Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri and the 20 Most Notable World Cup Squad Absentees
When he announced his 23-man squad for the upcoming FIFA World Cup and didn’t call Ashley Cole’s name, England manager Roy Hodgson remarked that omitting the Chelsea left-back had been “one of the hardest” decisions of his career, as per The Independent.
No doubt many of Hodgson’s peers found themselves in similar positions as they selected their rosters for Brazil, and in the following slideshow, we’ll highlight the 20 most notable absentees from the teams revealed in recent days.
All five of the FIFA confederations represented in the tournament are included in our rankings, which begins with a veteran Socceroo and concludes with an iconic Canarinho.
20. Lucas Neill, Australia
Australia will be making a third successive appearance in a World Cup finals this June and July, but longtime defensive stalwart Lucas Neill, who participated in both the Germany and South Africa tournaments, will not be traveling to Brazil.
The 36-year-old was not included in manager Ange Postecoglou’s squad, which will have a decidedly younger look at the back end at the upcoming competition.
19. Diego Lopez, Spain
He may be the No. 1 (or at least joint No. 1) goalkeeper at Real Madrid, but Diego Lopez was never really in the mix to represent Spain at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The 32-year-old has long been behind the likes of Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes in the pecking order for a succession of La Roja managers—his only international appearance coming in 2009 against Macedonia. Pepe Reina started that match.
18. Sebastian Giovinco, Italy
Italy manager Cesare Prandelli included seven forwards in his 30-man provisional squad—each of whom would not be at all out of place in the final group of 23 based on their performances this season. As a result, 27-year-old attacker Sebastian Giovinco—he of 17 international appearances—was left off the list, having found the back of the net just once for Juventus in 2014.
17. Carlos Kameni, Cameroon
There was a time when Carlos Kameni was perhaps the second-most recognizable Cameroon international behind Samuel Eto’o, but those days have come and gone. New manager Volker Finke has placed his trust in Konyaspor goalkeeper Charles Itandje, which means Kameni—a 2002 Africa Cup of Nations winner—has been pushed to the fringes of the squad.
16. Kaka, Brazil
If it sounds sensational to say that Kaka, yes Kaka, won’t be representing Brazil in his country’s home World Cup, it’s only because it sounds that way.
Selecao boss Luiz Felipe Scolari has remained loyal to a very specific core of internationals since returning to the Brazil setup, and Kaka has never really been part of that group. That’s not to say the 32-year-old can’t be recalled at some point in the future, but at this point it would seem the AC Milan playmaker will be stumped on 87 caps and 29 goals for some time.
15. Domenico Criscito, Italy
Domenico Criscito has represented Italy at every age category since making his debut with the U-17s back in 2003, and he even wore the Azzurri shirt at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
But the Zenit St. Petersburg left-back won’t be going to Brazil, despite winning 22 senior caps in less than four years. His most recent appearance for his country came in March, when he featured in a 1-0 defeat to Spain at the Bernabeu.
14. Zakaria Bakkali
When Belgium striker Christian Benteke picked up a season-ending injury earlier this spring, it was thought PSV Eindhoven forward Zakaria Bakkali might just be the ideal replacement for the Aston Villa man.
Red Devils manager Marc Wilmots clearly felt the 18-year-old was too unpolished a prospect, however, and left him out of his squad. Needless to say, in the likes of Kevin Mirallas, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Adnan Januzaj and Romelu Lukaku, Wilmots will have no shortage of attacking options at the World Cup.
13. Aldo De Nigris, Mexico
When Mexico failed to book an automatic World Cup berth out of CONCACAF, manager Miguel Herrera was always going to shake up a squad that quite nearly missed out on the tournament altogether. Among the high-profile casualties was 30-year-old striker Aldo de Nigris, who last featured for El Tri against South Korea just five months ago.
12. Emmanuel Eboue, Ivory Coast
This generation of Ivory Coast players has consistently disappointed at international level, failing to win the Africa Cup of Nations and struggling to make an indent at the FIFA World Cup. Right-back Emmanuel Eboue has typically been a part of the international setup for the past decade, but Brazil manager Sabri Lamouchi will be putting his faith in Serge Aurier and Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro.
