Best players not to feature in the 2022 FIFA World Cup

Photo Credit: AP

Part of the fascination of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is looking forward to seeing some top players in the world strut their stuff. Some of the greatest players in the world will be descending on Qatar later in the year. But some players are going to be conspicuous by their absence at the event. Here we take a look at some of the biggest stars of the game who will not be at the 2022 World Cup.

Mo Salah – Egypt

One of the biggest stars who are not going to be in the 2022 World Cup is Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian forward did come agonisingly close to making a tournament appearance. But Egypt lost their qualification play-off tie via a penalty shoot-out. Egypt were pitched into the CAF Third Round of qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, against Senegal. That was a tough draw for them, but they were in the driving seat after the first leg after taking a 1-0 win in Cairo.

But it was an advantage that Egypt couldn’t hold on to, as they lost the second leg in Dakar 1-0. Senegal won the penalty shoot-out 3-1, Salah missing Egypt’s first effort. The three-time Premier League Golden Boot winner will be viewing the World Cup from the sidelines. Salah will be watching former Liverpool teammate Sadio Mané in action for Egypt’s conquerors Senegal at the tournament. Salah’s record for Egypt is a tremendous 47 goals in 85 appearances.

Erling Haaland – Norway

Another of the game’s current top strikers, Norway’s Erling Haaland will have to enjoy this year’s World Cup from afar. Haaland, who moved to reigning Premier League champions Manchester City this summer is one of the best forwards in the world and is going to be sorely missed. Norway could only manage a third-place finish in the qualification group from UEFA. They had been in Group G, a section which was won by the Netherlands. Turkey finished as runners-up and went to the qualification playoffs.

Norway have made only three previous World Cup appearances, the most recent in 1998. So it’s been a long absence from the big stage from them. But with one of the global stars in their ranks in Haaland, who is only 22, there should be opportunities down the line for Norway to work their way back to a World Cup.

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 appearances for former Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, before his high-profile move to Man City. His international record isn’t bad either. Haaland is averaging almost a goal per international game. He’s tallied 20 goals in just 21 appearances for Norway.

Luis Diaz – Colombia

With Colombia’s failure to reach the 2022 World Cup, Luis Diaz is another of the big stars to be missing from the 2022 World Cup. Diaz lit up the 2021 Copa América tournament, finishing as joint top-scorer alongside Lionel Messi. Diaz signed for Premier League side Liverpool in January 2022 for £37.5 million. He immediately made a huge impact in the division, with his fast, creative play. Diaz scored four goals and assisted five in 13 Premier League appearances following his move.

He is one of the most exciting wingers in the game at the moment and has made 35 appearances for Colombia, scoring eight times. Unfortunately for Diaz, Colombia missed out on qualification after finishing one point outside the top five in the CONMEBOL qualifiers. The top four automatically qualified, and the fifth-place finishers Peru went to an inter-confederation playoff.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Gabon

Barcelona striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will miss the 2022 FIFA World Cup also as Gabon came up short in their qualification bid. Gabon failed to even reach the CAF Third Round. They put together an unconvincing campaign in the second qualifying round, finishing seven points behind group winners Egypt.

Aubameyang is the all-time top goalscorer for Gabon, first making his debut with them as a 19-year-old. The now 33-year-old left Premier League side Arsenal earlier this year by mutual agreement. He went on to reach an agreement with La Liga giants Barcelona. Aubamayang’s international record is 30 goals in 72 appearances.

5 Greatest Players who never played the FIFA World Cup

  • Ryan Giggs (Wales)
  • George Best (Northern Ireland)
  • Eric Cantona (France)
  • George Weah (Liberia)
  • Alfredo Di Stéfano (Argentina, Colombia, Spain)

Zlatan Ibrahimović – Sweden

Sweden couldn’t manage to get themselves back to the World Cup. They had reached the quarter-finals of the 2018 edition in Russia four years ago. Qualification failure means that the great Zlatan Ibrahimović won’t be getting another shift on the biggest stage of all.

Ibrahimović is an icon of the game and the 40-year-old just signed a contract extension for another year with reigning Serie A champions AC Milan. The Swede, who has played in all of Europe’s Big 5 leagues, made his international debut in 2001.

