With the FIFA World Cup just one day away from kicking off in Brazil, many of the sport’s best and most exciting players have been ruled out of entertaining the world through injury. However, as we come closer to the opening fixture between Brazil and Croatia in Rio de Janeiro, it is fitting to pay tribute to those great players whose hopes were dashed well in advance of the final preparations.
GK: Petr Cech – Czech Republic
The Czech goalkeeper was unable to help guide his country to the World Cup Finals, finishing third in their qualifying group behind Italy and Denmark.
Named in the PFA Team of the Year for the second time after his displays in the Premier League this season, Cech also picked up the Barclay’s Golden Glove award as joint winner with Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny with 16 clean sheets.
RB: Branislav Ivanovic – Serbia
It to Chelsea we again turn for the first outfield player of this XI, with the Serbian full-back being an ever present force last season in a side that was regularly shuffled by José Mourinho as he searched for his best team.
Captain of his national side, Serbia finished in third place in their group behind Belgium and Croatia, both of whom qualified for the World Cup Finals.
CB: Neven Subotic – Serbia
Missing for most of the season through injury, the Borussia Dortmund and Serbian defender had made himself a key part of Jurgen Klopp’s team that reached the Champions League Final in 2013, scoring Dortmund’s only goal against German rivals Bayern Munich that night.
Though not as regular a starter as his compatriot Ivanovic, a continuity of the form he showed last season would have surely earned him a place in the Serbian side.
CB: Miranda – Brazil
Despite being part of arguably the most formidable defense in Europe last season, Atlético Madrid’s Miranda was only able to find a place in the extended Brazilian squad, and not the final 23, losing out to the likes of Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Dante.
Part of Diego Simeone’s team which won the Spanish title last season and only lost out to rivals Real Madrid in the final of the Champions League, Miranda has been strongly linked with a move away from Atlético this summer.
LB: David Alaba -Austria
At just 21 years of age, David Alaba has already established himself as a key member of the Bayern Munich defence, making 48 appearances last season, scoring four goals. His importance to the Austrian national side cannot be understated, having won the Austrian Footballer of the Year award in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Austria finished third in their qualifying group for the World Cup on 17 points, the highest total of any team not to either qualify from their group or advance to the Second Round.
RM: Aaron Ramsey – Wales
In a promising career that has been plagued with injuries, Aaron Ramsey finally discovered his potential in last season’s Premier League. Beginning the season in electric form before missing a large chunk through injury, the Welsh midfielder helped Arsenal secure fourth place and Champions League football with 10 goals in 23 appearances in the league and scoring a memorable winner in the FA Cup Final in May.
He could not replicate this form at national level, however, as Wales finished in 5th place in their qualifying group.
CM: Henrikh Mkhitaryan – Armenia
Signed by Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of last season, Mkhitaryan became the most expensive acquisition in the club’s history, but proved his worth with 9 goals and 10 assists in 31 league appearances.
Vice-captain of his national side, the Armenian midfielder was unable to lift his team during the qualification process, as they slumped to a fifth-place finish in Group B.
CM: Isco – Spain
It is a testament to the strength and depth of the Spanish national side that a player of Isco’s calibre can be omitted due to competition for places. The Real Madrid player had difficulty securing a starting position at the Spanish club due to the quality of his teammates and Ancelotti’s preference for a 4-3-3 formation, to which Isco is not suited.
Despite limited starting opportunities this season, Isco still managed eight goals and a further six assists, and would likely form an integral part of almost any other national side other than his own.
LM: Gareth Bale – Wales
It is not very fitting that the most expensive player in the history of global football should miss out on the World Cup. Moving from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid last summer in exchange for around £85 million, Bale scored 21 goals and made 16 assists in La Liga and the Champions League last year.
The Welsh winger’s only goal in the Copa del Rey came in the form of a brilliant individual effort in the final, which won Real the cup.
CF: Robert Lewandowski – Poland
The Polish forward has proved himself as a clinical striker in European football over the past three seasons, scoring 30, 36 and 28 goals at Borussia Dortmund, helping them to the Champions League final in 2013.
He will be joining rivals Bayern Munich for the upcoming season having signed a five-year deal with the club. Poland finished fourth in their qualifying group, behind England, Ukraine and Montenegro.
CF: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Sweden
Whatever your opinion of the controversial Swedish talisman, it cannot be denied that his absence from the coming World Cup excludes one of the game’s greatest entertainer’s from its most prestigious stage. With 40 goals in 45 appearances last season for PSG, Ibrahimovic’s ability is unquestionable.
Despite scoring two goals for Sweden in their playoff against Portugal, he was outdone by Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick as the Portuguese forward single-handedly dragged his national team to the World Cup Finals.
In the aftermath of this playoff the Swede remarked,
“A World Cup without Zlatan is nothing to watch.”
Despite how missed he will be, it is unlikely that anyone will be heeding his advice.
Adam Behan, Pundit Arena,
Do you agree with this list? Who would you include or omit? Comment below.
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