20 Players Not in This Week's Squads Who Could Still Go to the World Cup Final
A bout of midweek international fixtures has given national team managers a final chance to assess their potential World Cup squad options—though most bosses have been quick to stress that players not selected this week could still make the plane.
Words of hope, then, for the likes of Spain's Juan Mata and several others, who would hope to be involved in the tournament in Brazil over the summer but were left out this time around.
Here are 20 such players who have a lot to do over the next three months to show that they need to be back in their nations' squads and heading to South America in June.
Juan Mata, Spain
We'll start with Mata.
The attacker endured a tough first half-season with Chelsea, out of favour under Jose Mourinho and not getting the game time he needs to earn a place in maybe the most competitive national team squad around.
A move to Manchester United in January should help with game time, but in a team struggling for form, he will have to be an absolute standout to get back in. Mata has the quality, but he has a lot of competition for a place with Spain.
Alberto Aquilani, Italy
Italian central midfielder Alberto Aquilani has missed the last couple of squads, though he did play a part in Italy's qualification campaign for the World Cup.
Competition is certainly fierce for the playmaker position in the squad, but Aquilani has been in good form for Fiorentina and will still believe he can beat out others to make the plane.
With 33 caps, he has a fair amount of experience with his nation, but he will need to impress if he is to make an impact in Brazil.
DaMarcus Beasley, United States
American centurion DaMarcus Beasley seemed to have revived his international career during 2013 after playing a big role in both qualifiers and the Gold Cup. But after playing in the last friendly of 2013 against Austria, he has been left out of the latest squad.
Having already suffered one relatively long period out of the international scene, the winger-turned-left-back will be anxious not to see the same fate occur just months before the World Cup.
Julian Draxler, Germany
There's not too much to read into Schalke attacker Julian Draxler not being in the Germany squad this week; after all, the likes of Thomas Muller and Marco Reus were also not involved.
The problem is, those players—and others who were in the squad this time—will be going for the same attacking midfield role at Draxler, and Germany coach Joachim Low will have the choice over who to take and who to cut.
A strong finish to the season with his club should ensure that Draxler gets the nod, but he has less caps and years to his name than some of his competitors.
Jeremain Lens, Holland
Dutch wide forward Jeremain Lens was sent off on his last appearance for the national team and did not feature in his nation's squad for this week's friendly.
The Dynamo Kiev wide man has been a key fixture in his side's league play, though, and was regularly finding the back of the net just prior to the winter break in the Ukraine domestic league.
He can be confident that if he continues to earn good reviews over the rest of the season, he can still return to the national team squad in time for the finals.
There are still plenty of fans and neutrals who would like to see the likes of Ronaldinho and Kaka restored regularly to the Brazilian national team squad, and of course, every player wants to be involved in the World Cup on home soil.
The national team, however, appears to be very settled after a long run of friendly games to hone tactics and the successful Confederations Cup.
Kaka is playing well at AC Milan and perhaps can still show he has enough magic left to earn one more recall, but it's going to be tough to earn a spot ahead of the likes of Bernard or Willian.
Lucas Neill, Australia
Australia opted to leave out Lucas Neill, a 96-cap veteran, for their friendly against Ecuador as they look to younger players to come into the side.
That's all well and good, but if they want to have any impact at all in a very tough group at the finals, they're going to need experience and quality as well as pace and potential.
Neill has joined Watford in the English Championship recently as he looks to prove he has the quality to make it past a century of caps during the World Cup itself.
Andy Carroll, England
England striker Andy Carroll has missed most of the season so far through injury, so he needs to have an impressive last two-and-a-half months if he is to crash the squad as the backup striker. He looks to essentially be battling with Rickie Lambert for one spot in Roy Hodgson's squad.
Carroll has already scored in a major tournament for England, while Lambert is likely looking at the World Cup as his only finals, but the Saints man has both form and recent impact for the international team on his side. Carroll needs a big end to the season, with goals and fitness, if he is to make it instead.
Mark Gonzalez, Chile
Once a regular fixture in Chile's squads, Mark Gonzalez has not played for his nation since late 2012 and, though he was in the squad in January, did not make the recent list.
The pacy left-sided player has returned to Chile, on loan with Universidad Catolica, in a bid for game time and to prove his ability to perform for his country.
He's an experienced player who, on his day, can help open defences, but he has endured a tough time at CSKA Moscow and will need a bit of luck to make the World Cup squad.
Fabricio Coloccini, Argentina
Argentina's defence is not yet so settled that they have an undisputed central pairing, so a squad place at the very least is still up for grabs for Fabricio Coloccini.
The Newcastle defender has missed a fair few games recently through injury, so he first needs a return to fitness and form at club level. But if he manages that, he might well be looked upon as a reliable and commanding cover player for the likes of Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez.
