The 11 best players who won’t be at Qatar 2022




Ahead of Friday’s World Cup draw, I thought it would be fun to create a starting XI of players who won’t make the final in Qatar.

Players can be from any nation that failed to qualify and the only restriction I gave myself was that I could only have a maximum of two players from one country, so as not to not create a team dominated by the Italians. Please tell me the names I missed in the comments.

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)

The Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament and winner of the Yashin Trophy (essentially the Ballon D’Or for goalkeepers) 2021 was an obvious choice as soon as Italy lost to North Macedonia. ‘Gigi’ Donnarumma was way above the rest of his competition, players such as Sweden’s Robin Olsen, Russia’s Igor Akinfeev and David Ospina from Colombia.

GM: Jamal Lewis (Northern Ireland)

I struggled with left-back in particular and ultimately went with Jamal Lewis from Newcastle United. Lewis has 26 international caps, impressive for his age of 24. A once-promising left-back, the hype around Lewis has now slowed, but he has locked his place in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland failed to reach the European play-offs, making Lewis eligible for this team.

CB: Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)

I don’t think Bonucci is the second best Italian player, but he’s in this team just to make room for other players. However, he’s not exactly a bad player either. With 115 caps, Bonucci is the seventh most capped Italian player of all time and needs just three more caps to be fourth.

CD: Victor Lindelöf (Sweden)

Lindelöf is a solid centre-back and should work well with Bonucci. He captained Sweden as they lost 2-0 to Poland in a play-off final. Bought by Manchester United for €35m from Benfica in June 2017 and has played 131 times for the Red Devils in the Premier League since then.

DR: Emil Krafth (Sweden)

Lindelöf is joined by his Swedish team-mate and Lewis by his Newcastle team-mate. The right-back was a weak point for my imaginary team. Krafth won 39 caps for Sweden and his tenacity but also his skill (I thank him for his trick of Maradona in the play-off final, easing the pain of Sweden’s loss to Poland) was enough to start the game. ‘back.

GM: Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast)

Zaha made two friendlies for England between 2011 and 2013 before moving to Ivory Coast in 2016 after not being selected by Roy Hodgson, which he said he regretted not doing in 2018. Long touted for a move to a big club, Zaha has been loyal to Crystal Palace since 2015. His country failed to qualify for the final round of the African play-offs. Alexis Sánchez almost made that team.

CM: Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria)

Ndidi has been a good defensive midfielder for many years, winning the FA Cup with Leicester in 2021. I chose him over Chilean Arturo Vidal, for his great passing range. Nigeria lost at the last hurdle, beaten by Ghana on away goals.

CM: Martin Ødegaard (Norway)

The in-form Arsenal attacking midfielder is captain of his country at the age of 23. He made his international debut when he was just 15 and is a promising young player, in a promising Arsenal team.

Martin Odegaard on the ball for Arsenal. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

MD: Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

The star of this team, in a rematch of the Africa Cup of Nations, Salah missed a penalty as his side lost to Senegal. Riyad Mahrez may consider himself unlucky not to start, but Salah’s quality meant he was the first name on the squad roster.

ST: Erling Haaland (Norway)

Norway’s second inclusion in this squad, Haaland has been a prolific goalscorer since landing on the big stage with Red Bull Salzburg in the 2019 Champions League. He’s suffered two injuries this season but still scored 16 goals in 17 appearances of the Bundesliga. Norway did not participate in the European play-offs.

ST: Michail Antonio (Jamaica)

I long debated putting Victor Osimhen as the second striker, but went with the West Ham striker due to his creativity and ability to provide Haaland in this alternate reality.

He declared for Jamaica in 2021 after not being included in England’s squads. As an Englishman I think Antonio is criminally underrated and we definitely should have capped him. He has seven assists and eight goals in the Premier League this season and he has had an electric start to the season. Jamaica failed to reach the final round of the North/Central American qualifiers.




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