Check out these 18 stars who will miss the '18 Russia World Cup
Five continents. 32 countries. 64 matches -- the countdown to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia has started. The run-up to the Cup has been far from predictable. Shockingly, four-time champions Italy failed to qualify for the first time since 1958. United States will also miss their first World Cup in 30 years.
Netherlands and Chile will also be missing. Another big team who failed to make it is Gareth Bale-led Wales and Antonio Valencia’s Ecuador. It's a shame that such teams boast of some of the biggest talents in world football. Take a look.
Let's start with the goalkeepers:
1. Gianluigi Buffon (Italy/Juventus)
Gianluigi is a legend. The 39-year decided to hang up his gloves following his country’s play-off defeat to Sweden. That was his 175th appearance for his country. The Juventus star has never won the Champions League. Buffon can now solely work on his dream of a Champions League trophy.
2. Claudio Bravo (Chile/Manchester City)
Reigning Copa America champion Chile's exit was one of the surprises this time. The country undoubtedly has some of the best footballing talents and captain Bravo has shown why with his consistent performance for Manchester City in the English Premier League.
At 34, this was probably his last shot at a World Cup hat trick. But you never know: may be he will show the longevity of Buffon and take another shot for 2022 Qatar.
Now we move on to the defenders:
1. Antonio Valencia (Ecuador/Manchester United)
Antonio Valencia made his PL debut against Newcastle in August 2006... 👶— TheFootballRepublic (@TheFootballRep) November 18, 2017
11 years later and he'll make his 300th PL appearance against the same side. 👊
The only South American with more appearances is Nobby Solano (302). pic.twitter.com/2kFZ7KWabq
This would have been Valencia’s third World Cup, but it wasn’t meant to be. He was named Players' Player of the Year at Old Trafford last season. Despite the star presence, Ecuador were unable to get any momentum going in the qualifying matches.
Ecuador finished Eighth in South American qualifying. There were six points off a play-off spot.
2. Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast/Tottenham Hotspur)
The Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham Hotspur talisman will be missing the trip to Russia as Ivory Coast missed the bus. Aurier did represent his nation during the 2014 World Cup but will have to wait another four-five more years to make another appearance.
3. Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands/Southampton)
The strong Netherlands team failed to qualify for Euro 2016. They followed that up with a disappointing round of qualifiers and ended up missing out on a play-off spot for Russia 2018 on mere goal difference to Sweden.
Virgil van Dijk has been vital to Southampton’s back-line but he has been quite vocal about his desire to leave St Mary’s in the near future.
4. David Alaba (Austria/Bayern Munich)
David Alaba has tasted success in the European leagues. He’s won a whopping six Bundesliga titles and a Champions League. While Austria did qualify for Euro 2016, they didn’t do anything of merit in that tournament. This time, they’ve failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The world stage will once again be missing Alaba.
5. Leonardo Bonucci (Italy/AC Milan)
Leonardo Bonucci during the first half of Sweden-Italy: The home crowd booed the center back everytime he touched the ball. pic.twitter.com/8h5Vcad2OE— Meytar Zeevi (@RossoneriBlog) November 10, 2017
Bonucci is a true legend. Bonucci played with a broken nose against Sweden. At 30 years of age, Bonucci will have another shot at a World Cup in 2022.
With Juventus, Bonucci has enjoyed tremendous success. He’s won seven Serie A titles. He was part of the Italian squad that finished runners-up at the 2012 Euros. Repeating that won’t be possible as Italy crashed out in the play-offs.
6. Daley Blind (Netherlands/Manchester United)
Manchester United’s defensive midfielder will not be making the trip to Russia. Netherlands finished third to France and Sweden.
It's time for those midfielders:
1. Arturo Vidal (Chile/Bayern Munich)
Arturo Vidal: "I hope I can stay in the starting line-up and that I can keep scoring."— Bayern mania (@Bayern_mania) November 20, 2017
Vidal was a vital part of the Chilean midfield during the last two World Cups. This time around, Vidal missed out on his team's last qualifier against Brazil due to suspension. He watched on from a television set as his team was eliminated.
Chile missed out on a World Cup play-off spot to Peru on goal difference.
2. Gareth Bale (Wales/Real Madrid)
Gareth Bale may be the hottest footballer in the world today. On the other hand, he won’t be gracing the world’s biggest stage with his presence. Wales hopes were dashed as the Republic of Ireland pipped them to a play-off spot.
Bale has never played in a World Cup before and his wait goes on and on.
3. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Armenia/Manchester United)
Armenia finished second from bottom of their World Cup qualifying group and hence will not be making the trip to Russia. Among the stars who’ll be missing from all the glamour is none other than Manchester United midfielder Mkhitaryan.
4. Marco Verratti (Italy/PSG)
Marco Verratti is another talented Italian that will be sitting out of the World Cup. Verratti was injured during the latter stages of Italy’s World Cup qualifiers.
5. Christian Pulisic (United States/Borussia Dortmund)
"The path to the U.S. winning a World Cup - it doesn’t start with having 'more talent.' It starts with developing the talent that we already have, in the right way"— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 18, 2017
🗣️ https://t.co/kXF6zpnuCJ pic.twitter.com/F3fbyIHBUX
One of the hottest talents to come from a non-European country, Pulisic won’t be visiting Russia as United States loss to Trinidad & Tobago dashed their hopes of a World Cup spot.
Pulisic is just 19 years old and will have many more World Cup to recover from this year’s failures.
6. Riyad Mahrez (Algeria/Leicester)
Pep Guardiola is looking to bring Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City in the January transfer window. (Source: Don Balon) pic.twitter.com/IKKfe1G36Q— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) November 21, 2017
Leicester’s rising star during their epic Premier League winning season will be missing out on a Russia ticket. The Algerian team finished bottom of their group with zero wins and two draws.
Finally, the strikers:
1. Alexis Sanchez (Chile/Arsenal)
Wantaway Arsenal striker will be absent from the next edition of the World Cup. Sanchez was the main striker for Chile during their back-to-back Copa America triumphs. At just 28 years of age, Sanchez will have one, if not two, more attempts to play at another World Cup.
2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon/Borussia Dortmund)
Gabon have never qualified for a World Cup and that streak continued once again as they miss out on the Russia 2018 World Cup. Gabon doesn’t feature very many stars and its highly unlikely we’ll ever be seeing Aubameyang at a World Cup.
3. Arjen Robben (Netherlands/Bayern Munich)
Arjen Robben: "It was a great matchday and we can be really happy. There are always things to improve, every game, and that must be our attitude." pic.twitter.com/UQYZ1xviDQ— Bayern mania (@Bayern_mania) November 19, 2017
Arjen Robben has participated in three World Cups before. After scoring twice in Netherlands’ last match against Sweden, Robben announced his retirement from international football.
4. Edin Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina/Roma)
Having qualified for their first ever World Cup last year, Bosnia and Herzegovina failed to repeat their heroics. This means we won’t be seeing their star talisman Edin Dzeko in Russia next summer.