World Cup Wish You Were Here XI: The big names who will be missing out on Russia 2018

Last Updated October 12 2017, 16:09Football
Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale

As World Cup qualification nears its conclusion, we pick a team of those who definitely won't be in Russia next summer.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi may have made it in the end, but there are still plenty of global stars who won't be gracing that stadium with an external stand and the other great grounds of Russia 2018 next summer.

From LaLiga's best keeper to Arsenal's superstar bench-warmer via the catalyst for Leicester's 5000/1 Premier League triumph, here's our pick of the best XI featuring players who definitely won't be taking part next summer. We're lining up in a Southgate-esque 3-4-3...

Jan Oblak (Slovenia)

Twice voted top goalkeeper in LaLiga, the Atletico Madrid stopper did his bit in a qualification campaign where Slovenia conceded only seven goals in 10 games but still finished behind England, Slovakia and even Scotland in Group F.

Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands)

The Netherlands’ second consecutive failure to reach a major tournament again leaves a host of household names staying at home during next summer’s festivities in Russia. The sought-after Southampton centre-back makes our side in a slightly makeshift back three.

David Alaba (Austria)

Perhaps second only to Netherlands as European qualifying’s biggest disappointments, Austria limped home fourth in Group D, with three of their four wins coming against Georgia and Moldova and the fourth against Serbia after elimination had long been confirmed. Bayern Munich utility player David Alaba generally plays in midfield for his country but takes a spot in defence here.

Antonio Valencia (Ecuador)

We’re cheating a bit with Antonio Valencia in a back three. If Sweden fail to get through their play-off, we can slot in Victor Lindelof here. If we knew for sure that Joel Matip is still a Cameroon player after his Africa Cup of Nations refusal, then he could also do a job. But we’ll go with the Man United man, whose Ecuador side never threatened to make it to Russia despite qualifying for three of the last four.

Arjen Robben celebrates
Arjen Robben celebrates

Arjen Robben (Netherlands)

The great man has cut in from the right and shot with his left for the final time in Dutch orange after managing to produce only two of the seven goals needed to overhaul Sweden in Group A and keep the Russia 2018 dream alive for a Netherlands team that had reached the final and semi-final in the last two renewals.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Armenia)

The Manchester United star was never likely to make it to Russia, with Armenia eventually finishing fifth in Group E behind Poland, Denmark, Montenegro and Romania. A place in this side will surely be some consolation for the copy-and-paste schemer.

Arturo Vidal (Chile)

Another of the big-hitters not to make it to Russia, after a dramatic final night of CONMEBOL qualification saw two-time reigning Copa America champions Chile the team left without a chair when the music stopped. Could the Bayern Munich man have made a difference in their final qualifier against Brazil? A yellow card against Ecuador and subsequent suspension means we’ll never know.

Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)

One of the strongest sides in African football, Algeria have endured a miserable qualification campaign with just a solitary point from five games in the final round. They’re already certain to prop up Group B behind the almost equally disappointing Cameroon as well as Zambia and qualifiers Nigeria.

Alexis Sanchez on the Arsenal bench
Alexis Sanchez on the Arsenal bench

Alexis Sanchez (Chile)

This is a handy side already, but it’s the front three that really sparkles. We may not be able to call on Messi or Ronaldo, a tantalising prospect as recently as Tuesday night, but we can call on Arsenal’s sometime footballer and full-time bench-smirker Alexis Sanchez after his Arsenal team-mate David Ospina had a, ahem, hand in condemning Chile to sixth spot in CONMEBOL’s ever-entertaining 10-team quadrennial dust-up.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)

A prolific striker for years now in the Bundesliga and Champions League with Borussia Dortmund, and every bit as much of a fixture in this kind of team as he is in the gossip pages every summer and January when that move to Liverpool never quite seems to materialise.

Gareth Bale (Wales)

Missed the last two qualifiers of the campaign as the Euro 2016 semi-finalists were edged out of second place in European Group D by the Republic of Ireland when a campaign littered with frustrating draws ended in a crucial, devastating first defeat. The Real Madrid speedster will now be watching on again next summer.

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