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Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah, Riyad Mahrez... Picking A Best XI Of Players Who WON'T Be At The World Cup

Rory O'Callaghan

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Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah, Riyad Mahrez... Picking A Best XI Of Players Who WON'T Be At The World Cup

Costa Rica became the final team to book their place at the 2022 World Cup with a 1-0 victory over New Zealand in the second inter-continental play-off on Tuesday night.

We now know which 32 teams will feature at the tournament in Qatar, which gets underway on November 21.

Many proud football nations have failed to qualify, including four-time winners Italy, with some of the game's greatest players missing out on the tournament.

Here, we take a look at a best XI of players who won't be at the World Cup...

GK: Jan Oblak (Slovenia)

One of the greatest goalkeepers of the modern era, Slovenia captain Oblak could very well end his career without having ever featured at a major international tournament.

Slovenia finished fourth in their qualification group for Qatar 2022 behind Croatia, Russia and Slovakia, with their last major tournament appearance coming back at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Image: PA
Image: PA

RB: Vladimir Coufal (Czech Republic)

Coufal enjoyed another impressive season at West Ham, helping the Hammers finish seventh in the Premier League and reach the semi-finals of the Europa League under David Moyes.

But both he, and his West Ham teammate Tomas Soucek, won't be at the World Cup after the Czech Republic came third in their qualifying group behind Belgium and Wales, and then lost 1-0 to Sweden in their play-off semi-final in March.

The Czechs, who were runners-up at the World Cup in both 1934 and 1962 while competing as Czechoslovakia, have now failed to qualify for the tournament on four successive occasions.

CB: Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)

It is still hard to comprehend how Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup, less than a year after being crowned European champions at Wembley.

After finishing second in their qualifying group behind Switzerland, Roberto Mancini's side suffered a shock defeat to North Macedonia in their World Cup semi-final play-off.

As a result, a number of legendary Italian players, including Juventus stalwart Leonardo Bonucci, are likely to have played in their final World Cup.

Speaking after the defeat to North Macedonia, Bonucci slammed the play-off format: "We played it all in a one-off match, it's an absurd system. Unfortunately, that's the way it went, but it's a crazy decision."

Image: PA
Image: PA

CB: David Alaba (Austria)

Last summer, Real Madrid defender Alaba captained Austria to the knockout stages of Euro 2020 for the first time in their history where they lost to eventual champions Italy.

But hopes of back-to-back major tournament appearances for Austria were dashed when they lost 2-1 to Wales in their World Cup play-off semi-final in March, after finishing fourth in their qualifying group behind Denmark, Scotland and Israel.

Austria last qualified for the World Cup back in 1998 and the 2026 tournament in Canada, Mexico and the United States is likely to be Alaba's last chance at reaching the tournament.

LB: Andy Robertson (Scotland)

Like Austria, Scotland last qualified for the World Cup at France 1998. They came close to ending that long wait this time around but were beaten by Ukraine in their delayed World Cup semi-final play-off last month.

Liverpool defender Andy Robertson apologised for Scotland's lacklustre performance in the emotionally-charged match at Hampden Park.

"It's hugely disappointing as we've waited a long time for this game. Our performances beforehand were really good but to be honest we didn't really show up,” admitted Robertson.

It summed up a disappointing end to the season for Robertson, who also tasted defeat in the Champions League final against Real Madrid just days after Manchester City narrowly pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title.

Image: PA
Image: PA

DM: Marco Verratti (Italy)

The second Italian on our list, Verratti was part of the side that lost to North Macedonia in their World Cup semi-final play-off in March.

After the defeat, the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder apologised to Italian supporters and urged reporters to direct their criticism at the older members of the squad.

"I don't think the best way to deal with this is to insult everyone, because each of us tried to give our all. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough," said Verratti.

"Above all, please leave the younger players alone, if you really want to, insult us 'older' guys, because sometimes you forget we are just people like you, normal folks, and that we too feel the biggest emotions in the smallest things."

CM: Martin Odegaard (Norway)

A standout performer for Arsenal this season, Odegaard is yet to feature at a major tournament for Norway.

They missed out on a place at Qatar 2022 after finishing third in their qualification group behind the Netherlands and Turkey.

Norway have not qualified for a major international tournament since Euro 2000 in Belgium and the Netherlands, with their last World Cup appearance coming at France 1998.

Image: PA
Image: PA

CM: Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)

Since winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019, not a lot has gone right for Algeria.

A dreadful defence of their AFCON title in the 2021 tournament saw them finish bottom of their group behind Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone.

They were then beaten by Cameroon in a dramatic World Cup play-off in March. Ahmed Touba's 118th-minute goal looked to have secured Algeria a place in Qatar, only for Karl Toko Ekambi to score a dramatic 124th-minute goal to send Cameroon through on the away goals rule.

As a result, Manchester City winger Mahrez misses out on the World Cup, having previously featured for Algeria at the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

LW: Luis Diaz (Colombia)

One of the signings of the season, Diaz immediately hit the ground running in the Premier League after being signed by Liverpool from Porto in January. But he won't feature at the World Cup after Colombia failed to qualify for the tournament for the first time since 2010.

They finished sixth in the ultra-competitive South American qualifying group, with only the top four securing an automatic place at Qatar and the fifth-placed team entering the inter-continental play-offs.

There were faint hopes Colombia might be awarded a place at the World Cup if Ecuador, who had finished fourth in qualifying, were expelled over claims that their defender Byron Castillo had played despite being ineligible.

However, following an investigation into those claims. FIFA has now closed its disciplinary proceedings against Ecuador, who have kept their place at the World Cup.

Image: PA
Image: PA

RW: Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Mohamed Salah must be cursing his luck after a year of missed opportunities with both Liverpool and Egypt.

After losing to Senegal on penalties in the AFCON final in February, Egypt were beaten by the same opponents in their World Cup play-off in March.

Salah would also miss out on the Premier League title and the Champions League in the final weeks of the domestic season.

Speaking after the play-off defeat to Senegal, Salah hinted he may retire from international football having featured at just one World Cup with Egypt, the 2018 tournament in Russia.

"There is not much I can say but it has been an honour to play with you, whether I will be in the national team after that or not," said Salah.

ST: Erling Haaland (Norway)

Arguably the most high-profile player on the list, Manchester City's new signing Erling Haaland will be a notable absentee from the World Cup after Norway failed to qualify.

Norway had put themselves in a strong position at the halfway point of the qualification campaign largely thanks to the prolific form of Haaland, who has scored 20 goals in 21 appearances since making his debut for the national side in 2019.

But an injury to the striker which forced him to miss their final four qualifiers scuppered their progress, with Norway eventually falling short after a 3-0 defeat to Netherlands.

Image: PA
Image: PA

Featured Image Credit: PA Images

Topics: Football, Football World Cup, Jan Oblak, Leonardo Bonucci, David Alaba, Andrew Robertson, Riyad Mahrez, Marco Verratti, Martin Odegaard, Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz

Rory O'Callaghan

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