World Cup 2022: Picking a 26-man squad of players who won't be in Qatar

Who are the best players not heading to the tournament due to injury or their country's failure to qualify?

By Callum Rice-Coates Published: 10 November 2022 - 4.33pm

The World Cup is now just days away and several nations have already confirmed their final 26-man squads for the tournament.

With the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kevin de Bruyne and Karim Benzema heading to Qatar, there will certainly be no shortage of star names.

But there are a sizeable number of notable absentees, missing out either because of their country’s failure to qualify or the misfortune of picking up an injury in the weeks and months leading up to the 2022 World Cup.

With that in mind, we’ve put together an entire squad of players who won’t be involved in Qatar.

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Goalkeepers

Jan Oblak

The Atletico Madrid goalkeeper won’t be in Qatar after Slovenia could only finish fourth in their qualifying group, some way off winners Croatia.

Oblak was too young to play in the 2010 World Cup - the only one Slovakia have reached - so his wait to appear on the biggest international stage goes on.

 

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Italy’s surprise failure to reach the World Cup finals means several of their players make this imaginary squad, including goalkeeper Donnarumma.

PSG’s number one has established himself as a top keeper despite his youth and will be missed at this tournament.

Gianluigi Donnarumma
Giorgio Chiellini consoles Gianluigi Donnarumma after Italy's defeat to North Macedonia

Defenders

Reece James

A knee injury has kept James out of contention for a place in Gareth Southgate’s England squad.

The Chelsea man looked a certainty to be on the plane given his impressive form in the Premier League, but the Three Lions must now turn to other options.

 

David Alaba

A player capable of playing both in defence and midfield - often performing in the latter role on the international stage - Alaba couldn’t lead Austria to qualification.

Despite his success at Bayern Munich and now Real Madrid, he will be forced to watch the tournament from home.

 

Ben Chilwell

Another England full-back to have fallen foul of an unfortunately-timed injury, Chilwell won’t be fit in time to take part in Qatar.

 

Fikayo Tomori

Many had been clamouring for Tomori to be in England's squad. 

The centre-back, still just 24, was a key ingredient in Milan's title-winning side last season and has featured regularly for the Rossoneri this term as they look to hunt down Napoli domestically and continue their progress in the Champions League. 

His most recent cap for the Three Lions was against Italy in the Nations League in June. 

 

Giorgio Chiellini

A veteran of international football, Chiellini couldn’t prevent Italy losing to North Macedonia in the play-off semi-final.

As a result, there’ll be no rugged Italian defenders in Qatar.

 

Mats Hummels

Hummels was selected for Germany in the previous five major tournaments, but the 33-year-old hasn't featured under new manager Hansi Flick, playing most recently in the round-of-16 loss to England at Euro 2020 in June last year.

Mats Hummels applauds the Germany fans after defeat to England at Euro 2020
Mats Hummels hasn't played for Germany since they lost to England in the round of 16 at Euro 2020

Midfielders

Marco Verratti

One of Europe’s most gifted midfielders, Verratti is another victim of Italy’s underperformance in qualification.

PSG may benefit from an extended rest for one of their key players, though, as they aim to win their first Champions League title next year.

 

Nicolo Barella

Inter’s Barella is another standout Italian player who won’t feature in Qatar.

And he’ll feel particularly frustrated given his form over the last couple of seasons, during which time he has established himself as an integral part of Inter’s success.

 

Martin Odegaard

Odegaard has been excellent for Arsenal so far this season, playing with a maturity beyond his years in Mikel Arteta’s midfield.

Gunners fans won’t be too disappointed that Norway failed to qualify for the World Cup, given that one of their most important players will now be fresh for the second half of a potential Premier League title charge.

 

Franck Kessie

Kessie earned a big move to Barcelona in the summer after excelling with Milan and helping the Rossoneri to a first league title in over a decade.

But he won’t be at the World Cup after Ivory Coast finished below Cameroon in their qualifying group.

