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World Cup: Best XI not heading to Qatar

The World Cup is a celebration of not only the best international teams globally, but it also brings together some of the biggest names in world football.

However, not every global superstar will be heading to Qatar for the World Cup this winter, as despite their obvious individual talents, they were unable to spearhead a successful qualification campaign for their country.

Here is our best XI made up of players that will not be competing at the World Cup, but would this team be good enough to mix it with the very best international sides?

WhatWorld Cup
When20th November - 18th December 2022
How to watchAll matches will be shown on either the BBC or ITV
OddsBrazil 9/2, England 11/2, France 6/1, Argentina 7/1, Spain 8/1

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain and Italy)

Italian number one Donnarumma was a key figure as Italy were crowned European champions last summer, as his crucial saves, most notably in the penalty shootout victories over Spain and England, helped the Azzurri to the title.

The 23-year-old was named player of the tournament for his heroics and that same summer he completed a move to Paris Saint-Germain from boyhood club AC Milan.

Donnarumma has continued to excel in France, helping PSG to the Ligue 1 title last season, although his wait for a debut appearance at the World Cup goes on after Italy were surprisingly beaten by North Macedonia in the play-offs.

Right-back: Juan Cuadrado (Juventus and Colombia)

Colombia international Cuadrado is remembered in England for a disappointing spell at Chelsea, but since leaving Stamford Bridge he has established himself as a key figure at Juventus.

During his time in Turin, Cuadrado has won 11 major honours, including five Scudettos, while more recently he has been converted into an attacking right-back after starting his career as a winger.

Cuadrado still has plenty to offer at the highest level despite turning 34 in May and he remains a key figure for Colombia, as no outfield player has won more caps for Los Cafeteros than the former Fiorentina star.

Centre-back: Milan Skriniar (Inter Milan and Slovakia)

Tough-tackling defender Skriniar has been a mainstay of the Inter Milan defence since joining from Sampdoria in 2017 and he played a key role in their Scudetto success during the 2020/21 season.

Chelsea, Tottenham and Paris-Saint Germain have all been linked with making a move for the 27-year-old in the past, but he has remained at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, which will be to the benefit of Inter, who are 10/3 to win Serie A this term.

Domestic success is all Skriniar can focus on this season after Slovakia failed to qualify for the World Cup. The centre-back is a mainstay for his country, winning his 50th cap at the end of last year.

Centre-back: David Alaba (Real Madrid and Austria)

Austrian star Alaba is one of the most decorated players in world football as, after winning 10 Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich, he went on to claim La Liga and Champions League glory during his first season with Real Madrid last term.

Alaba has also shone on the international stage with Austria, helping them to the knockout stages of Euro 2020 last summer, while he is closing in on a century of caps for Das Team.

However, after Austria failed to qualify for the World Cup, it will be at least another four years before we see Alaba representing his country on the global stage.

Left-back: Andy Robertson (Liverpool and Scotland)

Robertson has been a key figure under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool for over five years, helping the Anfield outfit to Champions League glory in 2019, as well as a first Premier League success the following year.

The 28-year-old has provided 50 assists during his Premier League career with both the Reds and Hull City, and alongside Liverpool team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold, he has helped redefine the full-back role in recent years.

At international level, Robertson has captained Scotland since 2018 and helped them qualify for a first major international tournament in 23 years when they made it to Euro 2020, although he couldn't steer them though to this year's World Cup.

Central midfield: Franck Kessie (Barcelona and Ivory Coast)

Ivory Coast midfielder Kessie enjoyed a successful seven years playing in Italy, culminating in helping AC Milan to the Serie A title last season - the Rossoneri's first Scudetto since 2011.

Following that success, Kessie joined Barcelona this summer and he already looks like being a key figure under Xavi at the Camp Nou.

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Despite being just 25, Kessie has already won over 50 caps at international level, although he could not help Ivory Coast qualify for Qatar after they were edged out in qualifying by Cameroon.

Central midfield: Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain and Italy)

The second Italian to make the list and just like Donnarumma, tenacious midfielder Verratti played a key role in his country's success at Euro 2020.

Verratti is a player teams perhaps notice more when he's not there and his importance to PSG cannot be underestimated, as he does a lot of the groundwork to create space for the likes of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe.

Injuries have disrupted Verratti's involvement for both club and country over recent years and perhaps Italy would have made it to the World Cup had the 29-year-old been available more often during qualifying.

Central midfield: Martin Odegaard (Arsenal and Norway)

Beginning his senior career for both club and country aged just 15 and moving to Real Madrid the following year meant there was plenty of hype surrounding Odegaard during the middle of the last decade.

His move to the Bernabeu ultimately did not work out, but Odegaard has flourished since joining Arsenal on a permanent basis in 2021 and he was named captain of the Gunners this summer despite still only being 23.

Odegaard is also captain of Norway and although they missed out on the World Cup this time around, it only feels like a matter of time before the Scandinavians qualify for their next major tournament.

Right winger: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)

Liverpool forward Salah has established himself as a global superstar during his five years at Anfield, averaging over a goal every other game across all competitions and helping the Reds to seven major honours.

Salah has also collected numerous individual accolades, including three Premier League Golden Boots and the PFA Players' Player of the Year award twice.

He is arguably the greatest African player to ever grace the Premier League, but he won't feature at the World Cup after Egypt fell at the final qualifying hurdle to Senegal.

Left winger: Victor Osimhen (Napoli and Nigeria)

After catching the eye with Lille during the 2019/20 season, Nigeria forward Osimhen has starred for Napoli over the last two years, including last term when he finished as the club's top scorer with 18 goals from 32 appearances across all competitions.

Osimhen also boasts an eye-catching strike rate on the international stage, averaging almost a goal a game for Nigeria since the start of 2021.

Those goals weren't enough to help the Super Eagles overcome Ghana in the final round of African World Cup qualifying, but at just 23, Osimhen still has time on his side to make it to the global showpiece.

Striker: Erling Haaland (Manchester City and Norway)

There is arguably no better striker in world football at the moment than Norway star Haaland, who has struck 14 goals in 10 appearances since joining Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, including 11 in seven in the Premier League.

Since the start of the 2018/19 season with RB Salzburg, Haaland has averaged over a goal a game in club football, while he has 20 in 21 international appearances for Norway.

At only 22, it is frightening to think how good Haaland could be and it would be a surprise if he does not help Norway qualify for World Cup 2026, perhaps fuelled by having to watch this year's tournament on television at home.

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