World Cup: 5 Stars who missed out

After Messi's Argentina drew 0-0 with Peru, he may be absent at this summer's World Cup. RealSport look at some of the other big names who missed out.

With Argentina failing to beat a resilient Peru side in CONMEBOL qualifying, there is a very real chance that Lionel Messi will not be playing in the biggest football tournament in the world next year. There can be little double that it would be a travesty if Messi missed out given that this is likely to be the last World Cup for the 30-year-old at the peak of his powers.

If Jorge Sampaoli’s side fail to quality, it will be the first time Argentina have missed out on the international tournament since 1970. As great a shame as it would be to not have Messi strutting his stuff in Russia, it wouldn’t be the first time a world star was forced to sit out the tournament for one reason or another.

RealSport has picked out five other players who have missed out on a World Cup tournament.

  1. 1 Paul Gascoigne - USA 1994

    England had a quite superb World Cup campaign in 1990 with the Three Lions famously reaching the semifinals only to lose out to Germany on penalties in heartbreaking fashion. It was a tournament remembered for many reasons, but perhaps most notably, for 'those' Gazza tears after he received a yellow card against Germany meaning that he would miss out on the final if England got there.

    In stark contrast, England didn't even make the 1994 World Cup. Despite Gascoigne being arguably the greatest midfielder in the world at that time and playing some superb football for Lazio, he couldn't help the Three Lions get to the USA. Points were dropped against the Netherlands and then Norway. 

    Having been asked to say a few words about the Norwegians, Gazza responded with the immortal line "f*** off, Norway".

  2. 2 Ryan Giggs and Gareth Bale

    The Welsh haven't been to a World Cup since 1958. As a result, Ryan Giggs, arguably the greatest Premier League player ever, and Gareth Bale, a current superstar, have never appeared on the world's biggest stage.

    Bale, of course, still has a chance of playing in Russia in 2018 with Wales looking likely to get a play-off place at the very least. The Welsh, inspired by Bale, were magnificent in Euro 2016, eventually reaching the semi-finals before being knocked out by Portugal. 

    It would be wonderful to see them qualify for this summer's tournament and give Bale the opportunity to play at the highest stage. Perhaps it would confirm Bale as the greatest Welsh player ever, ahead of Giggs himself.

  3. 3 Zlatan Ibrahimovic - South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014

    Having missed out on the last World Cup, Zlatan famously said, "a World Cup without me is nothing to watch". Whilst this is debatable, both his quality and character were certainly missed at the World Cup in Brazil and the previous tournament in South Africa which Sweden also failed to reach.

    One of the most decorated players ever at club level, it is a shame Sweden could never match the ability and quality of their star man. Ibrahimovic is comfortably his country's greatest ever player: the striker has scored 62 goals in 116 appearances for his nation and should have had the chance to compete in more major tournaments for his country.

  4. 4 Samuel Eto'o - Germany 2006

    Samuel Eto'o was one of the best strikers in the world when the World Cup came around in 2006. The Cameroonian had scored 34 goals for Barcelona in the season leading up the World Cup, having netted 25 times the campaign before. 

    Eto'o, similar to Ibrahimovic and Giggs and Bale is another example of a player who's country could never quite match his quality and success. In 2006, the striker helped Barcelona win the Champions League, beating Arsenal 2-1 in the final with Eto'o scoring the equaliser. 

  1. Who was the greatest player to miss out on a World Cup appearance?

    1. Paul Gascoigne
    2. Gareth Bale
    3. Ryan Giggs
    4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
    5. Samuel Eto'o
    41 votes
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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!