 

Wilfried Zaha

Another Ivorian international who won’t grace football’s biggest stage, Zaha might feel justifiably hard done by given his form in the Premier League this season.

The Crystal Palace winger will perhaps be cheering on England - having made two appearances for the Three Lions before he switched allegiances to Ivory Coast.

 

Riyad Mahrez

Algeria narrowly missed out on qualification for the World Cup, losing on away goals to Cameroon in their two-legged playoff.

That means Man City’s Mahrez won’t be seen cutting inside onto his trusty left foot in Qatar.

Riyad Mahrez
Mahrez scored five goals in qualifying for Algeria

Federico Chiesa

The absence of Chiesa for the play-off match against North Macedonia through injury perhaps explained Italy’s inability to break down their unfancied opponents.

He was influential throughout Italy’s successful Euro 2020 campaign and has only just made his return for Juventus after ten months out.

 

N'Golo Kante

A key man for France at the 2018 World Cup, Kante’s hamstring injury means he won’t feature this time around.

That’s a blow for Les Blues, particularly given some of the other absentees from Didier Deschamps’ squad.

 

Georgino Wijnaldum

There was excitement at Roma when Wijnaldum was signed from PSG in the summer, but the Netherlands international suffered a broken leg in August, ending his hopes of playing in a second World Cup.

 

Paul Pogba

Things appeared to be looking up for Pogba when his return to Juventus was confirmed in July.

But the Frenchman has since suffered a serious knee injury and won’t feature in Qatar.

 

Miguel Almiron

‘Playing like Almiron’ is now considered a compliment after the Newcastle man’s incredible start to the Premier League season, with eight goals in 14 appearances so far.

Jack Grealish may yet have the last laugh, though. He’ll be at the World Cup this summer, while Paraguayan Almiron will have to watch from his sofa after the South American nation failed to qualify.

Miguel Almiron
Paraguay international Almiron has had a sensational season at Newcastle

Forwards

Mohamed Salah

It was heartbreak for Salah again as Egypt missed out on a place in Qatar after a penalty shootout defeat to Senegal.

In a twist of cruel irony, former Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane scored the winning penalty to condemn Salah to a month of spectating.

 

Luis Diaz

Had Colombia qualified for the World Cup, Diaz would not have been available anyway after suffering a knee injury that has kept him out of action in the Premier League for the past few weeks.

That may be something of a silver lining for the Liverpool winger, who will hope to use the month-long break to progress further in his recovery.

 

Victor Osimhen

Osimhen, who is in fine form for Serie A leaders Napoli this season, came agonisingly close to qualifying for the World Cup with Nigeria, but he and his compatriots were knocked out on away goals by Ghana.

 

Erling Haaland

Defenders of all nationalities have been unified in relief. 

Haaland, who has terrorised Premier League centre-backs since his move to City from Borussia Dortmund, won’t be at the World Cup, despite his best efforts to power Norway through qualification with five goals from six matches.

Erling Haaland
Haaland's goals weren't enough to send Norway through to a first World Cup since 1998

Diogo Jota

A calf injury sustained in Liverpool’s win over Man City last month means Jota won’t be a part of Portugal’s squad in Qatar.

It’s a blow for the player and for his country - Jota scored five goals in seven games during qualification.

 

Ivan Toney

Toney has proved a nightmare for Premier League defences since his impactful debut in the competition against Arsenal in August last year. 

After Harry Kane, the 26-year-old is the highest-scoring Englishman in the top flight this season.

However, it was a sign of things to come when the former Newcastle and Peterborough striker failed to play a single minute during September's international break after being called up for Nations League games against Italy and Germany. 

 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Former Arsenal and now Chelsea striker Aubameyang is still yet to appear in a World Cup as Gabon failed to qualify again, finishing seven points behind Egypt in their qualifying group.

At 33, it’s looking increasingly unlikely the striker, who has played at the highest level in club football, will ever be involved in international football’s most prestigious tournament.