A week has passed since The FA released that dramatic video, announcing England’s World Cup squad one player at a time. Spain and Germany, amongst others, also released comic videos to announce their squads. But, at the end of the day, it is the players in those squads that matters most of all.
There are cases for players like Anthony Martial and Abel Hernandez travelling to the World Cup, but here I am going to go further. This is a list of the eight most ludicrous exclusions from World Cup squads this year. You have to feel sorry for a few of these guys…
Bear with me. I know this is a man whose best form has most certainly not come this season, but Alvaro Morata is as capable as any striker at Spain’s disposal. Diego Costa was their most best striker for the last World Cup, then for a while Paco Alcacer was. But Alvaro Morata has led the line for La Roja since 2015, and he really hasn’t done too badly. He has a better international scoring record than Harry Kane does for England. Today he became national team captain… The Chelsea man has had experience at some of the world’s best teams and is a real focal point up front. His heading ability is exceptional, and despite his struggle for consistent form this season, Spain have missed at trick in not even calling up the poor guy.
Again, this may cause some juicy debate but Ryan Bertrand really has done nothing wrong in his quest to be a World Cup player. The fullback has captained league strugglers Southampton excellently this season, chipping in with four league assists along the way. It is by no means a stunning return, but the 2012 Champions League winner has been no worse than Ashley Young and Danny Rose, who both do travel. His goal against Malta in qualifying was the first for any England fullback first since 2012, and Ryan Bertrand is an unlucky loser in Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad.
In the news at the moment amidst a potential £50m+ deal to Manchester United, Alex Sandro is probably the best player, bar injured Dani Alves, to not make Tite’s Brazil selection. The Juventus maestro is one of three left-backs in this eight, making a name for himself at Santos, and then Porto. His international career has been a slow burner, as he has earned only ten caps for Brazil in almost seven years. However, he has been an assured choice for Juve in recent seasons and is far better than some of the players chosen ahead of him this summer.
The second Spaniard in this list, Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso has been a more familiar name during his second stint in the Premier League than his first. Signed in 2010 by Bolton Wanderers after earning one Real Madrid appearance, Alonso has since played for Sunderland, Fiorentina and now Chelsea. A dead ball specialist, Alonso is a handy finisher, capable crosser, and hard worker up and down the left flank. He only made his Spain debut this year, but Marcos Alonso should have been representing Spain many more times this summer. Manager Julen Lopetegui’s decision is likely to hurt as the World Cup unfolds in Russia.
He believes he is the “only top player ever who missed two consecutive World Cups”. He really isn’t. The Roma midfielder has one of the most lethal long-shots in world football, but yet again he won’t represent Belgium at the FIFA World Cup. Scorer of two pearlers at Euro 2016, the thirty-year-old responded to the news by hanging up his boots on international football. He’s the kind of player who would jump at the chance to come back into the fray if called upon, but, for “tactical reasons” according to Roberto Martinez, that seems unlikely. It’s an extreme to retire because of not being called up, but Nainggolan is a great player, and his absence could prove fatal to the so-far tournament underachievers. If they can’t walk the ball into the net, would it not be wise to have someone who can lash one in from thirty? He’s done it before.
Nani has always lingered somewhat in the shadows of a certain other Portugal star, but on his day, he is as expressive a footballer as you will see. Often underused at Manchester United, the now-Lazio loanee has earned over 100 caps for the Euro 2016 winners, but has been snubbed this time around. Portugal manager Fernando Santos has preferred younger attackers, such as Bruno Fernandes and Gonçalo Guedes, and that means Nani will have to watch wear the famous red shirt from his living room. A new wave of promising youth is brewing in Portugal, and that could prove the beginning of the end for the former Sporting prodigy.
Of course, France would feature at some point. With 148 club goals at only 26 years of age, Lacazette was the hottest property in the transfer market just a year ago. Eventually signed by Arsenal, the forward had a decent season for Arsene Wenger’s men, bagging fourteen Premier League goals, and three in four in Europe. However, France have the largest array of talent of all 32 teams at the World Cup, and something had to give. The former Lyon man has scored three times for France, but has missed out in place of Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann and young Kylian Mbappe. The man they call Gwada will have to wait until Euro 2020 to show his tournament pedigree.
No one else will be more stunned as to how they aren’t at the World Cup as Mauro Icardi. Well, Italy and the Netherlands are probably kicking themselves just as hard. Argentina have four world class strikers, and Icardi is the one that won’t be playing this summer. The Inter Milan man has scored a phenomenal 100 goals in 159 league games for I Nerazzurri. With only four caps to his name at international level, he is clearly not a favourite of Jorge Sampaoli’s. The Argentina manager has some great players at his disposal, but why Mauro Icardi is now not one of them is a pure mystery. Serie A’s top scorer is not going to the World Cup. It’s a lovely situation for Argentina to be in, but it could well come back to bite them. Then again…