Another international break has come and gone, very slowly it seems, and it is becoming clearer who will be in Russia for next year’s World Cup in Russia. However, with each World Cup that takes place, some players, superstars of the game, are sat at home watching. This qualifying campaign has seen many shocks so far, with some big nations seriously being in danger of not making it while some players are being held back by the mediocrity of their country. So who’s turn is it to watch history being made instead of making it themselves?
credit Jon Candy
Gareth Bale – Wales
Wales haven’t qualified for a World Cup finals for 60 years and are not looking likely to break the mould, with far too many draws in their seemingly straightforward qualifying group with only Ireland and Serbia looking likely to threaten Wales’ passage through to Russia before qualifying began. But, with too many draws, Wales find themselves 4 points of joint leaders Ireland and Serbia, with 2nd place not guaranteeing a place in the group stage next year. If Wales win their next game in Serbia, they are right back within a chance but any slip ups against the likes of Georgia and Austria then Gareth Bale may be watching the rest of his Real Madrid teammates battle it out in Russia next summer.
credit Global Panorama
Arjen Robben – Netherlands
By the time the World Cup rolls into Russia, Arjen Robben will be 34 years old, therefore making it probably his last chance to play in a World Cup. However, after failing to qualify for Euro 2016, the Netherlands are showing no signs of recovering. They are 6 points off France in Group A of the European qualifying section and have recently sacked their manager Danny Blind after his side slumped to another defeat out in Bulgaria. The current Dutch crop of players is being called the worst in their history and Arjen Robben is suffering as a result, the Bayern Munich winger played in the final of the 2010 World Cup as Holland lost to Spain but it looks like he won’t even make the group stage in 2018.
Alexis Sanchez – Chile
The Arsenal forward has not had great luck with team performances since winning the Copa America with Chile in 2016, often having to carry Arsenal and Chile as both teams struggle towards success. Chile are placed 6th in South American qualifying (which is just a 10 nation league) but are not cut off from the top 4 which qualify automatically, so Alexis Sanchez really is getting used to striving for 4th. Chile recently lost 1-0 to Argentina, allowing their rivals to climb above them. Brazil are way out in front but just 3 points separate 2nd and 6th so Chile are well in with a chance but face stiff competition from the likes of Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador.
Riyad Mahrez – Algeria
The Premier League player of the season for 2015/16 has not really impressed since Leicester lifted the Premier League trophy last May but could thrive on the greatest stage in football, as he has shown in the Champions League for the Foxes (helping them to the last 8), or may not even get the chance to showcase his talents to the world. With Africa’s tough qualifying campaign, Algeria may struggle to make it out of a tough group where only the 1st placed teams qualify for the finals in Russia. Algeria have 1 point after 2 games and need to get past Nigeria and Cameroon in order to make the main competition next summer.
credit Xavier NALTCHAYAN
Karim Benzema – France
Even though France are top of their qualifying group, Karim Benzema has been frozen out of the national team by manager Didier Deschamps after Benzema was alleged to have been involved in a sex tape with French teammate Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema was not called up to represent France at Euro 2016 after the incident and the Real Madrid striker make shocking claims that manager Deschamps had given in to pressure from ‘France’s racist element.’ So it seems it’s a long way back for the prolific striker because Deschamps will almost certainly be in charge for the 2018 World Cup should France follow expectations and qualify with ease.
These are just 5 of the players at risk of not making it to the Greatest Show on Earth in Russia next year but we’re still missing one name, pre-haps the man with the biggest ego in world football. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The talismanic Swedish striker retired from international duty after Sweden’s poor showing at Euro 2016 but should his team qualify for Russia in 2018, who’s going to stop him returning if he wants to? After all, to quote the Manchester United hitman; “a World Cup without me is not worth watching”
Which other top players do you think will miss out? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Magharebia