The World Cup is nearly upon us. Rosters have been released and updated the closer Russia gets. That means there were some players who were not invited to represent their country this summer. I’ve therefore complied what I think would be the 2018 World Cup snubbed starting XI. Disclaimer: I realize that some of these players are on standby should an injury or illness render a teammate incapable of playing, but these players were not listed as part of the original 23-man roster for their country. I have decided to go with a 4-4-2 flat formation for this compilation of players.
Goalkeeper: Stéphane Ruffier (France), AS Saint-Étienne
Since France has a plethora of goalkeeping talent, Ruffier got the short end of this stick. Hugo Lloris, Alphonse Areola and Steve Mandanda were chosen by Didier Deschamps to be the keepers for the French camp. Ruffier claimed 12 clean sheets during the Ligue 1 season in 35 appearances (tied for 4th in the league with Steve Mandanda).
Left-back: Lucas Digne (France), FC Barcelona
Being stuck behind Jordi Alba for first choice LB can be frustrating. Digne was able to produce when called upon as he helped Barca collect five clean sheets in 12 league appearances; Digne also added in 2 assists this season. Deschamps went with the younger Lucas Hernandez (22) for the position, who had 27 league appearances for Atletico Madrid. Digne is 24 and has been named on the list of players on standby.
Center-backs: David Luiz (Brazil), Chelsea FC, and Aymeric Laporte (France), Manchester City
Finally, someone that isn’t French that got snubbed. David Luiz arrived 2nd season back at Chelsea was met with disappointment as the Brazilian made only 10 league appearances. Luiz was essentially buried on the bench by Antonio Conte. However, David Luiz is one of those players that plays better for his country than he does for his club.
Back to France we go, as Laporte made 19 appearances in La Liga before being transferred to Manchester City in January; Nine appearances in the Premier League. With Arsenal’s Koschielny out with an injury, Laporte probably felt he would’ve gotten a call-up, but injury struck him as well.
Right-back: Juanfran (Spain), Atletico Madrid
The 33-year-old Spaniard was left out due to the abundance of talent Spain has at RB (Carvajal and Azpilicueta were selected). However, Juanfran played well for Atletico. He attributed to 11 clean sheets in 17 league appearances which is a very nice ratio. The veteran will be missed in Russia.
Left-midfield: Franck Ribèry (France), FC Bayern Munich
Age no doubt played a part in the 35-year-old’s snub. A mainstay in Germany’s top club for years now would surely have Deschamps’ attention. Unfortunately, France has a surplus of young talent on the left wing like Lemar, Greizmann and fellow Bayern teammate Kingsley Coman.
Right-midfield: Anthony Martial (France), Manchester United
Reports suggest that Martial’s attitude in training during the last international break resulted in him not getting the call-up. Deschamps would prefer to work with wonderkids, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele. Martial is, however, on a standby list for France. Martial made 30 league appearances for Manchester United producing 9 goals and 5 assists.
Center-midfield: Radja Nainggolan (Belgium), AS Roma, and Adrien Rabiot (France), Paris Saint-Germain
Probably the most controversial omission of all the rosters is that of Radja Nainggolan. With 31 league appearances, nine assists and four goals, the Belgian is arguably the best midfielder in Serie A. And yet, for petty disciplinary reasons, Roberto Martinez has left him out of the squad in favor of the likes of inconsistent Marouane Fellaini. While Nainggolan isn’t the best player of “the golden generation”, he is a huge talent within it. This snub could cost Belgium as his inclusion would only help the team.
Again, France leaves out another valuable player. Must be nice having all this talent to choose from, eh Deschamps? The 23-year-old was in the PSG lineup constantly, making 32 league appearances. Rabiot actually recently asked to be taken off the standby list as he felt it insulting to not be on the 23-man roster. Can’t say he’s short on confidence.
Strikers: Mauro Icardi (Argentina), Inter Milan, and Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden), LA Galaxy
It must be hard living in this era of forwards that Argentina has. Once again, Icardi has been snubbed by a coach in favor of Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and some guy named Lionel Messi. With 29 Serie A goals in 34 appearances to his name, Sampaoli decided club teammates Dybala (22 Serie A goals) and Higuain (16 Serie A goals) were a better fit for how he wanted his side to play in Russia. Even if that were the case, Higuain has had his chances with the national team and hasn’t shown up in the big games. I think it is criminal that Icardi has not been given his chance on the world stage.
The big Swede wanted to un-retire from international football in order to make his first World Cup appearance, but was denied by the Swedish FA and coach. Zlatan did not participate in qualifying so rather than upset the balance and chemistry of the team that got to the World Cup, the coach and FA decided against it. While the neutral fan will be saddened that this World Cup will be without Zlatan, the locker room will have the confidence of the manager.
While the following players may not be the only players missing from the 23-man rosters, these players I feel deserve a mention due to name, reputation or merit:
Mateo Mussachio (Argentina), AC Milan
Kingsley Coman (France), FC Bayern Munich
Javier Pastore (Argentina), Paris Saint-Germain
Alexandre Lacazette (France), Arsenal
Karim Benzema (France), Real Madrid
Fabinho (Brazil), AS Monaco
Joe Hart (England), West Ham United