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World Cup Absentee 11

There are still a wealth of nations who could miss out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia in the summer.

Star names such as Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi could all be forced to stay and watch the tournament at home.

Argentina need a win against Ecuador to guarantee a play off place, whilst Wales, Portugal, and Italy may all have to go through the play off route themselves to secure their passage to the World Cup.

RealSport have chosen a World 11 of players who could miss out on this summer’s tournament.

GK: Gigi Buffon, Italy

Arguably the greatest keeper to have ever graced the planet, Buffon is still going strong at the age of 39.

Buffon has of course already won the World Cup, back in Germany in 2006.

Despite that achievement, it would still be a big disappointment if the Italian failed to play in what will surely be his last ever World Cup for Italy.

CB: Javier Mascherano, Argentina

Argentina are in big trouble.

They have to beat Ecuador to even have a chance of just making the play offs. The Barcelona centre back has been one of the finest defenders in world football for the past four years, transitioning from a no-nonsense holding midfielder to brilliant centre back.

If Argentina are to beat Ecuador in their next play off game, the experience and know how of Mascherano at the back will prove crucial.

CB: Samuel Umtiti, France

In truth, France should qualify.

However, they are currently behind Sweden in the qualifying table, and are certainly not guaranteed to qualify through the play off route.

Since Carlos Puyol’s retirement in 2014, Barcelona have greatly missed his presence at the back to partner Gerard Pique.

That was until they signed Umtiti from Lyon in the summer of 2016.

The left footed centre back reads the game superbly, is excellent on the ball and uses his powerful physique to help dominate opponents.

Umtiti is fast establishing himself as one of the world’s best defenders.

CB: Giorgio Chiellini, Italy

In fairness, Italy were dealt a tough hand.

Not many countries in world football would finish above Spain in the same group, so Italy are likely to be forced to go via the play off route, despite winning six of their eight games, and only losing one.

Chiellini is as reliable as they come.

He was a major part of arguably the best defensive structure in the world for Juventus in the last three years and will be a huge miss if Italy fail to qualify.

CM: Arturo Vidal, Chile

The Chileans are sixth in their World Cup qualifying group, one point behind Argentina and look unlikely to reach the play offs.

That means Munich’s box to box star will more than likely miss out in Russia next year.

Vidal is an all round midfielder and his energy, composure and overall brilliance will be missed at next summer’s tournament.

Chile are usually a breath of fresh air at the tournaments, with their tactical brilliance and aggressive pressing style.

CM: Paul Pogba, France

Pogba has received a lot of unfair criticism since his return to England last summer, however, is still one of the best midfielders in the world.

The Manchester United star can pass, shoot and dribble and is capable of moments of magic, and on a consistent basis. Pogba plays the game with a free spirit, refreshing to see despite the pressure that is constantly put on his young shoulders.

RM: Arjen Robben, the Netherlands

Despite being 33 years old, Robben is still at the peak of his powers.

You know what the Flying Dutchman is going to do when he’s on the ball, but stopping him is another matter entirely.

The Bayern Munich superstar is almost unplayable when he cuts onto his left foot, with his now infamous bend into the top corner leaving the keeper and defence helpless.

The Netherlands don’t seem to have much hope of qualifying for the World Cup, so we will have to make do without Robben’s wizardry.

LM: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

We profess, this team isn’t going to have much balance, and there will be superstars who didn’t make the cut. However, a potential World Cup without both Messi and Ronaldo is unthinkable.

He, along with Messi, has taken football to a new level.

Ronaldo has scored 411 goals in 401 games for Real Madrid and the tournament will be far worse without Ronaldo if Portugal don’t make it.

CAM: Lionel Messi, Argentina

Like Ronaldo, how can you have the best football tournament in the world, potentially without the two best players?

Messi is arguably the greatest footballer to have ever lived and it will be a travesty if he misses out on playing in his last ever World Cup whilst in the prime of his career.

With Argentina needing a win against Ecuador just to be in contention via the play off spots, Argentina will need Messi and his magic more than ever.

A man for any stage, can he get his country over the line? We certainly hope so.

ST: Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Gabon

Gabon are currently third in their qualifying group, with only the top team going to the World Cup.

It means the speedy striker will have to watch the tournament from the comfort of his own chair.

Aubameyang has established himself as one of the greatest strikers on the planet for Borussia Dortmund in the last few years.

He is a ruthless finisher and has incredible pace.

Defenders will breathe a sigh of relief knowing they won’t have to defend against the forward at next summer’s tournament.

ST: Antoine Griezmann, France

Again, France should qualify.

But if they don’t, we will be without the Euro 2016 top score, (six goals) and one of the finest strikers on the planet.

Griezmann has exceptional quality and has spearheaded the attack for his country, and Atletico Madrid for the last few years.

Griezmann has every type of finish in his locker and is often unplayable with his intelligence and supreme technique.

He is the best player in La Liga outside the monopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid and the envy of most clubs in Europe.

Who would you be disappointed to see miss the tournament? Comment below!

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Harry Brooks

Harry graduated from UAL in Elephant and Castle with a 2:1 BA Hons degree in sports journalism.

He has an NCTJ diploma and also coaches football and teaches PE in schools.

Harry loves to talk football tactics!

World Cup Absentee 11

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