Fernando Llorente, Spain
Fernando Llorente's entire career was basically on hold last year, but having rediscovered form, fitness and goals with Juventus this term, he could be looking at going to the World Cup as Spain's big attacking threat.
With the likes of Fernando Torres and Roberto Soldado woefully out of form, David Villa and Alvaro Negredo both playing well without consistently excelling and one-cap forward Diego Costa the only other major striker in contention, Llorente is well capable of making Spain's final squad.
Much could depend on how many centre-forwards Spain coach Vicente del Bosque opts to take.
Yoichiro Kakitani, Japan
Japan have an array of fairly inexperienced forwards who have been handed opportunities with the national team of late, but Yoichiro Kakitani will certainly feel he has done enough to earn a recall before the summer.
The Cerezo Osaka striker is already in good form this season, scoring in the AFC Champions League and for his nation against Belgium in a friendly at the end of last year.
Kakitani should be one of the strikers in Japan's final World Cup squad.
Sebastian Eguren, Uruguay
Uruguay's squad does not show too much change compared to that which won the 2011 Copa America, but Sebastian Eguren has seemingly lost his place as a regular substitute.
He has only featured once since the Confederations Cup last summer and was out of favour at club level, though a transfer to Palmeiras in Brazil has seen him appear fleetingly in the Copa Libertadores.
As an experienced player with over 50 caps, he still has a chance of returning to the squad, particularly if there are injuries to the current selection.
Lucas Leiva, Brazil
Brazil operate with two central holding players in midfield, with the likes of Fernandinho, Ramires, Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho all vying for those positions. But Lucas Leiva returned to the national team squad this year and could yet make the final squad.
Injuries have gone against him at times this season, and he has not been able to figure as often as he would like for his club (Liverpool). But he can help dictate the flow of the game as well as perform defensively.
He'll need to first win back a spot in a team in great form, but if he does, he could be a late fourth-midfield addition to Brazil's squad.
Eren Derdiyok, Switzerland
Erin Derdiyok seems to have been part of Switzerland's team almost forever, though he's still actually only 25 years old.
Never quite the prolific scorer he was hoped to be as a youngster, he has still managed eight for his national team—only one player in the current squad has more. That, along with his experience and playing in a good Bayer Leverkusen side this year, may be enough to push him back in the squad in time for the World Cup.
He'll possibly need to add a few more than his current total of one goal, though.
Sami Khedira, Germany
Sami Khedira is currently out with a long-term knee ligament injury, sustained in a Germany friendly against Italy in November.
Obviously, as a result, he missed the latest squad, but Jogi Low has spoke to Reuters (via msn.com) about how the midfielder is on course for a recovery in time for the World Cup and that his rehabilitation is going well.
That must be a great boost for the Real Madrid man as he bids to return in time to help his club's league and Champions League challenge, as well as the World Cup.
Brown Ideye, Nigeria
Nigeria have a tough group in the World Cup against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Argentina, along with Iran, but they could manage to take a top-two spot themselves if their best players show up.
Brown Ideye is a regular with Dynamo Kiev, but like Jeremain Lens, he has not been in action of late due to the winter break.
He should be able to show more than enough over the coming months to suggest he has a place in Nigeria's attack, which is not really littered with terrific talent at this point, with the exception of Emmanuel Emenike.
Zvjezdan Misimovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Injury has kept out midfielder Zvjezdan Misimovic of late, but the Bosnian has played a big role in his country reaching their first major finals, and the smart money would be on the experienced man regaining a spot in time for the World Cup.
Now playing in China with Guizhou Renhe, Misimovic has almost 80 caps to his name and is the second-highest scorer in Bosnia's national team history.
There seems little chance of him missing the World Cup other than through injury.
Aleksandr Anyukov, Russia
Aleksandr Anyukov has been Russia's recognised right-back for a long time, winning close to 80 caps so far. But after starting the World Cup qualification campaign in the team, he has fallen out of favour and last played in June of last year.
A difficult season at Zenit, his current club, has also followed, with Igor Smolnikov more frequently chosen to start in his place.
Anyukov's experience and the quality he has shown down the years as an offensive full-back can get him back into the international squad before the finals, but he needs to first reproduce his best form for his club.
Manchester United winger Nani has been well out of favour at his club, making just one 90-minute appearance in the league this season and struggling with injury at times, and the end result of that is not featuring in Portugal's latest squad.
The wide man is, in the normal course of events, one of the most-capped players in the squad and assured of his place in the team and at the World Cup.
He is certainly capable of getting back his form, if he fights for a place in the United side, and Portugal will likely take him to the World Cup as one of their big providers to a Cristiano Ronaldo-led attack.