With the end of the latest international break, we come to an end of a grueling round robin stage of the world cup qualifying campaign. This year’s world cup qualifiers has been one of the more exciting ones in recent memory with various upsets and last-ditch comebacks by teams making it an edge-of-the-seats affair for football fans all around the world.
The most fiercely competed regional qualifier was, without a shred of doubt, the CONMEBOL qualifiers in which the South American countries went head to head to book their place in next year’s showpiece event or a chance at the play-offs. While Lionel Messi providing a masterclass to take Argentina to the world cup from the brink of elimination on the final day of the qualifiers made the headlines, Chile’s elimination from FIFA’s mega event next year came as a major shock to many football fans. Equally major upsets took place in other qualifiers as well, with the United States and The Netherlands failing to make the cut from their respective qualifying groups.
With 23 teams out of 32 already qualified and several nations battling it out in the intercontinental play-offs, the World Cup at Russia next year promises to be a grand affair, graced by few of the best players in the world. But there will be some big names in the footballing household who could not take their countries to World Cup qualification glory. We at What’s The Hype list 10 such players who will be missed at next year’s World Cup.
1. Jan Oblak – Slovenia
The 25 year old shot-stopper, who plays for Atletico Madrid, has proved himself to be one of the best in the world in his position. But with Slovenia finishing fourth in Group F of UEFA 2018 Fifa World Cup Qualifiers, we won’t be seeing him in next year’s World Cup in Russia.
2. Marek Hamsik – Slovakia
Another nation in Group F of the qualifiers in Europe, Slovakia did finish runners up in their group behind England. But they were denied a place in the playoff round because they were the worst runner up among the nine groups. Thus football fans will miss out on Marek Hamsik, who is one of the more talented midfielders in the modern game, at Russia next year.
3. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Gabon
The top scorer in Bundesliga last season and one of the best forwards in world football, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang will be missing out on next year’s world cup as his nation ended third in group C of the CAF third round qualifiers which is competed amongst the nations of Africa. For the record, Gabon has never qualified for the final round of the FIFA World Cup. As things stand, one of the elite forwards of the game might never get the opportunity to play in a world cup in his career.
4. Arturo Vidal – Chile
Peru pipping the winners of the last two editions of the Copa America to the play off spot was one of the biggest upsets in this year’s World Cup qualifying campaign. Arturo Vidal is widely considered as one of the best holding midfielders and will be a huge miss in the quadrennial tournament. Adding to the disappointment of football fans around the world, Vidal also announced his retirement from international football. Such an unfitting farewell for a huge stalwart for his nation.
5. Arjen Robben – The Netherlands
The rapid decline in Dutch football reached a new low when The Netherlands failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Russia next year. Thus, few of the brightest stars and talents are set to miss Fifa’s showpiece event. But arguably the biggest among them is Arjen Robben. The footballer with a left foot just like a magician’s wand, Robben is one of the most beautiful wingers to ever grace the game. And it is a shame he had to bow out of the national team with his nation’s football team at a crossroads of generation.
6. Christian Pulisic – USA
The 18 year old American, who has made some scintillating displays for Borussia Dortmund last season, is a shocking miss at next year’s World Cup. Hardly anyone expected the USA to fail to qualify for the World Cup. But such outcomes only portrays the unpredictability of the sport.
7. David Alaba – Austria
David Alaba, who plies his trade for FC Bayern Munchen, is widely considered as the best left back in the world. But he is also among the number of stars missing out on a place in the World Cup in Russia with Austria finishing fourth in Group D of the European qualifiers. Football fans will definitely miss the surging runs down the left flank that are a trademark of Alaba’s playing style.
8. Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Armenia
Much like Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s Armenia had little chances of even making it to the play off spots. They ended up in fifth place In Group E of the European Qualifiers. But, having racked up five assists for Manchester United in the Premier League already, Mkhitaryan is in red hot form and in his current form would definitely be a huge miss for football fans in the World Cup.
9. Alexis Sanchez – Chile
There is no doubting the talent possessed by Alexis Sanchez. The diminutive Chilean can single handedly win games for his side on his day. But such was the ferocity with which the CONMEBOL qualifiers was contested, Chile were eliminated from the World Cup on the final day, after suffering a morale shattering 3-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil on the final day. The mazy runs, skills and dribbles shown by the Arsenal forward will be a huge miss on the biggest stage of international football.
10. Gareth Bale – Wales
Wales failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia comes as a huge blow to the nation who have been on a constant rise for the past three years, jumping to the top 10 in FIFA rankings from their lowly 94 in 2014. And the centre of this revolution in Welsh football is Gareth Bale, who is widely considered as one of the best players on the planet outside the sphere of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Even though he is injured often, his talent is never questioned and the Welshman’s bag of skills will be a major absence in the biggest event as far as international football is concerned.