The World Cup; that thing that rolls around every four years where you pretend to know about Peru and Costa Ricas best players. It’s the tournament where the world’s best players all convene to have a bit of a kick around for a couple of weeks.
But at every tournament there are some big name absentees thanks to some countries not qualifying (which has to happen or else the World Cup would be about six months in length).
This time around there are some very famous players getting the summer off and not taking part in Russia, so if you’re wondering why you can’t see some of your favourite names playing have a quick scan down this list to see why.
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Gareth Bale (Wales)
The biggest name not to be taking part in the World Cup? Potentially. Especially given how important he was to Wales’ shock run to the Euro 2016 semi-finals two years ago. That and the fact he plays for Real Madrid and is one of their biggest stars.
But after failing to get out of their qualifying group that first wait for a World Cup continues and this summer will be without the most famous Alice band in world football. Had Bale not missed a few important qualifiers for Wales through injury towards the end of 2017 maybe that wait would probably be over.
Alexis Sanchez (Chile)
2018 has not been good to Alexis Sanchez so far.
The then Barcelona forward was top scorer for Chile with two goals at the last World Cup in Brazil as they made it out of a tough group with the Netherlands and Spain (beating the reigning world champions). He earned a move to Arsenal off the back of it but now is at Manchester United and won’t be at the World Cup after Chile’s disastrous qualifying campaign.
A last-minute Peru goal pushed them out of a play-off spot meaning Sanchez won’t be gracing our screens this summer and neither will the likes of Arturo Vidal, Claudio Bravo and, of course, Gary Medel.
Gigi Buffon (Italy)
This summer’s World Cup will be without a man who has played in every competition since 2002 as Gigi Buffon’s Italy failed to qualify in a playoff defeat that saw plenty of tears, mostly from the veteran keeper. “I’m not sorry for myself but all of Italian football,”said the 40-year-old who holds pretty much all the records for the Azzurri including most appearances ever and most appearances at World Cups.
He added through the tears: “We failed at something which also means something on a social level. There’s regret at finishing like that, not because time passes. There is certainly a future for Italian football, as we have pride, ability, determination and after bad tumbles, we always find a way to get back on our feet.”
He also instantly retired after that playoff (although he later hinted he may reverse that decision) but whatever happens it will be the first World Cup in 16 years without Buffon which, let’s face it, will feel very weird.
Wilf Zaha (Ivory Coast)
The Crystal Palace star only chose to play for Ivory Coast over England 18 months ago, choosing his birth country after getting fed up with waiting for his adopted homeland (where he grew up from the age of four) to give him a chance. But already Zaha is a star for Les Elephants and arguably their biggest name, for a nation whose World class names like Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure are distant memories.
But Zaha, who has been Palace’s best player for the past two seasons, will have to wait another for years to test his skills on the World stage after losing their final group stage to Morocco, who took their place at the tournament instead. It means the Ivorians miss their first World Cup in 12 years.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)
The new Arsenal striker won’t be in Russia because his country Gabon failed to get out of that same AFCON group as the Ivory Coast, but they had a great excuse.
After losing their penultimate game to eventual group winners Morocco Aubameyang and Gabon coach claimed their squad had been sabotaged by dodgy orange juice. They reckon the juice, served at breakfast, left half of the team and staff with stomach problems ahead of the game, which they lost 3-0 to effectively end their World Cup hopes.
Camacho told Cadena Ser: “We believe it was the orange juice because those that did not have it were fine. I just had a sip so I didn’t have a lot but I still spent the morning of the game going from my bed to the toilet. I was the least affected but it left you tired. Half of my team and staff had stomach pains and diarrhoea throughout the day of the game. They had to constantly go to the toilet. It’s strange that this happened the day of the game but that’s the reality.”
We believe you guys, just please stop talking about it.
It seems unfeasible given his global appeal but Neymar and his crazy haircuts could miss the World Cup this summer.
The 26-year-old PSG superstar broke a metatarsal during his side’s Ligue 1 fixture with Marseille in February, reducing his summer to a single-goaled race to be fit for Brazil’s opening group game with Switzerland on July 17th.
Selecao team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar seems fairly confident Neymar will be fit enough for the World Cup but we all remember David Beckham and Wayne Rooney’s metatarsal dramas in 2002 and 2006.
“He became very sad when he found out the seriousness of the injury and learned he needed surgery,” Lasmar told L’Equipe. “On the eve of a competition like the World Cup, it’s always a little scary. He became really annoyed in the first moments, but his power of recovery and his mental strength allowed him to overcome that.”
However, Neymar came off the substitutes’ bench to score for his country in Sunday’s 2-0 friendly win against Croatia at Anfield and now looks likely to shake off any pre-tournament concerns.
Honourable mentions to: Daniele De Rossi (Italy) Arjen Robben (Netherlands) Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands) Marek Hamsik (Slovakia), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Armenia), Miralem Pjanic (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Edin Dzeko (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Giorgio Chiellini (Italy), Riyad Mahrez (Algeria), Arturo Vidal (Chile), Edin Dzeko (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Antonio Valencia (Equador), David Alaba (Austria), Jasper Cillessen (Netherlands).