Best Players Ruining Their World Cup Hopes

Jadon Sancho, Manchester United winger

With the World Cup in Qatar just two months away from kick off, many players are striving to hit top form to ensure they’re picked for their nation’s tournament squad. However, there are also players that currently face missing out on the biggest month in world football. Here are the 8 best players ruining their hopes for making the World Cup in November.

8.        Memphis Depay

Barcelona forward Memphis Depay
Barcelona forward Memphis Depay

The Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal, has made it publicly known that he only selects players for the national team that play regularly for their clubs.

If there is to be an exception, however, it will most probably be for Memphis Depay. The Dutchman has only featured for 116 minutes in La Liga for Xavi’s Barcelona this season after a summer where he was continuously linked with a move away.

Depay has scored 42 goals for his country in 80 appearances. A decent record and by far their most prolific active player. The former Man United forward will need to force his way back into Xavi’s plans if he is to be a nailed-on starter for Holland in Qatar.

7.        Kalvin Phillips

Kalvin Phillips, Manchester City Midfielder
Kalvin Phillips, Manchester City Midfielder

New Manchester City signing Kalvin Phillips has had a meteoric rise to the top of English football in recent years.

During his time with Leeds, Phillips became a fan’s favourite for his class performances from the middle of the park. Phillips even went on to make his debut for England whilst still playing in the Championship in 2020.

Since then, Phillips has gone on to win England’s player of the year in 2021, after impressive shifts in the Euros and throughout the year.

The English International signed for Manchester City in the transfer window just passed for a reported fee of £42million. However, his preferred position is currently being occupied by Rodri, who can’t be dropped at the moment. This has condemned Phillips to the bench for the majority of the start of this season, before recently picking up an injury.

Phillips will need to recover fitness and form quickly if he’s to carry on being one of the first names on Gareth Southgate’s team sheet.

6.        N’Golo Kante

N’Golo Kante, Chelsea Midfielder
N’Golo Kante, Chelsea Midfielder

Chelsea midfielder and 2018 World Cup winner N’Golo Kante has been one of the best midfielders in Europe over the last decade. The French International has won everything in the game, from the FA Cup to the Champions League,  the Premier League to the World Cup, the Nations League to the Europa League. Kante has won it all.

However, injury issues are what threatens Kante’s spot in France’s starting XI. The former Leicester player only started 21 league games for Chelsea last season, which was a key factor in Chelsea’s reluctance to offer him a contract that suits Kante’s terms.

This season, Kante has only played 175 minutes of football due to persistent injury issues. The two-time Premier League winner’s high-energy style is without doubt taking its toll on his body, resulting in Kante slowing down.

The Rise of Aurelien Tchouaméni in France’s setup will make it easier to exclude Kante from the starting XI, and if his injury issues persist, perhaps the squad entirely.

5.        Marco Reus

Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund Captain
Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund Captain

Marco Reus is a player whose career has been plagued by injuries. The German missed the 2014 World Cup, Euro 2016 and Euro 2020 through injury, with the triumph in 2014 being the bitter pill to swallow, considering Reus was almost certain to start for Die Mannschaft.

Despite picking up a knock in Dortmund’s victory over Schalke on the weekend, it’s not Reus’ injury issues that put him at risk of missing out on the Germany squad for Qatar.

Since taking charge of the German national team in 2021, Hansi Flick has only utilized Reus for less than 250 minutes of football. The former Bayern manager has preferred Thomas Müller, Jamal Musiala, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sané and Timo Werner over the Dortmund captain in attack.

Reus faces a tough task convincing Flick to select him over the rest of the dearth of German attacking talent.

4.        Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba, Juventus Midfielder
Paul Pogba, Juventus Midfielder

Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba rejoined the Old Lady on a free transfer, six years after leaving the club for a then-world record £90million fee.

Pogba had a difficult time at Manchester United, failing to fully justify his price tag after years of inconsistent performances. However, his quality remains undisputed and is especially evident for his national side, next to N’Golo Kante.

