Mohamed Salah has been one of the best players in the world this season. Erling Haaland is possibly the best football hope in the world. Gianluigi Donnarumma was named par excellence player in the last Euro, last summer. And what more can we say about Zlatan Ibrahimovic? What is the connection between all these star players? None of them will participate in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Qualifying for the tournament is coming to an end and several leading players already know they will miss this meeting in November and December.
Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
Star Mohamed Salah’s missed penalty kick helped Egypt defeat Senegal in the African qualifier, and later footage showed him shielding himself from a hail of projectiles as he left the field. It was another sad day in his disappointing international career so far. Salah came to the 2018 World Cup with a shoulder injury and Egypt were knocked out in the group stage. He lost in the final of two African Cups of Nations – the last one this year – and he will miss the next World Cup when he is at the top of his game. So far, the 29-year-old has to settle for winning titles with Liverpool, a club with whom he could win four titles this season.
Erling Haaland (Norway)
Injured, Haaland was a helpless spectator in November when Norway lost to the Netherlands in their last qualifier to become number three in their group. Norway has not played at the World Cup since 1998, and Haaland seemed to help the country end that drought. The 21-year-old striker is as exciting as a Kylian Mbappé on the world stage, and it is still unknown whether he will still line up for Borussia Dortmund when the World Cup begins, as he has become one of the most coveted players in Europe. He is Dortmund’s top scorer again this season, with 16 goals in 17 Bundesliga matches, after missing several matches due to an injury.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)
Ibrahimovic came out of international retirement in 2021 to compete in the European Championships. He eventually missed it due to an injury and could not help Sweden qualify for the World Cup after coming through in the final 10 minutes of the loss to Poland, who already led 2-0 in Sweden’s last playoff match. Ibrahimovic had not returned to top form due to a recent injury, one of several that forced the 40-year-old star to miss part of AC Milan’s season. It looks like he will play another season in Milan, but the Qatar World Cup was his last chance to play in this tournament.
Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)
Named the Euro 2020 MVP after starring in the shootout against England, the Italian goalkeeper also helped the Azzurri set a world record by not allowing a goal in 1,168 minutes. But like the Italian outfit, his game has since dropped, to the point that he lost his club job after moving from AC Milan to Paris Saint-Germain. An error by Donnarumma led to PSG’s elimination against Real Madrid in the Champions League. The 23-year-old goalkeeper also came under fire for a late goal against Northern Macedonia, which meant Italy’s end in the World Cup qualifiers for another tournament in a row.
Luis Diaz (Colombia)
The 25-year-old Liverpool winger replaced James Rodríguez as Colombia’s leading player and finished on par with Lionel Messi on the Copa America scoring list last year. However, he could not inspire his national team enough to qualify for the World Cup: Colombia finished in sixth place in the South American rankings.
Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)
Mahrez, a recent recipient of the Africa Player of the Year award, was part of the Algerian team that conceded a goal in Cameroon after a four-minute break on Tuesday, depriving the country of a World Cup appearance. The Manchester City winger will have to wait at least four years before participating in the World Cup again. He participated as a 23-year-old inexperienced player in 2014 in Brazil, where he started in the preliminary XI against Belgium.
Jan Oblak (Slovenia)
For many, Oblak is the best goalkeeper in the world. These roses come especially from his play in front of Atlético Madrid’s net. Will he ever play the World Cup? Slovenia participated in the 2010 edition. They missed the next meeting by finishing fourth in Group A in qualifying. With his 29, Oblak could still have two more options to invite himself to dance.