So, after nearly four years of waiting, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is finally here. It is just less than a week before the battle for the biggest trophy in world football will begin in Qatar, the first Arab nation to host the Mundial.
The 32 participating teams used last week to announce their 26-man squad for the competition with pump and pageantry. It is every player’s dream to put on their country’s jersey and play at the World Cup. However, some players will not be on the plane and take to the field in Qatar for the four-week tourney. Their absence can be partly attributed to the change in the schedule of the World Cup from June-July to November-December due to the intense summer heat in the Gulf country.
The change has prompted the European football season, in which an estimated 90 per cent of the players set to play in the Mundial ply their trade, to be compressed, with club games fixed for every three days for about seven to eight weeks consistently. The effect of this is that several players copped up varying degrees of injuries in the weeks leading up to the World Cup and are, therefore, set to miss the tournament.
Also, some players have not played regularly at their clubs since the 2022/2023 European football season began in early August. Since football is largely concerned with the current form of players to win games, coaches of the 32 national teams have had to make difficult decisions to drop players who lacked game time or struggled to be fit before the tournament. However, some players have consistently played throughout the season yet were not selected by the coaches because they believe the footballers do not necessarily fit into their plans.
This piece, therefore, takes a look at some of the prominent players that are confirmed to miss the FIFA World Cup, Qatar 2022.
Giovani Lo Celso | Argentina
The most high-profile absentee in the Argentine squad is Giovani Lo Celso. The midfield maestro suffered a torn quadriceps (an injury in the knee) while playing for his on-loan club, Villarreal, on 30 October. His parent club, Tottenham Hotspur, has insisted that the player undergoes surgery.
With his injury a long-term one and his potential return date unknown, Lo Celso will not play for La Albiceleste in the tournament.
Trent Sainsbury | Australia
Veteran defender Trent Sainsbury was surprisingly excluded from the Socceroos‘ squad by coach Graham Arnold, despite playing regularly playing for his Qatari club, Al-Wakrah.
Although he is no longer considered one of Australia’s top-two central defenders, Sainsbury has previously captained the Socceroos and has 58 caps. Therefore, his exclusion came as a shock to the player and the nation.
Divock Origi and Alexis Saelemaekers | Belgium
Despite moving to AC Milan from Liverpool to get more playing time, Divock Origi is deemed not good enough to make the Belgian squad for the Mundial by coach Roberto Martinez. Origi’s exclusion from the squad seems odd as his teammate, Romelu Lukaku, who plays for the cross-town rival, Inter Milan, was included despite being injured and lacking game time.
Also missing from the Red Devils‘ squad is Alexis Saelemaekers, who also plays for AC Milan. Saelemaekers picked up a serious knee ligament injury in October and has been ruled out for the remainder of 2022. He was included in the standby list by Martinez, which remains valid until the start of the World Cup on 20 November.
Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Magalhães, Arthur Melo, Diego Carlos, Philippe Coutinho | Brazil
Coach Tite has a vastly talented and experienced pool of players to select from, so, it is no surprise that he has to leave out some players from the A Seleção squad to Qatar. The most prominent omission is Roberto Firmino. The 31-year-old striker has been in electric form this season with eight goals and four assists in 19 matches in all competitions, yet it was not enough to convince the coach to fly him to the tournament.
Another player who is having an outstanding season but was left out is Gabriel Magalhães. The Arsenal defender has been a rock at the heart of the Gunners’ defence, forming a solid partnership with William Saliba, but Tite overlooked him.
Arthur Melo is another regular that will not play at the Mundial. Unlike the two aforementioned players, his absence is understandable as the Liverpool on-loan midfielder picked up a muscle (thigh) injury in the build-up to a Champions League clash with Rangers in October. The date of his return is yet to be known.
Another player hampered by injury is Diego Carlos. The Aston Villa defender suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in his club’s 2-1 win against Everton in August. The injury required him to undergo surgery and forced him out of action for an unforeseeable period.
Carlos’ club teammate, Philippe Coutinho has also been ruled out of the World Cup after he sustained a thigh (quadriceps) injury, which will keep him out of action for approximately seven to ten weeks. Coutinho’s place in the squad was not initially guaranteed due to a loss of form, and lack of regular action and his injury extinguished any hope of him being called to represent Brazil.
