Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the world and the pinnacle in every player’s career is to represent his/her country at the World Cup. As Russia opens her doors to the stars and fans alike, some key names that have given us beautiful memories over the years will not grace our screens this time around.
- Memphis Depay (Netherlands)
It is almost impossible to imagine a World Cup without the Dutch. Depay has revived his career with French side Lyon his after a disappointing spell at Manchester United. Ever since his 2017 move to France, he has netted 21 goals in 50 matches for his club. In the 2014 World Cup, he was one of three players shortlisted for the young player award after scoring two goals.
The speedster known for his impeccable dribbling and shooting skills is a gem that we will not get to see when the tourney kicks off in June. Successive defeats to Luxembourg and Bulgaria in the qualifiers proved costly as Netherlands narrowly missed the playoffs spot due to an inferior goal difference in Group A. The Dutch and second placed Sweden were locked on 19 points.
- Alexis Sanchez (Chile)
Arguably the biggest name that will miss this year’s tournament is the Manchester United forward. Talk this season has revolved around his January transfer move to the Red Devils from rivals Arsenal and the heightened criticism for not making that much of an impact since the transfer. The Chilean maestro has 119 senior caps under his belt and spearheaded his country front line in their back to back Copa America victories (2015 and 2016).
Chile failed to qualify from the South American qualifiers after falling 0-3 to Brazil in the final round of matches in what was tight race for qualification slots.
- Gareth Bale (Wales)
British’s most expensive player will be a big miss in Russia given that he is the leader of the new crop of Welsh players coming through. After being a key component of Wales’ fairy-tale qualification to the 2016 European Championship, he has faced a series of injuries that has hindered him from replicating the kind of form that saw him electrify the Premier League and La Liga. After reaching the Euro 2016 semi-final, it was widely expected that they would at least make the cut from Group D in the qualifiers. However, the team finished third behind Republic of Ireland and will be on the sidelines.
Even in their absence, we are still guaranteed some mouth-watering action from the array of stars that will grace the occasion. It is never a dull moment when the best players in the world line up to compete for their respective countries with pride on line and of course, love for the beautiful game.
“Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”