Mohamed Salah will not be going to the Qatar 2022 World Cup. That was the headline news from a night of high drama and upsets in the final round of African qualifying.
Salah was targeted with laser beams from small handheld devices in the crowd as he missed his penalty in Egypt’s shoot-out defeat to Senegal – and he joins a remarkable list of stars who will not be part of the showpiece event at the end of the year.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be present at his fifth World Cup after Portugal beat North Macedonia in the European play-offs meaning both he and Lionel Messi are heading for Qatar, but which players are set for a break during the 2022/23 season?
Sky Sports puts together a world XI of players who are guaranteed not to be heading to the tournament and lists some of the Premier League names who are staying with their clubs during the month-long break in November and December.
Italy dominate World XI not at Qatar
Having being crowned European champions last summer, Italy are the most notable team omission whatever happens in the remaining play-off matches around the various continents after they were beaten 1-0 at home by North Macedonia.
Head coach of the Azzurri, Roberto Mancini, is considering his future after Italy’s failure to qualify for a second straight World Cup.
That means there will be no Gianluigi Donnarumma. The Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper was named player of the tournament last summer – the first goalkeeper to win the award at a European Championship – primarily because of the saves he made in Italy’s penalty shoot-out victories in both the semi-finals and final.
At 23, he looks to have a long international career ahead of him – but he won’t be adding to his accolades in Qatar. Also missing out are his compatriots Jorginho – who came third in the Ballon d’Or 2021 – Marco Verratti, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and both Leonardo Spinazzola and Federico Chiesa – who were also named in the Euro 2020 team of the tournament.
Joining the absent Italians on the sidelines will be a number of individuals whose talents deserve to grace such a stage.
Erling Haaland’s future at Borussia Dortmund will be in the spotlight during the summer transfer window, but he won’t have the added distraction of a World Cup to consider next season, Norway’s failure to qualify also depriving Qatar of Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard.
Norway finished third in their qualifying group and have not qualified for a World Cup or European Championships in Haaland’s lifetime – the 21-year-old was born a few days after the end of Euro 2000, their last major tournament.
Norway last played in the World Cup in 1998 and Haaland’s goals had led his country to the brink of ending their lengthy wait.
From the other European nations not to book their place, David Alaba has shown himself to be a world-class player at both Bayern Munich and now at Real Madrid, but his country Austria failed to overcome Wales in the play-offs. The team last played at a World Cup in 1998.
A clutch of Swedish stars suffered the same fate at the hands of Poland, meaning Zlatan Ibrahimovic misses out on a final shot at a World Cup, along with Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof and the exciting prospect Alexander Isak.
It appears Ibrahimovic, Sweden’s record scorer, has had his final World Cup appearance. The 40-year-old AC Milan striker featured at three editions – 2002, 2006 and 2018.
Ibrahimovic came out of international retirement in early 2021 with the aim of playing at the European Championship. He ultimately missed that because of injury and couldn’t help Sweden qualify for the World Cup after being brought on for the final 10 minutes of the play-off final defeat, with his team already 2-0 down.
Ibrahimovic looks set to sign on for another year with Milan but the tournament in Qatar was surely his last chance of playing in a World Cup. He might still harbour hopes of playing at Euro 2024, though, after saying he remains available to Sweden.
Colombia were the big losers of CONMEBOL meaning Salah is not the only Liverpool forward who will have a winter break next season as Luis Diaz will join his team-mate at the club’s Melwood training base instead of flying out to Qatar.
The 25-year-old winger has taken over from James Rodriguez as the standout for Colombia and was tied with Lionel Messi as the top scorer in the Copa America last year.
He couldn’t inspire his team to qualify for the World Cup, though, with Colombia finishing in sixth place in South American qualifying. His club career remains on the rise after moving to Liverpool from Porto in January and making a seamless transition into the star-studded attack of the Premier League team.
It was a case of deja vu for Salah as Egypt were beaten on penalties in their play-off by Senegal, with his fellow Liverpool forward Sadio Mane scoring the decisive spot-kick – as had been the case in February’s Africa Cup of Nations final.