The 2018 World Cup winner would be a shoe-in for the France National team going to Qatar. But, an injury sustained to his knee during training prior to the season starting, has ruled him out of Juventus’ fixtures thus far.

Pogba seems to be losing the race to fitness ahead of the World Cup, as it was decided earlier in the month that he would need surgery to repair damage caused by the injury. This came after Pogba pulled up in training following his initial decision to not undergo surgery in the hope of making Le Bleu’s squad for Qatar.

However, the decision to go against the initial plan serves as an indication of how serious the injury is, and how doubtful Pogba’s chances are for the World Cup in November.

3.        Harry Maguire

Manchester United Captain Harry Maguire
Manchester United Captain Harry Maguire

Following Manchester United’s opening two defeats this season, captain Harry Maguire has been benched by Erik Ten Hag in favour of a Varane-Martinez centre-back partnership.

As a result, Maguire has found his gametime very limited this season, only playing 280 minutes of football across Man United’s 8 games in all competitions.

Maguire is a player England boss Gareth Southgate has a lot of trust in, and understandably so. The former Leicester defender has been a rock for England in a back-three system. The Three Lions’ performances in Euro 2020 went up a level after Maguire’s inclusion in the starting XI from the third group stage game onwards, after initially nursing an injury. He was then named in the Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament.

However, his form this season, as well as the rise of Fikayo Tomori, Ben White, Marc Guehi and Max Kilman, have made the choice to exclude Maguire from the squad a bit easier.

2.        Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho, Manchester United winger
Jadon Sancho, Manchester United winger

Jadon Sancho has found it tough adapting to life in England after his £72million move to Manchester United last summer. So far, Sancho has only bagged a disappointing 8 goals and 3 assists in the red of United. The forward began this season relatively well, scoring 3 goals already. However, the former Dortmund player will need to step up his game even more if he’s to be on the plane to Qatar in November, especially since he was already omitted from Southgate’s squad for the upcoming international fixtures.

During his time in Germany, Sancho made a name for himself as one of the hottest young talents in world football, scoring 50 goals and laying on 64 assists in less than 140 games for the Black and Yellow.

Unfortunately for Sancho, and football fans in general, the former Man City academy prospect is yet to translate his Bundesliga form over to English shores. With the amount of attacking talent Southgate has at his disposal in Harry Kane, Tammy Abraham, Jack Grealish, Ivan Toney, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka, Sancho is at real risk of missing out on Qatar 2022.

  1.       Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool Right-back
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool Right-back

Trent Alexander-Arnold is undoubtedly one of the best fullbacks in world football. He has revolutionized the way fullbacks play due to his exploits in Jürgen Klopp’s system. The 23-year-old has appeared for Liverpool 235 times, scoring 14 goals and laying off an astonishing 62 assists from right-back.

In fact, since the 2012/2013 season, only Jordi Alba (58) and Andy Robertson (48) have more league assists than Trent’s 45. The Liverpool right-back was only 12-years-old in 2012/2013, evident to how fast he’s racking up assists.

However, Trent’s place in Qatar 2022 is under threat for two reasons. The first being the abundance of talent England have at right-back, including the likes Reece James, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker. Not to mention others who are not currently involved in the national team setup, such as Tino Livramento, Tariq Lamptey and Kyle Walker-Peters. Given the back-three system Southgate likes to deploy, Trent’s skillset may not be as effective as it will require him to be creative further up the pitch in the right-wingback position, where there is less time and space on the ball.

The second reason for Trent’s potential exclusion is his form at the start of the current campaign. Liverpool’s defence look like a shadow of their former selves, with teams finding it a lot easier to break them down.

Trent has been ripped by media, pundits and fans for his lackluster attitude when defending, citing constant jogging back and a lack of effort as a reason for the Red’s lack of defensive structure.

Of all England’s other right-back options, Trent is probably the weakest defensively. Given Southgate’s antagonistic style of ‘defend first,’ Trent may not be the best option to implement his idea.