Top Five Players We’ll Miss In The 2022 World Cup

Gianluigi Donnarumma of Italy looks on during the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar qualifying match between Italy and Northern Ireland at Stadio Ennio Tardini.

The megastars that will be heating microwave popcorn and watching the games on TV just like you and me

Even with globalization and changes in FIFA rules, there is an extent to how much a football player can control which country they represent. Whereas in club football a player can ask for a transfer when they feel they’re in a framework which doesn’t match their ambitions, in international football they mostly have to deal with their fate. As a result, throughout history iconic stars have watched the World Cup from home while much less significant players enjoyed the experience of playing on the big stage. The likes of George Weah, Ryan Giggs, George Best, and Jari Litmanen were unlucky to play in teams which weren’t good enough to make it to a World Cup. Ahead of the 2022 World Cup, we’re taking a look at the top five players who will not make the trip to Qatar. The only rule: the players selected were from a country who didn’t qualify, not those who are out of the squad due to personal reasons or injury. Came close: Donnarumma, Oblak, Kvaratskhelia, and Mudryk. 

5. David Alaba

Making his debut more than a decade ago, we’ve gotten used to having David Alaba around to the extent that he’s almost overlooked. Maybe it’s because he made winning titles look easy throughout his club career at Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. 

Snubbing him, though, is a serious mistake. During the past decade, Alaba has been one of the best and most diverse defenders in football. He was key in Austria’s qualification to both Euro 2016 and Euro 2020. Unfortunately, he has yet to lead his team to a first World Cup since 1998, and at the age of 30 his window of opportunities is about to close. 

4. Riyad Mahrez

One game, 72 minutes. That’s all Riyad Mahrez ever played in a World Cup. It could be attributed to the fact that the only time his country qualified for the tournament during his international career, he was only half a season into his Leicester spell. Before that, he was relatively unknown having spent three seasons playing in Ligue 2 for Le Havre.

If Algeria were to qualify to the 2018 and 2022 editions, the winger would’ve definitely arrive at a different status. The only problem is that they didn’t, and they don’t really have an excuse for it. Mahrez is the jewel on the crown of an excellent generation which theoretically should’ve given the Desert Foxes an advantage over their continental opponents. There’s no better proof than their inspiring 2019 African Cup of Nations win

3. Luis Diaz

After the depressing 1998-2010 era, Colombia returned as a team that needs to be considered over the previous decade. The result was two World Cup quarter-final campaigns in 2014 and 2018. Diaz made his debut for his country’s senior side only after the tournament in Russia, and became more prominent while the leaders of this generation, such as James Rodríguez, Falcao, and Cuadrado, grew older. 

A successful 2021 Copa America third-place finish wasn’t followed up by a successful qualifying campaign, meaning one of the best Liverpool players over the past few months will have to wait at least four years to make his dream appearance in a World Cup come true. 

2. Mohamed Salah

Salah’s relationship with the World Cup is somewhat tragic. He helped Egypt get back to the big stage after 28 years of absence, scoring five goals in the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. Sadly, he was infamously injured by Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final a few weeks before the tournament kicked off. As a result, he missed the opening match, but came back to play and score in the two last games of the group stage, which ended with a disappointing exit for the Pharaohs. 

Salah wanted to return to the World Cup healthier and stronger, with the fact that the 2022 edition will be the first to take place in an Arab country providing extra motivation. Instead, he and Egypt suffered a dramatic, penalty-shootout loss to Senegal in the qualifying playoffs, Salah being the first to take a shot and miss for his side. 

The Liverpool forward’s recent decline in form cannot erase what he has achieved over the past seven years, and his presence would’ve added a lot of hype to the tournament. Coming from the third most populous country in Africa, with a great sports tradition and a football-crazy population, it’s hard to explain Egypt’s inability to perform better. 

1. Erling Haaland

Can you recall a player in such form, of this magnitude, who’s missed a World Cup in recent history? Erling Haaland is the best player in the world right now, full stop. But even he wasn’t able to change Norway’s poor qualifying record. After a good decade between 1990-2000, the country watched from home while all of its Nordic region neighbors made it to Euros and World Cups. Yes, even Iceland and Finland. The Norwegian drought’s length is exemplified by the fact that Haaland was born more than a month after Norway’s last match in a big tournament, a 0-0 draw with Slovenia in Euro 2000.

He is as prolific for his country as he is for his clubs, with 20 goals in 21 performances, and has a few quality players surrounding him, Ødegaard and Sørloth just to name a couple. Some may argue that at least this generation is making some progress. Norway reached the last match of the qualifying campaign with a chance of getting the ticket to Qatar. Unfortunately, the injured striker watched from home and saw his side lose in the end of an uninspiring performance. At 22, the City talisman is the youngest player on this list, and football fans hope that this glass ceiling will break just like the long list of records shattered by Haaland.

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