No footballer – not even the best – is completely invulnerable and sometimes fate can deliver cruel blows to individuals whose talents deserve to be showcased on the world stage. That is simply an unfortunate hazard of the profession. As well as that, personality clashes, bans and other issues can end up preventing players from taking part. As 32 teams get set for the big kick-off in June,
CONFIRMED OUT OF WORLD CUP 2018
Notably Germany’s Leroy Sane, who given the season he’s had with English Premier League winners Manchester City, must be wondering why he will sweating on a beach rather than on the pitches of Russia during the competition.
France are hoping to claim their second world title when they compete in Russia this summer but one man who is almost certain not to be part of that journey is Karim Benzema, who has not featured for his country since October 2015. The Real Madrid star does not hold much hope for the prospect of a recall ahead of the World Cup though, explaining his view that he will not be picked as long as Didier Deschamps is head coach.
Laurent Koscielny went down in excruciating pain during Arsenal’s Europa League semi-final second-leg defeat to Atletico Madrid after appearing to lose his footing and the club later confirmed that the defender had suffered a torn Achilles tendon. Unfortunately for Koscielny that means his chances of going to Russia as part of the France contingent this summer are now gone and he faces a number of months in recovery.
Dimitri Payet had a memorable Euro 2016 but he’s going to be watching from the sidelines for Russia 2018 after picking up a hamstring injury in the Europa League final against Atletico Madrid. The former West Ham United attacker limped off in tears in the first half to end his chances of a call-up from Deschamps, having forced his way into contention with his star performances for Marseille.
Dani Carvajal will endure more heartbreak after an injury in a Champions League final ruled him out of a second successive major international tournament. The Real Madrid full-back missed Euro 2016 after being injured in the final against Atletico Madrid and he suffered a hamstring injury against Liverpool in Kiev to force him out of the World Cup.
England will definitely have to make do without the services of Liverpool midfielderAlex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who suffered a knee ligament injury in the Reds’ Champions League semi-final first leg victory over Roma. The former Arsenal star sustained the injury while making a tackle and it comes as a major blow to both the player and Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate.
He will be joined on the sidelines by club-mate Joe Gomez, who had forced himself into contention, and even earned a Man of the Match award during the Three Lions’ draw with Brazil having kept Neymar quiet. Ankle surgery, however, has ended his hopes of heading to Russia.
Both Jack Wilshere and Joe Hart have also been excluded from the squad, with Southgate preferring to take Nick Pope instead of the experienced West Ham shot-stopper who has been having a terribly lukewarm season in East London.
Brazil are one of the favourites to win the tournament, but they will have to make do without marauding full-back Dani Alves, who picked up a knee injury during the Coupe de France final and will instead spend the summer recovering ahead of Paris Saint-Germain’s 2018-19 campaign.
Germany boss Joachim Low has a massive pool of talent to draw from, but two potential additions to his World Cup panel have been ruled out. Bayern Munich wingerSerge Gnabry, who is on loan at Hoffenheim, has been laid low with a groin injury, while Borussia Monchengladbach captain Lars Stindl, who played a key role in the 2017 Confederations Cup win, has suffered a serious ankle injury.
Meanwhile, Bayern Munich striker Sandro Wagner felt aggrieved to have missed out on a spot and World Cup winner Mario Gotze also failed to make the cut.
Fernando Gago was part of the Argentina squad that finished runners-up at the 2014 World Cup but he did not make Jorge Sampaoli’s final 23 for Russia 2018. Now playing for Boca Juniors and aged 31, the former Real Madrid midfielder suffered a serious knee injury towards the end of 2017 and has thus been left out of the squad. Other notable absentees are Serie A top scorer Mauro Icardi, who was cut from the 35-man shortlist, while Man Utd goalkeeper Sergio Romero has been ruled out through a knee injury.
The likes of Javier Pastore, Angel Correa and Carlos Tevez, meanwhile, were also omitted from the preliminary squad and will play no part in Russia.
There had been vague suggestions – encouraged by the man himself – that Zlatan Ibrahimovic could potentially make a return to the Sweden set-up for the World Cup, but the Swedish FA chief, Lars Richt, has ruled out any such possibility.
THE 39-YEAR-OLD HAD PLANNED TO RETIRE AFTER THE WORLD CUP BUT HE HAS DECIDED TO HANG UP HIS GLOVES FOLLOWING ITALY’S PLAY-OFF DEFEAT TO SWEDEN THAT REDUCED HIM TO TEARS.
A string of consistent performances at right-back led to Valencia being named players’ player of the year at Old Trafford last season but the 32-year-old could not inspire Ecuador to what would have been his third World Cup.
VIRGIL VAN DIJK
Van Dijk has made no secret of his desire to leave St Mary’s but, if he is still there next June, he will miss the opportunity to showcase his talents on the biggest stage following Holland’s third-placed finish in UEFA qualifying Group A.
THE DEFENDER’S COMMITMENT TO THE CAUSE WAS HIGHLIGHTED AFTER PLAYING WITH A BROKEN NOSE IN THEIR WORLD CUP PLAY-OFF DEFEAT TO SWEDEN. HOWEVER, HIS EFFORTS PROVED IN VAIN AS THE AZZURRI CRASHED OUT.
A winner of six Bundesliga titles and the Champions League, Alaba’s international career has been less illustrious with Austria’s abysmal Euro 2016 campaign his only experience of a major tournament.
The Liverpool-bound midfielder will be fresh when he arrives at Anfield next summer after Guinea could not qualify from a group containing Tunisia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya.
The key midfielder, who starred in the last two World Cups, was suspended for Chile’s final qualifier against Brazil and watched on powerless from Munich as his team were eliminated.
It has been a positive few years for Wales but the Euro 2016 semi-finalists were pipped to a play-off spot by the Republic of Ireland, meaning Bale’s wait for a first World Cup goes on.
A veteran of three World Cups, Robben announced his retirement from international football shortly after scoring twice against Sweden in the final match of Holland’s unsuccessful qualification campaign.
Chile suffered last-minute heartbreak as they were pushed out of a play-off place when Peru equalised against Colombia, meaning the Arsenal star will not be sprinting up the flanks for La Roja in Russia.
Gabon have never qualified for the World Cup and the African country’s shortage of top-class players means talented forward Aubameyang may never have the opportunity to play at one.
More players will undoubtedly join the aforementioned, particularly those who are considered major doubts to make the plane to Russia