As the World Cup quickly approaches, we compile a team of the best players who failed to qualify for FIFA’s marquee tournament.
There were a selection of teams who unexpectedly failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Teams such as Italy, Holland and Chile failed to progress, leading notable players to miss out on playing on the biggest stage of all.
Selection Criteria: Players must play for a country that did not qualify for this year’s World Cup. Players who did not make the squads of their respective countries are not taken into consideration for this Fantasy XI.
Goalkeeper – Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
At 40 years old, Buffon had previously stated that this would be his last international competition, and was naturally distraught when Italy failed to qualify.
Buffon suffered similar heartbreak in the Champions League with Juventus in his final season with the club, when he was sent off for appealing a penalty awarded to Real Madrid in stoppage time, which would send the Spanish club through to the semi-final.
Buffon is a free agent this summer, and his experience of playing at the highest level for almost twenty years means he would be a great short-term addition for any top club.
Right-Back – Séamus Coleman (Ireland)
The Ireland captain is one of the best value-for-money transfers in Premier League history, with Everton signing the Killybegs man from Sligo Rovers in January 2009 for just £60,000.
Coleman has recently recovered from a broken leg suffered against Wales in a World Cup qualifier, and provides an excellent option at right-back both defensively and offensively.
Centre-Back – Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
Bonucci has been one of the best centre-backs in the world over the last five years. He won six straight league titles with Juventus from 2012-17, was included in the UEFA Team of the Season in 2016, and was named as Serie A Footballer of the Year the same season.
Last season, Bonucci moved from Juventus to AC Milan and was immediately named captain of the side. Although he has not yet reached the performance levels he had at Juventus, Bonucci would walk into any side in the world.
Centre-Back – David Alaba (Austria)
David Alaba is a physically strong, aggressive and versatile defender who plays for Bayern Munich. Although usually deployed at left-back for his club, Alaba has also played centre-back and centre-midfield.
He has been named in the UEFA Team of the Year three times, and at just twenty-five, he will have more opportunities to play in both the European Championships and World Cups.
Left-Back – Ben Davies (Wales)
Davies has been a consistent performer for both club and country over the last number of years.
In the 2017/18 season, he ousted Danny Rose, who was named in the Premier League Team of the Year in the previous season, to become Tottenham’s first-choice left back. Davies has also played as a left-sided centre-back for Wales.
Centre-Midfield – Aaron Ramsey (Wales)
Ramsey was voted Arsenal’s Player of the Year for the second time in the 2017/18 season. The midfielder became Wales’ youngest ever captain in 2011 when he was just twenty years old.
Ramsey has scored the winner in two FA Cup finals for Arsenal, and will be a key figure under new manager Unai Emery.
Centre-Midfield – Arturo Vidal (Chile)
The Bayern Munich player has established himself as one of the best midfielders in world football over the last five seasons. His aggression, competitiveness and tenacity makes him a key figure for both club and country.
Vidal was another member of Juventus’ title-winning run, and secured a move to Bayern in 2015. In a friendly match against Denmark on March 27, Vidal became the sixth player to make 100 appearances for Chile.
Centre-Midfield – Jorginho (Italy)
Jorginho was born in Brazil, but chose to represent Italy internationally.
Although showing great form for Napoli in 2017/18, Jorginho was not called up by former Italy manager Ventura until the final playoff match. Sweden would go on to win the playoff, meaning Italy have missed out on their first World Cup in 60 years.
Jorginho plays with Brazilian flair and Italian composure, and has been linked with a move to Manchester City this summer.
Right-Wing – Gareth Bale (Wales)
Bale has struggled with injuries and has revealed he is frustrated at his lack of playing time at Real Madrid since the arrival of Zinedine Zidane.
However, as he proved in the Champions League Final against Liverpool, Bale has the ability to stand up and perform on the big stage, and is one of the best players in the world on his day.
Striker – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)
Aubameyang could have been at the World Cup had he chosen to represent Spain or France internationally, however he chose to represent Gabon to emulate his father.
“I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps” he told Arsenal Player.
Aubameyang has scored ten goals and provided four assists in thirteen games since he signed for Arsenal in a club-record £56 million fee from Borussia Dortmund.
Left-Wing – Alexis Sanchez (Chile)
Sanchez has struggled for Manchester United since signing from rivals Arsenal in January, but has a fantastic goal-scoring record for both club and country.
He scored 80 goals in 139 appearances for Arsenal, and has a tendency to score in big games, shown by his record at Wembley: eight goals in nine games for club and country.
Sanchez also has 100 caps for Chile and was instrumental in their 2015 Copa America victory, scoring the winning penalty.
Prediction: The panache and potency of the attacking trio of Bale-Aubameyang-Sanchez, coupled with the defensive nous of Bonucci and Alaba, means this side would certainly progress past the group stages.
However, given the differing playing styles of each player, difficulties against stronger opposition would arise and a run to the semi-finals would be more realistic.