players perform and root for their success.
Meanwhile, as the players head back to their respective clubs after international duty, they have left behind some exciting moments and results. Portugal and Poland eased past the qualifiers thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski respectively, whilst Argentina risked losing out if not for Lionel Messi’s sensational performances. Iceland have yet again surprised everyone with a qualification that saw them become the smallest country to ever head to the WC, with a population of 350,000.
On the other hand, however, this term saw many great teams and big names failing to make it to the top 32. The surprise exit of USA, Netherlands, and Chile were unexpected due to their supremely talented squads.
On that note, we have explored and pieced together a group of eleven world-class players who are unlucky to miss the trip to Russia next year:
Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak (Slovenia/Atletico Madrid)
There is no doubt of the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper’s ability, as he has been voted the best GK in La Liga for the past two years. However, Oblak eventually lost an early opportunity to play in the decorated cup tie, as England emerged as the group winners.
Right-back: Antonio Valencia (Ecuador/Manchester United)
The Red Devils’ player of the season was unlucky to be disqualified, as they lost to Argentina in their last fixture thanks to an inspirational hat-trick from Messi, despite taking the lead in the early stages of the match.
Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands/Southampton)
Though it seemed like a herculean task in the first place, Holland were expected to pave their way to Russia by winning against Sweden. However, they needed to secure a 5-goal win in order to go through to the next stages of the competitions. Unfortunately, a 2-0 victory over the Swedes did not exactly help van Dijk, as his side finished third in their respective group.
Centre-back: Gary Medel (Chile/Besiktas)
Meanwhile, it’s ‘welcome back to Besiktas’ for the former Inter Milan man. Despite his influential spot in the Chilean national team, Medel failed to help his side have a go at the World Cup after becoming champions of South America.
Right-back: David Alaba (Austria/Bayern Munich)
It seems as if his experience at Euro 2016 is the only major international event Alaba will be a part of with Austria for a while. The Bayern Munich star will have to settle for club honours until he can have another go at the World Cup.
Defensive Midfielder: Arturo Vidal (Chile/Bayern Munich)
Yet another talented player from the Bavarian side struck with bad luck. Vidal, who was instrumental for La Roja for the past two World Cup campaigns, became a mere spectator as he watched his side’s last qualifier match against Brazil from the sidelines due to a suspension.
Central Midfielder: Christian Pulisic (USA/Dortmund)
The Americans couldn’t have been any more unlucky, as Panama’s phantom goal against Puerto Rico denied them an opportunity to head to the play-offs against Australia. Pulisic could’ve been on his way to his first ever World Cup at just the age of 19, but poor performances and a touch of overconfidence from his national team ultimately saw them sit out this time, for the first time since 1942.
Left Winger: Gareth Bale (Wales/Real Madrid)
The Welshman faces a different level of embarrassment, as his side crashed out of the qualifiers all the while England and the Republic of Ireland managed to get through. Seems like the Real Madrid man will have to show patience before he can head to his first ever World Cup.
Right Winger: Arjen Robben (Netherlands/Bayern Munich)
The list has been so far dominated by Bayern stars, and Robben is one of those names on the list. Though the former Chelsea winger managed to score a brace against Sweden, their need for 3 more goals turned out to be too much to ask from him. Ultimately, the Dutchman finished the campaign as Holland’s joint all-time top scorer alongside the legendary Dennis Bergkamp, and has since decided to retire from international football.
Forward: Alexis Sanchez (Chile/Arsenal)
It is quite hard to describe Sanchez’s situation; struggling to snatch an exit ticket from the Emirates, missed out on the Ballon d’Or 30-man shortlist, and now, edged off the play-offs by Peru. It really doesn’t look like things are going the Chilean’s way lately.
Forward: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon/Borussia Dortmund)
Though the least surprising name on the list, it is rather disappointing to see such a talented forward miss out on the big stage. With Gabon’s unfortunate lack of top-class players, Aubameyang’s chances at qualifying even in the future seems very doubtful.
Edin Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina/Roma)
Riyad Mahrez (Algeria/Leicester City)
Hakan Calhanoglu (Turkey/AC Milan)
Naby Keita (Guinea/RB Leipzig)
Aaron Ramsey (Wales/Arsenal)
Unfortunately, all the talented players on this list will have to fly back home disappointed, despite giving their all for their nations.
Written by Ashish Sreejith
Have had two addictions in life- playing football and watching football. Usually described as introverted but not when it comes to speaking and writing about the beautiful game of football.