After yesterday’s round-up of goalkeepers and defenders, I now present you with the cream of midfield and striking talent missing out on this summer’s World Cup.
France coach Raymond Domenech has been known for his unpredictable, often baffling decisions. Among those this summer has to be the omission of Arsenal wide-man Nasri. Admittedly the former Marseille midfielder has been in erratic form this season, but when he has been good he has been fantastic. This goal in the Champions League second round shows just the kind of creativity the French squad will be missing.
Named in the Premier League team of the year and nominated for young player of the tournament at the last World Cup, Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia will be one of the names missing from South Africa. His country Ecuador put in a dismal showing in the South American qualifying section as hey finished sixth, one point behind Uruguay.
There are some players with undoubtable talent, but whose off-the-field antics make it impossible for a coach to pick them. Brazil coach Dunga has based his selection on a desire to ensure team morale stays high, and for him this means excluding the Milan star. Unfortunately for Ronaldinho, his party animal reputation has overshadowed his unique talent, and only the results will show whether his exclusion is a mistake.
12 months ago Albert Riera was in the form of his life. The former Espanyol winger had taken to his new club Liverpool like a duck to water, and was an integral part of their title challenge. But now, following a public spat with manager Rafa Benitez, Riera has been frozen out at Anfield. With a January move to Russia falling through, Riera lost his last chance of forcing his way back into the international reckoning.
When Owen Hargreaves returned to the Manchester United team after over a year on the sidelines, some observers expected him to waltz straight into the England squad. He was at least expected to make the provisional 30-man selection. But Fabio Capello decided he could not rely on the fitness of someone who has only played four games for his club in two seasons.
Surely the most mystifying decision of the World Cup so far is Diego Maradona’s decision to leave Cambiasso out of his Argentina squad. The Inter midfielder has starred for his club in their run to the Champions League final, and was responsible for one of the goals of the tournament four years ago. He may not catch the eye in the same way as the likes of Messi and Veron, but he will be sorely missed.
A midfield genius and the mastermind behind Werder Bremen‘s run to last season’s UEFA Cup final, Diego has performed admirably since his multi-million pound move to Juventus. Yet he has missed out on a place in the national side while lesser names like Kleberson and Julio Baptista are included. The mind boggles.
Central midfield – Torsten Frings (Germany)
Torsten Frings was one of the unsung heroes of Germany’s surprise run to the World Cup semi-finals four years ago, scoring a cracking goal against Costa Rica along the way. But he didn’t take kindly to new manager Joachim Low’s decision to bring younger players into the international set-up at the expense of old hands like the Werder Bremen midfielder.
There is no doubting the talent of Ibrahimovic – Barcelona don’t hand out £35 million and Samuel Eto’o for just anyone. But the talented striker has often failed to perform to the best of his abilities at the highest stage. In a tough qualifying group, his goals were not quite enough to see Sweden overcome Denmark and Portugal, and he will be sat at home, thinking about what might have been.
As one of the top talents in world football, Pato looked a shoo-in for the Brazil squad. He has netted 14 goals in 25 appearances for Milan this season, yet misses out to the out-of-form Wolfsburg frontman Grafite in the final reckoning. Perhaps Dunga felt he could not include the young striker and justify omitting his good friend and club team-mate Ronaldinho.
This time last year Karim Benzema was one of the most sought-after prospects on the world stage. When he moved from Lyon to Real Madrid for a fee of over £30 million, he had established himself as a regular in the French squad. 12 months later, after a dismal season on and off the field, Raymond Domenech shocked the French public by leaving Benzema out of the French squad.
When he watches his Barcelona team-mates in action in South Africa, Bojan Krkic may well feel he made the wrong choice in betraying his home nation of Serbia to play for Spain. Despite a disappointing end to the season at club level, the baby-faced striker would surely still have walked into any other World Cup squad, but even Fernando Torres’ injury concerns haven’t helped Bojan sneak into the squad.