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FIFA World Cup

The Analyst: World Cup Absent XI

There are those players that will miss the World Cup this month because of their team’s inability to qualify. PSG’s Gianluigi Donnarumma and Marco Veratti will be absent along with the rest of Italy’s talented squad. No Norway means no Martin Odegaard or Erling Haaland. Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez will also have to sit this World Cup out after Egypt and Algeria failed to qualify.

But then there are those players who will cruelly be absent through injury. The winter organising of the World Cup has necessitated a relentless domestic schedule. Among other things, this has seen the Champions League group stage crammed into two months rather than three, and while injuries are part and parcel of the game, it is hard to believe the condensed schedule has not added to the litany of recent injuries.

Such is the star quality of those missing with injury that we’re able to compile a pretty strong starting XI of those missing.

Mike Maignan  Goalkeeper  AC Milan and France

After excelling for Lille in Ligue 1, Mike Maignan got his big move to AC Milan in 2021. He continued his sparkling form last season, preventing 4.6 goals in 2021-22, with only Inter’s Samir Handanović stopping more (4.9). The Milan goalkeeper has been out since September with a calf injury and is not yet back to 100%.

Ben Chilwell  Left-back  Chelsea and England

Ben Chilwell will miss the 2022 World Cup after suffering a significant hamstring injury in Chelsea’s win over Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League. It was a brutal blow for the defender, who missed the majority of last season with an ACL injury. Chilwell will be sorely missed in Qatar, as he leaves England’s options on the left side of the defence a little limited.

Boubacar Kamara — Centre-back — Aston Villa and France

Two of Aston Villa’s biggest signings last summer have hardly played with Boubacar Kamara featuring in just eight games before a knee injury in September. Brazil’s Diego Carlos, who will also miss the World Cup with an Achilles rupture, is the other.

The 22-year-old can play in central midfield, a place where France are suffering as well, but he can also play as a central defender.

Miles Robinson — Centre-back — Atlanta United and USA

When Miles Robinson ruptured his Achilles tendon in the middle of his MLS season, USA coach Gregg Berhalter suddenly had a massive headache about how to replace him. With fellow defender Chris Richards unable to get healthy in time, it’s still a dilemma that has yet to be resolved as we enter the World Cup. The 25-year-old played a key role in the USMNT’s successful 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign, and has been ever-present in the side since 2019.

Reece James — Right-back — Chelsea and England

Reece James joins fellow club team-mate Chilwell in our injured XI, which now boasts a hell of a full-back partnership.

Back in the real world, from a position of great depth, England may suddenly have a right-back problem. Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has not enjoyed the best start to his season with Liverpool and has struggled defensively at times, is clearly not Southgate’s favourite, while Kyle Walker has only just recovered from injury to make the squad. It is good news therefore that Kieran Trippier, one of England’s heroes during their run to the World Cup semi-final four years ago, comes into the tournament in excellent form.

N’Golo Kante — Centre-midfield — Chelsea and England

Kante has only played twice this season for Chelsea. The defensive midfielder is widely considered the best in his position in the world and is the platform upon which both Chelsea and France build. He was forced to undergo surgery for a hamstring injury that ruled him out for four months back in August, leaving him no time to regain fitness in time for the World Cup. He will be the engine in our midfield.

Paul Pogba — Centre-midfield — Juventus and France

France will be missing the second of their 2018 World Cup-winning midfield partnership with Paul Pogba also absent with a knee injury.

Pogba and Kante’s record together for France is absolutely fearsome. Not only is France’s win % far higher when both appear for Les Bleus (71% vs. 57%) but when the pair start together (31 games: W22 D9), France have never lost.

Diogo Jota — Attacking midfield — Liverpool and Portugal

Jota is a huge loss for Fernando Santos. He is an energetic attacker who changes both Liverpool and Portugal’s forward line when he plays. The 25-year-old played in eight games this season and contributed five assists during that time but was stretchered off against Manchester City with a calf injury in August. His absence will be sorely felt in an attack that might have to compensate defensively for Ronaldo.

Philippe Coutinho — Attacking midfield — Aston Villa and Brazil

Philippe Coutinho’s admittedly slim hopes of representing Brazil at the World Cup were ruled out after he suffered a quad injury in training for Aston Villa last week. The playmaker was already struggling to make the squad due to a loss of form and lack of regular action, but he does provide some star quality in our XI.

Marco Reus — Attacking midfield — Borussia Dortmund and Germany

Poor old Marco Reus can’t stay healthy. The ankle injury that has been bothering him for the past couple of months has proved to be too serious to overcome in time to be fit. It will be the second World Cup Reus misses through injury, after being absent in Germany’s triumphant 2014 campaign.

Timo Werner — Striker — RB Leipzig and Germany

Werner is back in the goals after a torrid time at Chelsea. He’s scored nine goals with three assists this season with RB Leipzig in 16 games but is officially out of the World Cup with an ankle injury. The speedster will lead our line.

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