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The best XI not going to the World Cup

Which stars won’t be on the plane to Qatar this winter?

The World Cup is just two weeks away, with the opening game between Qatar and Ecuador due to take place in thirteen days time to kick off the showpiece even in the middle east.

And, while a host of superstars will be taking centre-stage, including the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, there are also plenty of big names not heading to the tournament, with Balon D’or finalists, Champions League winners and European Champions all among those missing the global showdown.

Here is 101s best XI of stars watching the tournament from home.

GK: Jan Oblak

First up, we have one of the world’s best goalkeepers in Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak. Though a star on the domestic stage, his side had a less successful time of it in the World Cup qualifiers, winning and losing four of their ten games to leave them fourth in their group, and unfortunately not on the plane to Qatar.

RB: Vladimir Coufal

The West Ham defender will, along with compatriot Tomas Soucek, be staying in east London this winter after his side missed out on qualification for Qatar.

A poor qualifying campaign saw them just pipped to the play-offs by Wales, who have in turn made their way to the tournament.

CB: Alessandro Bastoni

The defender is undoubtedly one of the best in Europe, and was scouted by both Tottenham and Chelsea over the summer. But, he will have to wait until 2024 to make his World Cup mark.

CB: Milan Skriniar

Inter’s two most prominent central defenders will be granted a month’s rest during the World Cup, with Bastoni’s partner in crime Milan Skriniar also missing out on a place in the finals with Slovakia.

Five draws in their 10 games meant that, though they only lost on two occasions, they finished on just 14 points, leaving them a distant third behind Croatia and Russia.

LB: Andy Robertson

The first of two Liverpool stars in this lineup, Robertson’s Scotland lost just once in qualifying, and finished a clear second in their group behind Denmark.

Sent to the playoffs, they fell in a tame display to Ukraine, however, meaning that their Qatar dreams were left in tatters, and leaving Robertson to watch from home.

CM: Jorginho

From third in the Ballon D’or in 2020 to missing out on the World’s biggest stage in November, Jorginho is among the biggest names to be missing out on the tournament in Qatar, with the Italian star part of the side that struggled in qualifying before falling in the play-offs.

CM: Niccolo Barella

Another of the Azzurri and yet another Inter Milan player, the Italian will be watching with his teammates and compatriots from the comfort of his own home after failing to make the group stages for the second consecutive World Cup.

CAM: Martin Odegaard

Arsenal and Norway’s skipper is yet to make it to a World Cup, with Norway continuing their record of not having qualified for the tournament finals since 1998. Now with arguably their strongest side since then, they will have to hope that they can end that record in four years time, and will have to draw motivation from watching this tournament from home.

RW: Mo Salah

After missing out on the win at the Africa Cup of Nations courtesy of a penalty shoot out, Salah is going to be sitting watching the World Cup at home too, with his Egypt side having been knocked out, once more, by Senegal on penalties.

The Liverpool man has not looked his best so far this campaign, but will get perhaps a much-needed rest for the World Cup as he looks to spearhead another trophy charge on a domestic level.

Mohamed Salah is the star attraction of the semi-finals

ST: Erling Haaland

While the Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe comparisons wage on for the title of best young striker in World Football, the Norweigian was unable to fire his side to the World Cup this winter.

Despite his five goals in six qualifiers, Norway could only manage to finish 3rd in a group containing the Netherlands and Turkey.

LW: Riyad Mahrez

Another star to complete a devastating front three, Mahrez and Algeria topped their World Cup group, going unbeaten and finishing on 14 points.

However, despite beating Cameroon 1-0 in the first leg of their knockout tie, they fell to a 2-1 defeat on home soil, which was enough to see their opponents squeeze through on the away goals rule, and leave Mahrez and co. without a ticket to Qatar.


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Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.

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