Skipper Salah was among those unsuccessful from the spot as the Pharaohs failed to secure a second successive World Cup qualification. It was a sad way to end another disappointing episode in an international career that has yet to yield any silverware.
Salah went into the 2018 World Cup carrying a shoulder injury and wasn’t at his best as the Egyptians exited at the group stage.
He has lost in the final of two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments and misses a World Cup at the peak of his powers. For now, the 29-year-old Salah will have to settle for winning titles with Liverpool, for whom he is spearheading an unlikely bid for a quadruple of trophies this season.
Jurgen Klopp would have wanted his best players to showcase their talent on the world stage, but it might benefit Liverpool’s Premier League title chances that two of his forwards can use the period to rest ahead of the congested second half of the campaign.
The same can be said of Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, who misses along with his Algeria team-mates, but the vast majority of Pep Guardiola’s squad will be present.
Mahrez, a former African player of the year, was part of the Algeria team that conceded in the fourth minute of stoppage time against Cameroon on Tuesday to miss out on qualification.
The City winger will have to wait at least four years for another appearance at the World Cup. He went as an inexperienced 23-year-old player to the 2014 tournament in Brazil and started Algeria’s opening match against Belgium.
To many, Jan Oblak is the best goalkeeper in the world, although most of the widespread acclaim toward him stems from his performances at club level for Atletico Madrid. Will he ever play at a World Cup?
Slovenia last reached one in 2010 and missed out this time after finishing fourth in their qualifying group. At age 29, Oblak likely has a couple more chances left.
Who else is not going to Qatar 2022?
Selected players not heading to the World Cup:
Africa – CAF
Emmanuel Dennis (Watford)
Ademola Lookman (Leicester)
Victor Osimhen (Napoli)
Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester)
Riyad Mahrez (Man City)
Said Benrahma (West Ham)
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal)
Abdoulaye Doucoure (Everton)
Yves Bissouma (Brighton)
Moussa Djenepo (Southampton)
Yoane Wissa (Brentford)
Arthur Masuaku (West Ham)
Europe – UEFA
Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG)
Marco Verratti (PSG)
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus)
Giorgio Chellini (Juventus)
Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma)
Federico Chiesa (Juventus/Fiorentina)
Tomas Soucek (West Ham)
Vladimir Coufal (West Ham)
David Alaba (Real Madrid)
Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)
Martin Odegaard (Arsenal)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan)
Victor Lindelof (Man Utd)
Alexander Isak (Real Sociedad)
Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)
South America – CONMEBOL
David Ospina (Napoli)
Luis Diaz (Liverpool)
Yerry Mina (Everton)
Davinson Sanchez (Totteham)
Juan Cuadrado (Juventus)
James Rodriguez (Al-Rayyan)
What is the World Cup format and schedule?
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will feature 32 teams in eight groups of four.
Four matches will be played each day during the group stage, which will run over a 12-day period and see winners and runners-up progress to the round of 16.
Matches will only be assigned to particular venues after the finals draw, so organisers can choose optimal kick-off times to suit television audiences in different countries, as well as supporters in Qatar.
Group stage: November 21- December 2
Round of 16: December 3-6
Quarter-finals: December 9/10
Semi-finals: December 13/14
Final: December 18
When will the matches kick off?
FIFA has confirmed the first two rounds of matches will kick off at 1pm, 4pm, 7pm and 10pm local time (10am, 1pm, 4pm and 7pm in the United Kingdom).
Kick-off times in the final round of group games and knock-out round matches will be at 6pm and 10pm local time (3pm and 7pm UK time).
The final is scheduled to kick off at 6pm local time (3pm UK time).
What happens to the Premier League in 2022/23?
The Premier League has confirmed key dates for the 2022/23 campaign, with the season adjusted to accommodate a World Cup that takes place in the middle of the domestic calendar.
The season will start a week earlier than normal on August 6 2022, with 16 matchdays taking place up to the weekend of November 12/13, before the tournament kicks off on November 21.
The Premier League will resume on Boxing Day following the World Cup final, which takes place on December 18.
The final match round of the 2022/23 season will be played on May 28 2023.