11. Roberto Soldado, Spain
Roberto Soldado has represented Spain on 12 occasions, scoring seven times. He even found the back of the net against Uruguay at the Confederations Cup last June. But manager Vicente del Bosque has never really trusted the Tottenham forward to lead the line, and with Diego Costa having declared for La Roja the 28-year-old ended up being surplus to requirements.
10. Michael Carrick, England
Like most of his Manchester United teammates, Michael Carrick had a season to forget. Still, the 32-year-old played five times for England in 2013 (he has 31 caps overall) and helped the Three Lions top their qualification group.
But a spot on the standby list was as close to manager Roy Hodgson 23-man squad as he’d get, and barring an injury to a fellow midfielder, he’ll be watching the World Cup on his television like everyone else.
9. Samir Nasri, France
Samir Nasri’s France omission should have come as little surprise to him, to followers of French football and, significantly, to his girlfriend, who tweeted her outrage at the 26-year-old’s exclusion from Les Bleus’ manager Didier Deschamps’ World Cup squad.
Granted, Nasri enjoyed an exceptional season at Premier League champions Manchester City, but he never won over Deschamps, who seemed to dislike the attacker’s attitude from the moment he succeeded Laurent Blanc as France boss in 2012.
8. Jesus Zavala, Mexico
Until the very last moment, it looked as though Jesus Zavala would be going to the World Cup. The Monterrey midfielder represented El Tri as recently as April, and many of his 30 caps came during the last qualification cycle. But Mexico manager Miguel Herrera opted to omit the 26-year-old, instead including untested players, such as Juan Carlos Medina, Isaac Brizuela and Jose Juan Vazquez.
7. Carlos Tevez, Argentina
At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Carlos Tevez was a mostly unknown quantity to European football fans, and he used the tournament as a springboard to a lucrative move to West Ham later in the summer.
Eight years afterward the now-30-year-old isn’t even on Argentina’s preliminary squad. Manager Alejandro Abella has never called him up, and forwards Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Sergio Aguero and, of course, Lionel Messi will be expected to produce the offense in Brazil.
6. Gael Clichy, France
Gael Clichy is the first-choice right-back at Premier League champions Manchester City, yet he won’t be at the upcoming World Cup after failing to crack France manager Didier Deschamps’ 23-man squad. Manchester United veteran and former national team captain Patrice Evra will be going to Brazil, as will highly rated Paris Saint-Germain youngster Lucas Digne, who has been capped just once for Les Bleus.
5. Isco, Spain
Any national team other than Spain would love a playmaker of Isco’s ability and versatility. And, to be fair to the 22-year-old, his time with La Roja will come—just not quite yet. This, after all, is a squad that already includes the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and David Silva, and had he gone to the World Cup, it’s likely the Real Madrid midfielder wouldn’t have even seen the pitch.
4. Ashley Cole, England
Ashley Cole has been England’s first-choice left-back since shortly after his 2001 international debut, and in the 13 years since, he has earned 107 caps for the Three Lions. But the 33-year-old’s time with England is finished.
Upon learning manager Roy Hodgson had selected Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw in his position, Cole gracefully announced his retirement, although there’s an argument to be made that his country could have made use of his considerable experience over the coming months.
3. Eddie Johnson, United States
The United States isn’t exactly blessed with goals, which is why it was something of a surprise that Eddie Johnson didn’t even crack manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s 30-man provisional squad. Instead, the German included the likes of Chris Wondolowski, Terrence Boyd and Aron Johannsson, who so far have just 10 international goals between them. Johnson, on his own, has 19 from 63 appearances.
2. Stijn Schaars, Netherlands
As soon as Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman was ruled out of the World Cup with a serious knee injury, a debate opened up as to which players would come in for the 24-year-old in manager Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands setup.
PSV Eindhoven’s Stijn Schaars, who had occasionally played alongside Strootman, immediately emerged as an option, which is why it was something of a surprise that the 30-year-old was left off his country’s preliminary roster.
1. Filipe Luis, Brazil
Few left-backs in club football have enjoyed as much success as Filipe Luis this season. Over the next few weeks, the 28-year-old stands to be crowned champion of both La Liga and the Champions League, and no doubt one or two high-profile bids will come in for the Atletico Madrid man’s services during the summer.
Nevertheless, he will not be going to the World Cup—a decision of manager Luiz Felipe Scolari’s that seems all the more curious when the presence of PSG left-back Maxwell is taken into consideration.