These stars not in Qatar could win the World Cup

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With the 2022 FIFA World Cup about to get underway in Qatar, these superstars accustomed to being centre stage will have to accept going from spectacle to spectator. 

As a result of their respective nations failing to qualify, or simply not being picked, football fans will be missing these megastars who won't be at Qatar- and they form a starting XI good enough to challenge the very best nations at the World Cup. 

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)

The Italian goalkeeper has cemented his place as PSG’s first goalkeeper, with teammate Keylor Navas failing to make a single appearance this season. 

Italy’s failure to qualify for the second time in a row, means he’ll be 27 by the time the next World Cup starts. Very unfortunate for the 23-year-old, as he would be looking to recapture that outstanding form discovered in Italy’s Euro 2020 win against England.

RB: Juan Cuadrado (Colombia)

The Colombian defender has been solid for Juventus this season, making 14 appearances in the Serie A as his team is on red-hot form going into December.

The 34-year-old would have wanted his country to qualify as he is approaching the latter stages of his career, but alas, Colombia failed to book a place in Qatar after some disappointing performances. As a result, Reinaldo Rueda was sacked as manager with his side only winning 7 games during his tenure.

Cuadrado may not be the player he used to be, but the former Chelsea man is still a very capable player at his age. 

CB: Mats Hummels (Germany)  

Borrusia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels, will not be representing Germany at the World Cup after being overlooked for selection by Hansi Flick.

The German international has been one of Dortmund's standout players this season, with an impressive performance against Manchester City in the Champions League.

Hummels has expressed his ‘disappointment’ at missing out, which he described as one of the biggest frustrations of his career.

At 33, the former Bayern player hasn’t announced whether this would be his last World Cup, but with most footballers at his age, it seems unlikely he’ll play again.

CB: Sergio Ramos (Spain)

Eyebrows were raised when Luis Enrique decided not to bring experienced Spain defender, Sergio Ramos to Qatar.

A Madridista legend, Ramos had returned to full fitness at current club PSG just in time for the World Cup, but Luis Enrique had other ideas.

Ramos not being selected was a shock for football fans, as the Spaniard is arguably one of the best centre-backs of this generation.

LB: David Alaba (Austria)

Real Madrid defender, David Alaba will not be at the World Cup after Austria failed to qualify.

Alaba has been on good form since leaving Bayern, starting every game for Los Blancos in all competitions.

At the age of 29, he would most likely have another opportunity to make an appearance at the World Cup, but keep in mind that Austria has failed to qualify since 1998.

CM: Marco Verratti (Italy)

Italy midfielder, Marco Verratti won’t be at the World Cup, as the Azzurri failed to qualify for the second time in a row. 

The midfielder’s recent performances for PSG have been brilliant, while also making 19 appearances in all competitions. The Italian also has a great record for his country, making 50 appearances and played a huge part in Italy’s success in Euro 2020.

The 30-year-old may have one World Cup left in him, but there is concern over his injury record going into the end of his career.

CM: Martin Odegaard (Norway)

Arsenal midfielder Martin Odegaard has been on breathtaking form for the Gunners this season, being involved in eight of Arsenal’s goals in the Premier League this season. 

The Norwegian’s flair and playmaking ability have been crucial in this Arsenal side, something it has sorely missed since the unceremonious exit of Mesut Ozil.

Whilst being captain for Arsenal, Odegaard also plays a similar role in the Norwegian national team, however his country hasn’t been successful in qualifying for the World Cup since 1998.

If Odegaard can keep up his form for Arsenal and achieve success with Norway, then there’s no doubt that he’s a star in the making.  

CM: Thiago Alcantara (Spain)

Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara is left disappointed after Luis Enrique hasn’t selected him for the Spain squad.

Technique-wise, Thiago is one of the best players in the world, being able to move the ball in astonishing ways. His time at Bayern will never be forgotten, as this is arguably the pinnacle of his career.

The Spaniard secured a move to Liverpool in 2020, everybody expected him to succeed at Liverpool and there have been glimpses of what was seen at Bayern, but injuries have hindered his chances of playing a unique style of football for The Reds.

Thiago had come back from injuries in time for selection, Luis Enrique claiming that “He deserved to be in the squad, but only 26 can make it.”

Will this affect Spain’s chances of winning the World Cup, or was the Spanish coach’s decision justified?

RW: Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Mohamed Salah hasn’t been able to replicate his outstanding performances from Liverpool for his nation. The Liverpool attacker has been brilliant since his move from AS Roma in 2017, winning the Golden Boot on three occasions.

Salah is considered a national hero for Egypt, however, it has been a heartbreaking year for the player. A defeat in the Africa Cup of Nations final against Senegal, then in the World Cup play-off, Salah misses in the penalty shootout against the same team.

Going back to the 2018 World Cup, Salah was affected by an injury suffered in the UCL Final that year, where Salah is seen leaving the field in tears.

Mohamed Salah’s absence will be a great loss for the World Cup and for African Football as he is one of the world’s greatest players. 

ST: Erling Haaland (Norway)

Goal-scoring phenomenon, Erling Haaland will not play at the World Cup because Norway have failed to qualify.

The Manchester City striker has been phenomenal since his move from Dortmund in July. Haaland has bagged 18 goals in 23 appearances this season - and is streaking clear of the chasing pack in the Premier League's golden boot race in his debut season in England.

Haaland has been exceptional for Norway as well, scoring 5 goals in 9 games. However, his nation hasn’t qualified for the World Cup this year after finishing below Turkey in their group.

The Norwegian is admired by football fans for his goal-scoring ability at only 22 years old, but it's a shame that the striker will need to wait four years until his nation can qualify again.

LW: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) 

Chelsea forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, will not be representing his nation at the World Cup.

The Gabonese captain hasn’t made an appearance in the World Cup, with his nation never qualifying in its history. 

The former Arsenal forward scored twice in the group stage, with Gabon finishing second to Egypt, who went to the playoffs without a fuss. Unfortunately for the striker, it would’ve been his last ever chance of qualifying as he announced his retirement from the national team in November.

Honourable Mentions:

  • David De Gea
  • Fikayo Tomori
  • Luis Diaz
  • Federico Chiesa
  • Roberto Firmino
  • Victor Osimhen