Firmino, De Gea, Thiago & the biggest 2022 World Cup squad selection snubs
The 32 nations competing in this year’s World Cup have starting submitting their squad lists ahead of Monday’s deadline, and there have already been some notable omissions.
Indeed, some World Cup winners will be watching at home, while a few talented youngsters have paid a heavy price for joining the wrong club at the wrong time.
Below, GOAL runs through the most high-profile players to have been overlooked for Qatar 2022…
Tammy Abraham lost his goalscoring touch at precisely the wrong time.
The Roma striker enjoyed a stunning debut season at the Stadio Olimpico, scoring 27 times in all competitions as Jose Mourinho’s side won the inaugural UEFA Conference League.
However, it’s been a different story this term, with Abraham going six weeks without a goal at one point.
The former Chelsea striker ended his Serie A drought on the eve of Gareth Southgate’s squad announcement but it was a case of too little, too late, particularly given Callum Wilson’s fine form in the Premier League for Newcastle.
The writing was on the wall for Thiago Alcantara. He’d not played for Spain since Euro 2021. So, Luis Enrique’s decision to leave him out of his squad for Qatar is unsurprising. It’s still shocking, though.
Thiago has had his injury issues this season, as with every season, but he remains one of the finest midfielders in the game, as underlined by the massive difference he makes every single time he sets foot on the pitch for Liverpool. The Reds simply aren’t the same side without him.
Luis Enrique has never quite trusted Thiago, though, so the 31-year-old’s omission was expected. However, it remains impossible to justify given Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets has been included despite his obvious decline over the past year.
David de Gea
David de Gea is not one of the best goalkeepers in the world with the ball at his feet. We all know that. But he’s surely one of Spain’s top three shot-stoppers?
Not according to Luis Enrique, who has selected Unai Simon, David Raya and Robert Sanchez for Qatar. The Spain coach is entitled to argue that De Gea simply doesn’t offer what he wants from his goalkeepers but the Manchester United man will undoubtedly be frustrated by his exclusion, given he’s been back at something resembling his very best in recent weeks.
Ultimately, though, he’s probably paid the price for his propensity for dropping the occasional clanger, as he did at the last World Cup in Russia.
It’s been a rough few months for Ryan Gravenberch.
His summer switch from Ajax to Bayern Munich was meant to be the making of him; instead, his career has stalled.
Indeed, he’s yet to start a single Bundesliga game for the Bavarians, meaning he had no chance of making the Netherlands squad for Qatar.
However, what must really sting for Gravenberch is that his replacement at Ajax, Kenneth Taylor, did make Louis van Gaal’s panel.
Brazil’s decision to overlook Roberto Firmino is just downright bizarre. Firstly, there are few forwards in the world with anything like the same mix of industry and innovation as the Liverpool No.9.
Secondly, a striker often criticised for not being clinical enough has been back among the goals this season.
Indeed, what will really frustrate Firmino, who has already expressed his sadness at missing out on the World Cup, is that less reliable attackers with inferior numbers to him this season have been included.
Mats Hummels says missing out on Germany’s squad for Qatar ranks as one of the “biggest disappointments” of his career, and it’s easy to understand why.
The Borussia Dortmund defender has been in fine form this season, only recently helping to completely nullify Manchester City’s goalscoring phenomenon Erling Haaland in a Champions League game at Signal Iduna Park.
However, while acknowledging the quality of Hummels’ performances, Germany boss Hansi Flick openly admitted that he wanted to go with a younger option and so instead selected Armel Bella-Kotchap, who has just one cap to his name.
One wonders if he will come to regret snubbing a World Cup winner for a 20-year-old who has been carrying a shoulder problem in recent weeks…
In order to force his way into a stacked Brazil squad, Gabriel Magalhaes needed a flawless first half to the season.
Unfortunately, while the centre-back has undeniably played a pivotal role in Arsenal’s surprise ascent to the summit of the Premier League, his campaign has also been punctuated by poor mistakes and untimely lapses in concentration.
Gabriel, then, has been good, but not good enough to earn inclusion in Tite’s Selecao ahead of the likes of Thiago Silva, Eder Militao, Marquinhos and Bremer.
Ferland Mendy looked well-placed at the end of September to make the trip to Qatar, having started both of France’s Nations League games against Austria and Denmark.
However, Mendy didn’t perform particularly impressively against the latter, and while he remains Real Madrid’s first-choice left-back, his form has been patchy of late.
Then there’s the fact that Deschamps now looks set to play with a three-man defence at the World Cup, meaning the wing-back roles will go to players who are as good going forward as they are backward.
Mendy, for all his qualities, has never been a particularly adept attacker, so there was never much chance of him starting ahead of AC Milan’s rampaging full-back Theo Hernandez.
Nonetheless, it’s still something of a minor surprise, at least, that Mendy missed out altogether.
Sergio Ramos was left out of Spain’s squad for Euro 2020 because of an injury-hit season at club level. His absence from the travelling party for Qatar is tougher to explain.
The Real Madrid legend may be 36 now but he has been playing regularly – and consistently – for Paris Saint-Germain this season.
Luis Enrique may feel Spain’s hopes will be better served by younger and more reliable options at centre-back, but while Ramos is renowned for his penchant for picking up cards, he is the ultimate ‘man for the big occasion’ and his undeniably impressive leadership skills may well be missed in Qatar…
The most depressing thing about Jadon Sancho’s omission from the England squad is that everybody saw it coming.
After a dreadfully underwhelming debut season at Manchester United, there was genuine hope that the winger might be reborn under new manager Erik ten Hag.
Sancho looked revitalised during the early weeks of the 2022-23 season, even scoring against Liverpool, but his form nosedived once again, making his England exclusion inevitable.
Consequently, while former Dortmund team-mate Jude Bellingham is likely to be starting in Qatar, Sancho will be watching on TV wondering if he really should have swapped Signal Iduna Park for Old Trafford.
There was always a fear that for all of Fikayo Tomori’s consistently excellent displays for AC Milan over the past year, Southgate would judge him on two games against Chelsea.
And the centre-back had a shocker in that Champions League double-header, being given the run-around at Stamford Bridge before then getting himself sent off at San Siro.
Consequently, Tomori was left out of the England squad for the World Cup, in spite of the fact that he has been playing better, and more regularly, this season than Manchester United captain Harry Maguire, who has spent most of the current campaign on the bench.