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Opinion

The best 11 players who won't be at Qatar 2022

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Roar Rookie
31st March, 2022
14

Before the World Cup draw on Friday, I thought it would be fun to create a starting XI of players who will not feature in the finals in Qatar.

The players can be from any nation who has failed to qualify and the only restriction I gave myself was I could only have a maximum of two players from one country, so as not to create a team dominated by Italians. Please tell me the names I missed in the comments.

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)

The Euro 2020 player of the tournament and Yashin Trophy (basically the Ballon D’Or for goalies) 2021 winner was an obvious choice as soon as Italy lost to North Macedonia. ‘Gigi’ Donnarumma was far above the rest of his competition, players such as Sweden’s Robin Olsen, Russia’s Igor Akinfeev and David Ospina from Columbia.

LB: Jamal Lewis (Northern Ireland)

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I struggled with left-back in particular and in the end selected Newcastle United’s Jamal Lewis. Lewis has 26 international caps, impressive for his age of 24. A once-promising left-back, hype around Lewis has now slowed down but he has locked down his place in the Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland failed to reach the European play-offs, making Lewis eligible for this team.

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CB: Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)

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I don’t think Bonucci is Italy’s second-best player, but he is in this team for the sole purpose to make space for other players. However, he isn’t exactly a bad player either. With 115 caps, Bonucci is the seventh-highest-capped Italian player ever and needs just three more caps to be fourth.

CB: Victor Lindelöf (Sweden)

Lindelöf is a solid centre-back and should work well with Bonucci. He captained Sweden as they lost 2-0 to Poland in a play-off final. Bought by Manchester United for €35 million from Benfica in June 2017 and has played 131 times for the Red Devils in the Premier League since then.

RB: Emil Krafth (Sweden)

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Lindelöf is joined by his Swedish teammate and Lewis by his fellow Newcastle player. Right-back was a place of weakness for my imaginary squad. Krafth has earned 39 caps for Sweden and his toughness but also skill (I thank him for his Maradona turn in the play-off final, easing the pain of Sweden’s loss to Poland) was enough to start at full-back.

LM: Wilfried Zaha (Côte d’Ivoire)

Zaha played two friendlies for England between 2011 and 2013 before switching to Côte d’Ivoire in 2016 after not being selected by Roy Hodgson, something he said he regretted not doing in 2018. Long been touted for a move to a big club, Zaha has stayed loyal to Crystal Palace since 2015. His country failed to make the final round of the African play-offs. Alexis Sánchez came close to making this team.

CM: Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria)

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Ndidi has been a good defensive midfielder for many years, winning the FA Cup with Leicester in 2021. I picked him over Chile’s Arturo Vidal, for his great passing range. Nigeria lost at the final hurdle, being beaten by Ghana on away goals.

CM: Martin Ødegaard (Norway)

In-form Arsenal attacking midfielder captains his country at the age of 23. He made his international debut when he was just 15 and is a promising young player, in a promising Arsenal side.

Martin Odegaard

Martin Odegaard on the ball for Arsenal. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

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RM: Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

The star of this team, in a rematch of the Africa Cup of Nations, Salah missed a penalty as his side lost to Senegal. Riyad Mahrez can count himself unlucky to not start but the sheer quality of Salah meant he was the first name on the team sheet.

ST: Erling Haaland (Norway)

The second Norwegian inclusion in this team, Haaland has been a prolific goal scorer since he landed on the big stage with Red Bull Salzburg in the 2019 Champions League. He has suffered two injuries this season but has still scored 16 goals in 17 Bundesliga appearances. Norway did not make the European play-offs.

ST: Michail Antonio (Jamaica)

I long debated putting Victor Osimhen as the second striker, but I went for the West Ham forward due to his creativity and being able to supply Haaland in this alternate reality.

He declared for Jamaica in 2021 after not being included in England squads. As an Englishman, I think Antonio is criminally underrated and we should’ve definitely capped him. He has seven assists and eight goals in the Premier League this season and he had an electric start to the season. Jamaica failed to reach the final round of North/Central American qualifying.

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