- World Cup
Players who will miss the World CupNovember 20, 2013
With the 2014 World Cup field almost set - at the time of writing, Uruguay and Jordan were still fighting for the final spot - ESPN FC has compiled a strong starting XI of footballers who will not be in Brazil next summer. At least not as players.
Goalkeeper - Petr Cech, Czech Republic
Cech played in every minute of his nation's group stage qualifying campaign but was unable to secure their place in Brazil. The Chelsea shot-stopper conceded nine goals in ten matches as his side finished third in the group, a point behind Denmark and seven behind leaders Italy.
Right-back - Branislav Ivanovic, Serbia
Another Chelsea man, another disappointing World Cup quest. He played all 10 of his nation's group games, scoring once, as four away defeats cost a strong side a chance to shock the world next summer.
Centre-back - Neven Subotic, Serbia
His disappointment at Serbia's struggle to finish higher than third in Group A was compounded after it was recently confirmed he will miss the rest of the season with a serious knee injury. The Borussia Dortmund man played in just four of his nation's 10 group games.
Centre-back - Daniel Agger, Denmark
The Liverpool man may have found it hard to crack the Reds' lineup this season but was his usual mainstay with Denmark, playing nine qualifiers and tallying four goals. Ultimately, the Danes' lack of firepower meant that their 16-point haul wasn't enough to reach the playoffs; Agger led his nation in scoring. What more can one man do?
Left-back - Daniel Alaba, Austria
Alaba has been unable to replicate the success he has enjoyed with his club Bayern Munich at the international level. Despite his six goals, Austria fell short in their quest to reach Brazil next year after finishing third in Group C, three points behind Sweden, who went on to lose to Portugal in the play-offs.
Midfielder - Marek Hamsik, Slovakia
There would be no repeat of 2010's World Cup heroics this time around as Slovakia fell disappointingly short, finishing third in Group G with 13 points, nowhere near group-topping Bosnia-Herzegovina or play-off-winning Greece (both on 25 pts). Scoring just 11 goals in 10 games against the likes of Lithuania and Liechtenstein was the root of their downfall, with Hamsik's two goals in 686 minutes far below the high standards he sets weekly at Napoli.
Midfielder - Arda Turan, Turkey
A fourth-place finish in Group D behind the Netherlands, Romania and Hungary was a poor return for Fatih Terim's side, especially as they sat in a playoff spot prior to the final group game before losing 2-0 to the Dutch. As the side's playmaker, Atletico Madrid's Turan scored once in his nine group appearances.
Midfielder - Henrik Mkhitaryan, Armenia
The Borussia Dortmund maestro has impressed in the Bundesliga this season but remains hampered at the international level by one of Europe's weaker teams. Mkhitaryan played every minute of qualifying and inspired impressive results like the 2-2 draw against Italy in Naples, but it wasn't enough.
Forward - Robert Lewandowski, Poland
A Polish side in transition couldn't keep pace in Group H, starting strong but ultimately finishing fourth on 13 points with defeats to Ukraine and England in their final two group games leaving observers wondering what could have been. The Dortmund striker's return was more modest than at the club level, notching three goals in nine qualifying games (809 minutes).
Forward - Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden
The PSG, all-world star did his best in an epic playoff battle with Portugal before succumbing to the singular genius of Cristiano Ronaldo. What more could his nation ask of him? Finishing second to a near-perfect German side in Group C, Ibra scored 8 of his side's 21 goals in qualifying, setting up countless others. He will miss out but with his head held high.
Forward - Gareth Bale, Wales
The Real Madrid star isn't the first Welsh legend to miss a World Cup - having only been once in 1958, the likes of Ryan Giggs, Mark Hughes, Neville Southall, John Toshack and Gary Speed never saw one either - but fans and pundits alike would have expected a better return than fifth place in Group A this time around. Bale led his team in scoring (four goals) despite playing just seven games, insufficient to avoid finishing behind Belgium, Croatia, Serbia and even Scotland.
Manager - Lars Lagerback, Iceland
The Swede's work with Iceland is nothing short of remarkable, taking one of the smallest footballing nations and transforming them into a slick, durable side led by the likes of Spurs' Gylfi Sigurdsson and young Ajax frontman Kolbeinn Sigthorsson. Profiting from a generous group draw that saw them finish second place behind Switzerland and ahead of Slovenia, Norway, Albania and Cyprus, his side just wasn't strong enough to outlast the dangerous Croatians in a playoff. See you in 2016, Lars?
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