Alexis Sanchez, Sane & 26 stars watching the World Cup from home

Failure to qualify, untimely injuries and unfortunate snubs mean some of the finest talent on the planet will be absent from a Russian showpiece

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    Alexis Sanchez

    The Manchester United forward can focus his full attention of rediscovering his best form at club level this summer following the shock failure of Chile – the 2015 and 2016 Copa America champions – to qualify for Russia 2018.

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    Christian Pulisic

    The bright, young hope of American soccer, and a man very much in demand on the back of his showings for Borussia Dortmund, but a 19-year-old talent who crashed and burned as part of a troubled United States side in qualifying.

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    Gareth Bale

    He may have lit up the Champions League final with a stunning two-goal showing off the bench, and helped Wales to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, but the Real Madrid star has been denied a global shop window in which to showcase his ability ahead of a possible summer transfer.

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    Anthony Martial

    There was always the threat that a lack of regular starts at Manchester United would cost the 22-year-old dear in World Cup year, and so it proved as France boss Didier Deschamps opted to call upon others from an enviable pool of attacking talent.

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    The enigmatic Swede may have boldly declared that “a World Cup without me wouldn’t be a World Cup”, but that is precisely what is going to happen this summer after the 36-year-old LA Galaxy striker ultimately decided not to come out of international retirement.

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    Gianluigi Buffon

    The 40-year-old goalkeeper was hanging on with Juventus and Italy in the hope of having a World Cup stage on which to bow out, but the Azzurri's shock play-off defeat to Sweden has denied him that opportunity and seen an iconic figure of the modern era shelve his retirement plans.

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    Mauro Icardi

    Nobody netted more times in Serie A during the 2017-18 campaign than Inter’s talismanic captain, but even that 29-goal haul was not enough to break him into an Argentina squad which includes Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain.

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    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

    Football can be cruel sometimes and the Liverpool midfielder has found that out the hard way, with an untimely knee injury picked up in April seeing a positive debut campaign at Anfield brought to a close and World Cup dreams dashed with England.

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    Alvaro Morata

    A striker considered good enough for Chelsea to splash out £70 million ($93m) in the summer of 2017, but one deemed not suitable for the Spain squad 12 months later after suffering a dip in form and a humbling tumble out of favour at Stamford Bridge.

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    Karim Benzema

    Having been exiled from the France squad since November 2015, following an investigation into an alleged blackmail plot against Mathieu Valbuena, it was not all that surprising to see the Real Madrid striker overlooked once more by Les Bleus.

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    Jack Wilshere

    A return to favour at Arsenal brought the midfielder back into contention for a place in the England squad, but more unfortunate injury problems ultimately steered Gareth Southgate in a different direction – despite the 26-year-old’s claims that he should have been picked.

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    Cesc Fabregas

    A World Cup winner and two-time European champion after forming part of Spain’s golden generation, the Chelsea midfielder has slipped down the pecking order under Julen Lopetegui and has not figured for La Roja since Euro 2016.

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    Leroy Sane

    The Manchester City winger was surprisingly omitted from Germany's 23-man squad for the World Cup despite an impressive domestic season with Pep Guardiola's side. Explaining his decision, Joachim Low revealed in a press conference shortly after that Sane "had not arrived in matches with the national team yet".
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    Mario Gotze

    Quite the fall from grace for a man who netted the extra-time winner for Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, with the Borussia Dortmund midfielder having endured a difficult time at club level since then to lose his place in Joachim Low’s plans.

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    Alexandre Lacazette

    Like fellow countryman Martial, the Arsenal striker has seen struggles at club level nudge him down the pecking order for France – with Olivier Giroud, a man he ushered towards the exits at Emirates Stadium, among those selected ahead of him.

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    Liverpool are considered to have pulled off quite the coup in landing the midfielder in a £43.7 million ($58m) deal they were able to keep very quiet, but he will not be on duty with Brazil this summer and remains stuck on just four caps for his country.

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    Radja Nainggolan

    Snubbed by Belgium in 2014, history has repeated itself four years on, with the Roma midfielder taking the decision to announce his international retirement - at just 30 years of age - after seeing Roberto Martinez dash his World Cup dream.

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    Adrien Rabiot

    Despite being a key figure for Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain during another season of domestic dominance in France, the 23-year-old was only placed on standby duty by Didier Deschamps – with his decision to turn down such a role causing quite a stir.

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    Dani Alves

    At 35 years of age, the buccaneering full-back is unlikely to grace the World Cup finals again – with the Paris Saint-Germain star having suffered knee ligament damage in early May to leave him supporting much-fancied Brazil from afar.

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    Dimitri Payet

    The Golden Boy of French football at Euro 2016 as the hosts fell agonisingly short in their quest for more international glory on home soil, but now a man on the outside looking in after seeing his club season end on an injury low with Marseille in the Europa League final.

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    Sandro Wagner

    Has netted five times in eight appearances for Germany, but is an unfortunate victim of a selection policy which places greater emphasis on hard-working forwards than out-and-out strikers – with Bayern Munich’s 30-year-old frontman announcing his international retirement as a result.

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    Virgil van Dijk

    The most expensive defender of all-time, with Liverpool having invested £75 million ($100m) in his talent during the January transfer window, but a man who will be restricted to a spectator role this summer following an unsuccessful qualification campaign for the Netherlands.

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    Renato Sanches

    Quite literally the Golden Boy in 2016 after helping Portugal to European Championship glory, the 20-year-old midfielder has hit the skids since then, with a forgettable loan spell at Swansea doing little to convince parent club Bayern Munich or national team boss Fernando Santos of his worth.

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    Laurent Koscielny

    The Frenchman tumbled to the turf unchallenged during the second leg of Arsenal’s Europa League semi-final clash with Atletico Madrid, with it later confirmed that the 32-year-old had suffered a torn Achilles tendon and would spend around six months on the sidelines.

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    David Luiz

    Having been ruled out long-term for Chelsea through a combination of injury and a reported breakdown in his working relationship with Antonio Conte, the flamboyant centre-half was unable to put himself in a position to be called upon by Brazil.

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    Sergio Romero

    The Manchester United goalkeeper, after another season playing back-up to David de Gea at Old Trafford, will not be seeing any international football with Argentina after being removed from their squad with a knee injury – with his wife having questioned those who took that decision.