The longevity of Ibrahimović has seen him score 62 goals in 121 appearances for Sweden. The last time he netted for his country was in 2015, however. Would have been selected had Sweden reached the Finals? That one’s up for debate. He may now not be seen on the World Cup stage ever again as a player.

David Alaba – Austria

Despite two bites of the cherry, Austria failed to qualify for Qatar 2022. David Alaba, moved to current La Liga and Champions League holders Real Madrid in 2021. Regarded as one of the best defenders in the world, Alaba, who has 90 international caps including appearances at Euro 2016 and 2020, misses out on World Cup action again. Austria only finished fourth in their World Cup qualification group. But because of Nations League performances, they were handed another qualification chance through the playoffs. Austria couldn’t make the most of that as they lost to Wales.

FIFA World Cup Winners (plus the number of titles)

  • Brazil 5
  • Germany 5
  • Italy 5
  • Argentina 2
  • France 2
  • England 1
  • Spain 1
  • Uruguay 1

Jan Oblak – Slovakia

Atlético Madrid’s Jan Oblak, regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the modern game, won’t be at the 2022 World Cup either. Oblak, who joined La Liga side Atlético in 2014, couldn’t help Slovakia get through the World Cup qualifiers. Slovakia finished third in their UEFA qualification group, a section won by Croatia. Slovakia’s lone World Cup appearance was in 2010 when they reached the Round of 16. Oblak wasn’t involved. While has cited playing for his country at a World Cup as a childhood dream, it won’t be happening this year for the 29-year-old.

Giorgio Chiellini – Italy

One of the greatest and most recognisable defenders in the game is Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. But he won’t be at the 2022 World Cup either. He was the spine of Italy’s defence that won Euro 2020, beating England in the final. Chiellini, who won the Serie A title nine times with Juventus, moved to the MLS to join Los Angeles FC this year and retired from the international scene in June. Had Italy managed to qualify for this year’s World Cup, would Chiellini have delayed that retirement? Chiellini did appear in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, but the Azzurri never got past the group stage on either occasion.

Gianluigi Donnarumma – Italy

Another of the modern great goalkeepers, Gianluigi Donnarumma is also a big name missing from this year’s World Cup line-up. The 23-year-old Italian, saw his nation’s hopes eliminated in the qualification playoffs in a shock defeat against North Macedonia.

Donnarumma, who plays for Ligue 1 side PSG seems to have been around forever. He made his professional debut for AC Milan at just 16 years old. He’s the second-youngest goalkeeper to start a Serie A fixture. He made his international debut in 2017. Donarumma was between the sticks for Italy at Euro 2022, saving two spot kicks during the penalty shoot-out with England in the Final.

Riyad Mahrez – Algeria

Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, an international for Algeria is another popular face from the Premier League who won’t be at Qatar 2022. Algeria did reach the final round of qualification in CAF but were handed a tough tie against Cameroon.

With the tie level at the end of normal time in the second leg, Algeria’s hearts were broken when they suffered a loss after extra time against the Indomitable Lions. Algeria had scored two minutes from time in the second leg and looked to be going through. But they conceded a crushing blow in the fourth minute of added time at the end of extra time to dramatically get eliminated.

Italy – The FIFA World Cup fall of the Azzurri

The reigning European champions had another massive setback as they failed to qualify for their second World Cup in a row. That means that a whole host of stars will be missing from the World Cup, just by the absence of the Azzurri alone. The likes of Ciro Immobile, Marco Verratti and Federico Chiesa add to the list of great players who won’t be at the tournament.

Italy could only finish second to Switzerland in their qualification group. But that was still enough to get them through to the playoffs. On paper, they were red-hot favourites to get through their semi-final tie against North Macedonia. But the Azzurri were stunned in Palermo, as the visitors broke away to score in the 92nd minute through Aleksandar Trajkovski to lose 1-0. North Macedonia then lost their qualification playoff final to Portugal.

Failure to reach the World Cup for the second time running is another huge blow for Italian football. Italy are one of the most successful nations in the World Cup. They have been crowned champions four times before, most recently in 2006. Only Brazil have won the tournament more times than the Azzurri.