Which Stars Did Not Get Selected for the 2022 FIFA World Cup? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
All 32 squads have now been announced.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is getting closer and closer to the Nov. 20 start date, and 832 players received one of the greatest international call-ups of their respective careers.
However, some of the world’s best footballers were not included in that 32-team, 832-player field, and it will be interesting to see games unfold without their presence.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest stars who are not playing in Qatar:
Mats Hummels, Germany
After appearing in the 2014 and 2018 World Cups and being a vital piece to its 2014 title run, Borussia Dortmund center-back Mats Hummels did not make Hansi Flick’s 26-man Germany squad. The 33-year-old is an important piece in Edin Terzić’s Dortmund team that made it to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 this season, and his resume with both Dortmund and Bayern Munich includes 14 domestic trophies.
His exclusion came as a surprise considering Thilo Kehrer (West Ham) and Armel Bella-Kotchap (Southampton) were called up. Hummels is still a solid ball-playing center back despite losing pace in his legs, and his experience in the dressing room and on the pitch could come back to haunt Germany considering Antonio Rüdiger (Real Madrid) is the only prime world-class option in the backline.
Thiago Alcantara, Spain
One of the world’s best all-around midfielders was omitted from Luis Enrique’s Spain squad. Thiago Alcantara, often referred to by just his first name, is a 31-year-old center midfielder for Liverpool and plays an indispensable role in Jürgen Klopp’s side. His progressive passing, press resistance, switch-up play, dribbling, manipulation, tackling and interceptions are simply elite, and it’s not surprising that his injury issues at the start of the campaign contributed to Liverpool’s sluggish start on the English Premier League table. Just to highlight this further, Thiago so far this year ranks in the 99th percentile in progressive passing (7.5 per game) in Europe’s top-five leagues, the Champions League and Europa League, according to Football Reference.
He hasn’t featured in Spain’s squads too often (46 caps since 2011), but he’s playing tremendous football at the club level and deserved a spot in the La Furia Roja side. The 18-year-old Gavi, a midfielder for Barcelona who did take home this year’s Kopa Trophy, is the spot Thiago should have.
David de Gea, Spain
Spain had multiple questionable decisions with its squad, and David de Gea comes in next. The 32-year-old Manchester United goalkeeper didn’t even make the nation’s 55-man preliminary roster for the tournament, so his omission was known for a while. And in the end, it still doesn’t make much sense.
He was the country’s starting goalie in the 2018 World Cup, but he hasn’t featured as a starter much since then after a dip in form at the club level. However, he’s fifth in the EPL with five clean sheets, and while that’s not the ultimate litmus test in analyzing a goalie’s qualities, de Gea also has better save percentages than Unai Simón (Athletic Club) and Robert Sánchez (Brighton), two players that were called up over him. He’s not as great with his feet when trying to play out from the back or to win second balls past midfield, but his shot-stopping qualities in pivotal situations can’t be denied.
Fikayo Tomori, England
England may have one of the best overall squads heading into the tournament, but its primary weakness definitely lies in defense. However, Fikayo Tomori, a 24-year-old center back at AC Milan, did not get a call-up from manager Gareth Southgate. The Chelsea youth academy graduate is one of the rising players in the game at that position and was influential in Milan’s Serie A title win last season.
But even though he hasn’t been called up as much under Southgate, he’s a better option to have than some others who were selected. Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Eric Dier (Tottenham) and Conor Coady (Everton) are all leaky in the backline and aren’t as good on the left, which is where Tomori plays. Maybe it was the Premier League bias coming into play, as Southgate only called up one non-EPL player (Jude Bellingham, Dortmund), but when one of Maguire, Dier or Coady make a critical error, Tomori’s name will likely come up as a reminder.
Gabriel Maghalães, Brazil
Brazil’s squad is known for its bevy of attacking-minded players, but it also has some of the game’s best center backs on defense. Thiago Silva (Chelsea) and Marquinhos (PSG) have been the two starters in the back four for a while, with Éder Militão (Real Madrid) serving as a world-class rotational option and also possessing the speed to play as a right back. However, manager Tite drew head scratches when he went with Bremer (Juventus) as his fourth-choice CB since he doesn’t offer a different profile than the former three.
Gabriel Maghalães, commonly known as Gabriel, has been a revelation in Arsenal’s run to the top of the EPL. As a left-footed center back, Gabriel is exceptional technically, aerially and physically. He operates in one of the highest backlines in Europe – how far the defenders come up the pitch – and also leads all defenders in England in goals scored. His main flaw is that he tends to make a rough mistake on the ball once every few games, but it’s difficult to find many in-form left-footed center backs that offer what Gabriel does.
Ivan Toney, England
England has had a backup striker issue for several years with Harry Kane (Tottenham) typically shouldering the goal-scoring responsibilities, but the 2022 campaign has seen other options emerge. One of them is 26-year-old Ivan Toney, who made Brentford club history by being the first Bee to get called up to England this September, even though he didn’t play in the game. Toney has 10 goals and two assists in 14 league games and has a similar profile to Kane: great ballstriking, poaching inside the box, tall and great aerially, able to win duels in the attacking third and can track back defensively.
An investigation into a recent betting situation involving Toney has clouded his selection decision, but he’s been one of the best in-form strikers this season who could be due for a move to a bigger club sooner rather than later. Callum Wilson (Newcastle), though, is in the squad and is a fine alternative with his club soaring to third place on the league table.
Ryan Gravenberch, Netherlands
Just a few months ago, Ryan Gravenberch was regarded as one of the best up-and-coming center midfielders in the sport. But after joining Bayern Munich from Ajax this past summer, Gravenberch has seen his minutes drop substantially and it resulted in him not making Louis Van Gaal’s 26-man squad.
Netherlands has multiple attacking and holding midfielders – the Ajax trio of Steven Berghuis, Davy Klaassen and Kenneth Taylor and the Atalanta duo of Marten de Roon and Teun Koopmeiners – but Gravenberch offers both as a developing box-to-box option who can create, score and track back defensively. He’s only 20 so there’s still more World Cup opportunities ahead of him, but his absence could be a missed opportunity if the Oranje are in a situation where they need more attacking juice to be supplied from the midfield.
CB Sergio Ramos, Spain – 36-year-old center back who is an icon of the sport and now plays with PSG in France.
CB Sven Botman, Netherlands – 22-year-old center back who has been a key part of Newcastle’s ascension but plays for a country with multiple star options at his position.
CM Renato Sanches, Portugal – 25-year-old former Golden Boy who has seen his career trajectory oscillate at the club level, but he’s been great every time Portugal has needed him.
LW Ante Rebić, Croatia – played heavy minutes in Croatia’s 2018 World Cup Final run and has three goals and two assists in 10 Serie A games with AC Milan.
LB Ferland Mendy, France – the only Real Madrid starter who was eligible but did not get called up as the 27-year-old has struggled to help the attack and hasn’t been as sharp defensively.