Predicting 10 Of The Biggest World Cup Snubs
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This week serves as the final international break before clubs must release players to their national teams just one week before the World Cup begins, so the latest squad selections should be huge indicators of the final 26-man rosters for the competing nations.
However, a look at the current teams indicates that this won't be a traditional World Cup of blockbuster snubs, but rather an exploration of player pools in an attritional battle against lingering muscle strains.
Traditionally, the European season ends in early May and there's a month before the World Cup begins in mid-June. Only those dealing with serious injuries miss the tournament, and when the world's top sides have full-strength player pools to choose from, this is when the controversial omissions go down. But the 2022 event will function much like this international window, and it's clear the biggest decisions managers will make this time around are with regards to players who are dealing with minor injury issues.
Take defending world champion France for example. Didier Deschamps' side for its upcoming Nations League matches is almost unrecognizable from the one that triumphed in Russia. The players currently dealing with injuries and not involved: Captain Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kanté, Karim Benzema, Kingsley Coman, Théo Hernandez, Lucas Digne, Adrien Rabiot, Presnel Kimpembe, Ibrahima Konaté and Boubacar Kamara.
If we were seven days out from the start of the World Cup, Les Bleus would be in trouble.
Having said that, the current climate makes some of the present snubs extremely conspicuous. Here are some of the biggest names that aren't involved with their national sides this window despite being healthy and available for a call-up.
Potential 2022 World Cup Snubs
Jordan Pefok | USMNT
Union Berlin is the surprise leader of the Bundesliga after seven games, and Pefok has been a catalyst with three goals and two assists in his first six league appearances with the club. But the 26-year-old was overlooked by U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter with the three striker spots going to Josh Sargent, Jesús Ferreira and Ricardo Pepi.
"We're pretty confident we know Jordan's profile, we know what he can do," Berhalter explained. "And we didn't feel like we needed to see him in this camp to determine whether he could be on the roster or not."
A glass half-full Pefok fan could construe that in a positive light, but it's a strange message when you consider the fact that Berhalter says he's seen enough, but Pefok has fewer caps than those other forwards; he's only started two games for the U.S.
That's not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Carlos Acevedo | Mexico
Appearing in the MLS All-Star Game and then getting dropped from your national team — it's unheard of. And apparently a goalkeeper scoring a last second equalizer isn't impressive anymore either.
WOWWWW!!! Carlos Acevedo scored a last minute goal to tie the game 3-3. pic.twitter.com/GOtLFVh0eT— Sorare Liga MX (@SorareLigaMX) September 11, 2022
There's no goalkeeping union as stubborn as El Tri's, and it looks like the 26-year-old Acevedo (long tagged Mexico's No. 1 of the future) will be left at home in favor of Memo Ochoa (age 37), Alfredo Talavera (age 40) and Rodolfo Cota (age 35).
Marcus Rashford | England
After back-to-back seasons of 20+ goals across all competitions for Manchester United and an increased role in the England setup after impressive performances during the 2019 Nations League and Euro 2020 qualifying, Rashford's form plummeted last season with five goals in 32 appearances for United and one goal in his last seven caps for the Three Lions.
However, Rashford looks rejuvenated at Old Trafford under Erik ten Hag with three goals and two assists in six Premier League games, but England boss Gareth Southgate has kept the 24-year-old frozen out while the likes of Tammy Abraham, Jarrod Bowen and Ivan Toney get a chance to impress.
Thiago Alcântara | Spain
Luis Enrique has got everything a Luis Enrique could want in midfield: his beloved Barça boys (Sergio Busquets, Gavi, Pedri), the profound versatility of all-action Koke, Busquets' heir Rodri and the potential for width through Marcos Llorente and Carlos Soler.
And so the absolutely sublime Thiago — who's been struggling with a hamstring injury but returned against Ajax in the UCL — is suddenly surplus to requirements. Only La Furia Roja can boast such an extravagance of midfield riches, but that's how they're built in the quarries of Spain.
Lucas Martínez Quarta | Argentina
Martínez Quarta established himself as one of Argentina's best young center backs when anchoring River Plate's defense on its run to the 2018 Libertadores, and "El Chino" was part of the 2021 Copa América winning team, although that's where Cristian Romero and Germán Pezzella emerged as contenders to be paired alongside Nicolás Otamendi.
The 26-year-old commands a starting place at Fiorentina, but Lionel Scaloni has called up Otamendi, Pezzella, Romero, Lisandro Martínez and Nehuén Pérez as options in the heart of La Albiceleste's defense.
It just goes to show how different this 2022 Argentina is from the 2018 side.
Gabriel Jesus | Brazil
Jesus has found a home at Arsenal and a manager in Mikel Arteta who truly believes in his qualities as a No. 9, but his situation with Brazil under Tite is more akin to the 25-year-old's time at Manchester City with Pep Guardiola.
Jesus went 19 matches without scoring for Brazil — a streak that started Oct. 10, 2019, and ended on June 2, 2022 — but he was frequently playing right wing over that spell with Neymar, Richarlison, Roberto Firmino and Gabriel Barbosa all pushing him wide.
This time, Tite has gone as far as including Atlético's industrious Matheus Cunha and Flamengo's Pedro over Jesus.
Christian Benteke | Belgium
Benteke experienced a slow start to his MLS career after joining Wooden Spoon champion-elect D.C. United, although he did get his first goal on Sep. 18 against Inter Miami.
Despite injuries to Romelu Lukaku and Divock Origi, Roberto Martínez clearly wants some new blood up top and has included 21-year-old Milan talent Charles De Ketelaere and 22-year-old Loïs Openda, who's enjoyed a good start in Ligue 1 with Lens.
Time might be up for the 31-year-old Benteke, who's scored 18 goals in 45 caps for Belgium.
Fábio Carvalho | Portugal
Liverpool has experienced a rough start to the Premier League, but one of the few bright lights has been the play of the 20-year-old Portuguese sensation Carvalho. He showed his promise last year by reaching double digits in the Championship with Fulham, and now Carvalho has scored two goals in the EPL.
However, he's yet to make his debut with Portugal's senior side, and this has the feeling of a World Cup too soon for Carvalho with Diogo Jota and João Félix the preferred options at secondary striker alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mats Hummels | Germany
The 33-year-old has been an ever-present with Germany at major competitions, winning the World Cup in 2014, starting two games in 2018, appearing at three European Championships and collecting 76 caps overall.
He's been a starter at Borussia Dortmund the last four years and earned an international recall in 2021 after being frozen out two years, but it looks like Hansi Flick has drawn the curtain on Hummels with Antonio Rüdiger, Niklas Süle, Thilo Kehrer, Matthias Ginter and the injured Lukas Klostermann seemingly above him in the pecking order.
Clément Lenglet | France
Lenglet looked like France's future at the back in 2019 when Barcelona triggered his Sevilla release clause for $35 million and the defender made seven appearances for his national team over the calendar year, but he gradually lost favor at the Camp Nou while becoming synonymous with some of the club's heaviest UCL defeats ever.
Xavi and the board wanted him gone, and he's joined Tottenham on loan for the season. He's beginning to make his way into Antonio Conte's starting XI, but Deschamps has turned to a bevy of young talent (Jules Koundé, Dayot Upamecano, William Saliba and uncapped 21-year-old Monaco prodigy Benoît Badiashile) at the heart of defense.