Scott Kenedy | Canada
Coach John Herdman excluded star defender Scott Kenedy from the Canadian team roster to Qatar after the player picked up a shoulder injury. Kenedy sustained the injury at the end of October while playing for his club, SSV Jahn Regensburg, in the German second division.
“There’s no way back for Scott, unfortunately,” Herdman told the media as he confirmed that the 25-year-old defender will not don the colours of Les Rouges at the Mundial.
Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui | Cameroon
The omission of the experienced Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui from the Cameroonian squad by coach Riogbert Song came as a surprise to followers of the national team. The 31-year-old defender, who was one of the lynchpins of the Indomitable Lions in the delayed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations just 11 months ago, had only earlier this week expressed his readiness to put on the iconic green and red jersey of his country.
The long-time serving Belgium-based centre-back was, however, excluded from the squad, with no excuse given by the coach.
Antonio Colak | Croatia
Antonio Colak was left out of Croatia’s squad by coach Zlatko Dalic, despite the player being in the form of his life. Colak has netted 14 goals in 23 matches for Rangers this season, and judging based on their current form, he seems to be the most prolific of all the strikers in the Vatreni set-up, yet he was ignored.
Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Jadon Sancho, Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham, Jarrod Bowen, James Ward-Prowse | England
England has a star-studded squad, with its players shining in its domestic Premier League and other European leagues. Unfortunately, some players will not be on the plane to Qatar due to injuries. Reece James (suffered a knee injury against Wolves on 8 October) and Ben Chilwell (pulled up his hamstring in Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League win over Dinamo Zagreb on 2 November) are two high-profile full-backs who the Three Lions will have to do without for the four-week tournament.
Asides from injury, some players were dropped from the squad due to the star quality that permeates since everybody can be on the list. Fikayo Tomori is one of the players who suffered the unfortunate fate of being dropped, despite having a good season as a centre-back at AC Milan. Tammy Abraham is another Serie A-based player excluded from the team, with the England coach, Gareth Southgate, explaining that the AS Roma striker “had a poor run of scoring form at the wrong time”.
Also not going to the World Cup are Jarrod Bowen (West Ham) and James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), who were recently involved in the England team. However, Southgate has deemed their mixed performances this season not enough to make the team.
Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Ferland Mendy, Wesley Fofana, Mike Maignan, *Presnel Kimpembe, *Christopher Nkunku | France
Just as mentioned with Brazil and England, France has a top-notch squad. Remember, Les Blues are the defending world champions and have a lot of ammunition in their arsenal to prosecute games at the Mundial.
Sadly, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, both part of the midfield cast that powered the French to their World Cup win four years ago, will not be present to help the team attempt to defend the trophy it won in Russia. Pogba copped up a knee injury during pre-season and has been out of action for his club, Juventus, all season. He returned to training on 31 October and was in contention to be named in the French list but suffered a thigh injury during his recovery, which effectively ruled him out of the tournament. Kante, on the other hand, sustained a hamstring injury in mid-August and suffered a setback in his rehabilitation.
Ferland Mendy was surprisingly dropped by coach Didier Deschamps, despite the player being the regular left-back for Real Madrid. Mike Maignan, one of the squad’s goalkeepers, is also out of the Mundial after he sustained a calf injury on 1 October. Wesley Fofana was expected to make his impact on the French team, but the 21-year-old defender will not be on the field in Qatar after he picked up a knee injury in Chelsea’s home victory over AC Milan in October.
*Late additions: Defender Presnel Kimpembe (PSG) and forward Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig) sustained late-minute injuries after being initially called up and have, therefore been ruled out of the competition. Kimpembe struggled to recover from an injury he sustained, while Nkunku picked up a knee injury during training with the French team. They have been replaced by Axel Diasi and Randal Kolo Muani, respectively.
Timo Werner, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels, Robin Gosens | Germany
Two of the aforementioned players will miss the World Cup due to injury, while the other two are not on the plane to Qatar due to poor form and lack of fitness.
