Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
The ink is just about dry on the official 23-man squad lists submitted by each nation competing at this summer’s World Cup in Russia. But while those who made the cut can bathe in the warmth of their own self-satisfaction, the not so lucky ones will be left to stew in their own juices at home as they watch on from a distance.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest names who WON’T be playing at the 2018 World Cup in Russia this summer.
Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele de Rossi, Leonardo Bonucci, Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti (Italy)
Although the first three names on the list of Italian absentees have now retired from international football, in all likelihood, they would have made themselves available for selection had the Azzurri actually qualified for the World Cup.
This will be the first World Cup tournament that Italy have missed since 1958. The four-time winners were beaten to a spot in Russia by Sweden, after a 1-0 aggregate defeat to the Swedes in a play-off double header.
Aymeric Laporte (France)
It might seem a little silly to include a player whw has never been capped at senior level by his country, but Aymeric Laporte remains a big-name World Cup absentee nevertheless.
When Laporte swapped Bilbao for Manchester in January, he became the second most expensive defender ever, costing City in the region of £57m. Despite becoming a mainstay in Pep Guardiola’s title winning team since his arrival, Laporte’s performances weren’t enough to impress France manager Didier Deschamps.
Virgil Van Dijk (The Netherlands)
Liverpool’s Dutch man mountain can look forward to competing in a Champions League Final this weekend, but that’s where his season ends. The Netherlands will miss out on their second successive major tournament this summer having missed the last European Championships in 2016.
If Liverpool do end up beating Real Madrid in the Champions League Final, chances are Van Dijk would have been too hungover to play in the World Cup anyway.
Mario Gotze (Germany)
To go from scoring the winning goal in the final of the last World Cup to not making the squad for the next is probably the biggest emotional rollercoaster a footballer can ride.
Gotze endured a difficult season at Borussia Dortmund in 2017/18, starting just 19 times in the Bundesliga in total as he struggled to come to terms with a metabolic issue. With Germany spoiled for choice in attacking areas, the 25-year old just didn’t do enough to warrant a place.
Germany manager Joachim Low said: “It wasn’t his season. He did not show what his qualities are. He just did not have the form. I hope that he can have a fresh beginning at Dortmund after the break. It’s a difficult decision.”
David Alaba (Austria)
Bayern Munich utility man Alaba is comfortably Austria’s best player. Unfortunately, he can’t do it all on his own and with his team mates falling below his high standards, Austria’s qualification campaign was unsuccessful.
Alaba was his country’s youngest ever senior international when he made his debut in 2009 aged just 17 years and 112 days. He was named Austrian Footballer of the Year for the first time in 2011 aged 19.
Radja Nainggolan (Belgium)
Roma midfielder Nainggolan is a glaring omission from Belgium’s World Cup squad, though the 30-year old has played just four times in the last two years for his country. Nainggolan had already retired from international football in August 2017 after being left out by Roberto Martinez ahead of the Belgian qualifiers that month.
He was recalled for Belgium’s friendly matches against Mexico and Japan in November, but irked Martinez when he withdrew from the squad with an injury. Nainggolan re-retired after missing out on Martinez’ World Cup squad.
Naby Keita (Guinea)
The thought of Naby Keita having a full summer’s rest ahead of his first season in the Premier League is certainly positive news for Liverpool, though it’s a shame Keita won’t get to strut his stuff on the international stage in Russia.
Even with the RB Leipzig dynamo in midfield, Guinea finished bottom of their World Cup qualification section. Keita made his debut for Guinea as an 18-year old against Mali in 2013. He has scored five goals in twenty-eight appearances for the National Thunder in all.
Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sanchez (Chile)
With their Golden Generation on its last legs, Chile just missed out on a place at the World Cup in Russia, losing out on goal difference in the CONMEBOL qualification section to Peru.
After their absence was confirmed, Arturo Vidal announced his retirement from international football., though he back-tracked soon after. The Bayern Munich midfielder will be missed on Russia, though if you ask Manchester United fans, Alexis Sanchez won’t.
Gareth Bale (Wales)
Having been the biggest surprise package at Euro 2016, it was an even bigger surprise when Wales failed to qualify from a weak looking World Cup qualification Group.
Bale chipped in with four goals during Wales’ campaign, but crucially missed out on their defining last fixture against the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff through injury. Ireland won 1-0 to pip Wales to second place in the Group.
Anthony Martial (France)
It hasn’t been the best of years for Anthony Martial has it? Having started his club season in electric fashion, Martial was ousted from the Manchester United left-hand side and replaced by the erratic but more experienced Alexis Sanchez in January.
Since then, Martial has suffered a severe dip in form and confidence. Didier Deschamps has always been a little unsure about Martial’s reliability and having a wealth of other options to choose from, he decided to leave the 22-year old out.
Alvaro Morata (Spain)
Morata was Spain’s joint top scorer in qualification but was unable to secure his place in Julen Lopetegui’s 23-man selection. The Spanish manager suggested that Morata “deserved” to be on the plane, but left him out anyway…………..thanks coach.
Morata struggled for long periods at Chelsea this season and has already been linked with a move away from England after just one year there.
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