It’s a Shame
There’s no doubt that the World Cup is soccer’s grandest stage. And the reason is pretty simple: only 32 of the 211 federations affiliated with FIFA get to play it. As if that wasn’t enough, the tournament is held every four years.
Great, historic players such as George Best, Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs, and George Weah, to name a few, never played in a WC. Some of the following five superstars already got to play in one, but none of them will be in Qatar 2022. So, if you were considering including them in your soccer picks, like for example to win the Golden Boot, you better start looking at other options.
Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
I’ve always said that Mohamed Salah should have at least one Ballon d’Or, but you know, he had the misfortune of coinciding in time and space with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Either Messi or Ronaldo won the award in 12 of the last 13 years.
Anyway, Salah won’t be in the 2022 WC as Egypt couldn’t defeat Senegal in the last stage of the African Qualifiers. It’s a real shame because the Pharaoh, who plays for Liverpool, had a great 2021-22 season, scoring 23 in the English Premier League and eight in the UEFA Champions League.
Salah already got to play in one WC, Russia 2018. However, Egypt finished in 31st place. He’s 30 years old, so he could try again in four years.
Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)
Believe it or not, Italy won’t be in the WC for the second straight edition. Therefore, Gianluigi Donnarumma, considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world, will have to wait for another four years to play in his first WC.
During the Group Stage of the European qualifiers, the Azzurri only allowed two goals, but they finished two points behind Switzerland. Later, in the play-off, they were huge soccer betting online favorites to defeat North Macedonia but ended up losing 1-0.
Donnarumma is 23 years old, so he’s expected to lead Italy to the 2026 edition. The Azzurri will have more chances as starting in 2026 the WC will be played by 48 teams.
Luis Diaz (Colombia)
In January, Luis Diaz transferred from Porto to Liverpool. His impact was immediate, helping Liverpool to reach the UEFA Champions League Grand Finale and fight for the EPL title until the last fixture. Diaz scored six goals in 26 appearances in all competitions. Prior to that, he scored 16 goals in 28 matches with Porto.
He couldn’t do the same with Colombia’s national team. Los Cafeteros finished the qualifiers in sixth place, one point behind Peru, the team that got to play in the intercontinental play-off against Australia. Colombia had qualified for the previous two editions, finishing fifth in Brazil in 2014.
Erling Haaland (Norway)
This one hurts the most as we’re talking about one of the most talented scorers on the planet. Erling Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 games for Borussia Dortmund, including friendlies. He recently signed a lucrative contract with Manchester City, so he would have been highly motivated.
Norway put up a good fight in Group G of the European qualifiers, but Netherlands ended up winning the direct ticket, while Turkey qualified for the play-off. Haaland is the youngest on the list, so at least he’ll have several more opportunities to reach the promised land.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)
We couldn’t leave Zlatan Ibrahimovic off the list. Besides being a unique talent, even at 40 years old, he’s probably the most entertaining soccer player on the face of the earth. He always has something funny – cocky – to say. The thing is that he usually backs up those words on the pitch.
Sweden finished second in Group B, four points behind Spain. Later, in the first match of the play-off, they defeated the Czech Republic 1-0. Nevertheless, they couldn’t beat Robert Lewandowski and Poland in the Final.
It’s very unlikely that Ibrahimovic will be active for the 2026 edition. Therefore, he’ll retire with two WC under his belt, 2002 and 2006. He didn’t score.