The biggest player not to be named in Germany’s 26-man squad is Marco Reus. The Borrusia Dortmund captain picked up an ankle injury in the derby against Schalke on 17 September. Reus returned to action quicker than expected, but the injury recurred when Dortmund faced Union Berlin on 16 October, and he has been unable to recover in time for the tournament. It is the second consecutive World Cup and the fourth international tournament that the forward has missed as a result of injury or fatigue.
Another player that will miss the Mundia due to the same ankle injury is Timo Werner. The striker limped off in the 19th minute of RB Leipzig’s Champions League win over Shakhtar Donetsk on 2 November and could not recuperate in time for Qatar.
Coach Hansi Flick also decided to exclude veteran defender Mats Hummels from the Die Mannschaft squad to Qatar. Flick admitted that the Dortmund player “is fully fit and in excellent form”, but explained that “within the coaching team, we decided for a younger player”. The coach also omitted Robin Gosens from his team, stating that the Inter Milan left wing-back “had very few appearances last year. I think he himself can understand very well that we made this decision”.
Joe Wollacott, Richard Ofori, Iddrissu Baba, John Paintsil, Jeffrey Schlupp, Mubarak Wakaso, Felix Afena-Gyan | Ghana
*Late additions: Ghana was one of the last teams to announce its squad for the World Cup, as the West African team did so on the deadline day set by FIFA, the world’s football governing body.
The Black Stars will be without their first and second-choice goalkeepers, Joe Wollacott and Richard Ofori, due to injury. Wollacott, who was set to be Ghana’s number one in between the sticks, suffered a finger injury while warming up Charlton Athletic in his final club match before the Mundial. Ofori also picked up an injury while training with his club, Orlando Pirates.
Another player who is absent from the squad as a result of injury is Iddrissu Baba. The Real Mallorca-based midfielder copped up a muscular injury during his c.lub’s game against Atletico Madrid and was not included in the Ghanaian squad despite being said to be out for only seven days.
Coach Otto Addo decided not to invite Joseph Paintsil, who has been excellent for the Swiss club, Genk, this season; Jeffrey Schlupp, who has enjoyed a decent season so far with Crystal Palace; Mubarak Wakaso, a long-serving midfielder of the Black Stars; and Felix Afena-Gyan, the young forward who recently moved to Cremonese in the Serie A.
Yuta Nakayama, Ryo Miyaichi | Japan
The Samurai Blue will be missing two influential players at the Mundial. Defender Yuta Nakayama was initially called up but will miss the tournament after suffering an Achilles injury. He has been replaced by Shuto Machino.
Ryo Miyaichi will also be out of action in Qatar after he sustained an ACL injury while on duty for his club side, Yokohama F. Marinos.
Jesus Corona | Mexico
Jesus Corona will be out of the tournament after he broke his left ankle (fractured fibula) in training with his club team Sevilla in August and subsequently underwent surgery.
Coach Gerardo Martino listed Corona in his preliminary 31-man squad, but Sevilla boss, Jorge Sampaoli, clarified that the player could return to training only by December, effectively ruling him out of the competition.
Amine Harit | Morocco
*Late addition: Amine Harit is expected to miss the Mundial after he picked up a knee injury while playing for his club, Olympique de Marseille. Harit sustained the injury in Marseille’s 3-2 win over Monaco, the club’s final Ligue 1 game before the tournament.
Georginio Wijnaldum, Jasper Cillessen, Arnaut Danjuma | The Netherlands
Georginio Wijnaldum has been ruled out of the World Cup due to a fractured tibia just 12 minutes into his first game for his on-loan club, AS Roma. The Dutch midfielder is expected to be out until early to mid-2023.
The surprise omissions from the Oranje squad compiled by coach Louis Van Gaal are goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and forward Arnaut Danjuma. The 33-year-old goalkeeper is one of the Netherlands’ most experienced players and has been a regular for NEC Nijmegen this season.
Danjuma had an excellent 2021/2022 season until it was truncated by injury, but his dry spell, coupled with Villareal’s poor season so far, could hardly have come at a worse time for the Nigerian-born Dutch player.
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Jakub Moder, Karol Linetty | Poland
Jakub Moder suffered an ACL tear (knee injury) in early April, which has kept him out of action for his club side, Brighton, and effectively ruled him out of the Mundial.
Coach Czeslaw Michniewicz sidelined Karol Linetty from the World Cup squad, despite the player gaining regular playing time for Torino.
Joao Moutinho, Diogo Jota, Renato Sanches, Gonçalo Guedes, Pedro Neto, Ricardo Pereira | Portugal
Portugal is another of the 32 qualified teams endowed with quality players, forcing coach Fernando Santos to drop more players due to competition for spots rather than for injury.
Midfielders Joao Moutinho (Wolves), Renato Sanches (PSG) and Gonçalo Guedes (Wolves) were not included in the Seleção squad. In fairness to Santos, the performances of the veteran Moutinho and the youngster Sanches, who was named Young Player of the Tournament as Portugal won EURO 2016, at their clubs this season warranted them not being on the plane to Qatar. The exclusion of Guedes was, however, a surprise as he has been consistent for Wolverhampton Wanderers this season.
Diogo Jota, Pedro Neto and Ricardo Pereira are the players who were included in the squad because they copped up varying degrees of injuries. Jota sustained a calf injury in Liverpool’s victory over Manchester City in a Premier League fixture on 16 October, Neto picked up an ankle injury while playing for Wolves against West Ham United on 1 October, while Pereira ruptured his Achilles in Leicester’s final pre-season friendly against Sevilla in early August.
Abdullah Al-Ahrak | Qatar
Abdullah Al-Ahrak will not be available for the host nation Qatar after he sustained a cruciate ligament injury.
Saliou Ciss, Bouna Sarr, Sadio Mane | Senegal
Both full-backs who played starring roles in the triumph of the Teranga Lions of Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations are absent.
Right-back Bouna Sarr picked up a knee injury and subsequently underwent surgery. He has been out for Bayern Munich since 3 September.
On the other hand, the left-back Saliou Ciss was omitted by coach Aliou Cisse following the player’s lack of game time and fitness. Ciss has been unable to find a new club to play after he left Nancy earlier this year.
*Late addition: Despite being initially included in the 26-man list, star forward Sadio Mane has withdrawn from the squad. Mane, who is considered to be the talisman of this Senegalese team, withdrew after he sustained an injury while on duty with his club side, Bayern Munich, in a Bundesliga fixture against Werder Bremen earlier this month.
Mane underwent surgery on 17 November, with “a tendon was reattached to the head of his right fibula”, according to Bayern. The surgery means that the 2021 African Footballer of the Year is effectively ruled out of the tournament and will, instead, recuperate, in Munich.
Sergio Ramos, David De Gea, Thiago Alcantara, Jose Gaya | Spain
Coach Luis Enrique is well aware that he has a luxury of players to select from, and he ultimately utilised his authority in preparing Spain’s final 26-man squad. Enrique dropped three prominent players from La Roja not based on injury, but due to competition for slots.
An obvious omission from the Spanish team is David De Gea. The Manchester United goalkeeper has been in good form for his club this season, but the coach did not consider him good enough to be on the plane to Qatar. Another top-notch player not deemed good enough by Enrique is Thiago Alcantara, who has enjoyed a decent season at Liverpool thus far.
Also excluded from the Spanish party is Sergio Ramos, the veteran defender who has enjoyed a resurgence at PSG and has been a regular player for the French club this season.
*Late addition: Jose Gaya, the captain of Valencia, has withdrawn from the squad due to injury. The left-back has since been replaced by the 18-year-old Alejandro Balde, who plays for Barcelona.
Zack Steffen | USA
Zack Steffen was surprisingly excluded from the United States of America’s World Cup team by Gregg Berhalter. Steffen, a goalkeeper, is the second choice at Manchester City and has been in goal for some games this season, majorly cup competitions.
Asked about the decision, Berhalter said it was “heartbreaking” to exclude Steffen, adding: “But those are decisions that we made as a staff and we move forward…”
*Editor’s note: The article was edited to reflect the late additions of Kimpembe, Nkunku, Harit, Wollacott, Ofori, Paintsil, Wakaso, Schlupp, Afena-Gyan, Mane and Gaya.