Every four years, the FIFA World Cup brings all the greatest soccer players on the planet together for one month-long competition. Or at least, that’s the idea. The sad reality is that, while the World Cup brings most of the greatest players on the planet together, there are always a few stars left out. This year is certainly no exception. Guys like Ronaldo and Messi and Neymar and Pirlo will be there, but other major stars will not.
Today, with the 2014 FIFA World Cup set to begin, we’re counting down the 14 best players you won’t get to watch. Some are injured, some got snubbed, and some simply have the misfortune of hailing from countries that did not qualify. But none of them are going, and it will always leave us wondering what if.
Have a look.
Club: SC Heerenveen (Netherlands)Country:IcelandPosition:strikerReason:did not qualify
Alfred Finnbogason doesn't play in one of the big five European leagues (i.e., Spain, England, Germany, Italy, or France), but Holland's Eredivisie isn't exactly chopped liver (i.e., the MLS). The league regularly produces top-flight talent—EPL Player of the Year Luis Suarez started out at Ajax—and Finnbogason dominated this year with 29 goals, third most in all of Europe. At only 25 years old, you'll probably see him playing in one of the major European leagues in the next few years. But of course, you won't see him at the World Cup, probably ever, because Finnbogason is from tiny little Iceland.
15. Alfred Finnbogason
Club:Hannover 96 (Germany)Country:HungaryPosition:attacking midfielderReason:did not qualify
This 31-year-old is not "the best" at any one skill, but he is "very good" at many skills. That makes him one of the best all-around attacking midfielders in the Bundesliga, where he notched 10 goals and seven assists this past season. Unfortunately, Huszti's native Hungary—a soccer superpower from the 1920s through the 1950s—has not qualified for a World Cup since 1986.
14. Szabolcs Huszti
Club:Chelsea (England)Country:SerbiaPosition:defenderReason:did not qualify
When Ivanovich joined Chelsea in 2008 he had to fight for playing time. However, over the last seven seasons he's turned into one of the best defenders in the Premier League with no real weaknesses. In 2012 he played a huge role in Chelsea's improbable run to the Champions League title, and this year he helped Chelsea to a top three finish—just four points behind champions Manchester City—and an automatic berth in the Champions League group stage.
Unfortunately, Ivanovich could not help Serbia qualify for the World Cup. They finished third in their group behind Belgium and Croatia.
13. Branislav Ivanovich
Club:Saint Etienne (France)Country:FrancePosition:defenderReason:not selected
Loic Perrin isn't just one of the best French defenders. Some advanced metrics rate him as the second-best in all of Europe, behind only Rico Rodriguez of Switzerland. The 28-year-old is one of the best aerial defenders in the game, and he was named Man of the Match seven times in 2013-14. However, for some reason, the French weren't impressed, and he was left off the 23-man roster for Brazil.
12. Loic Perrin
Club:Schalke 04 (Germany)Country:PeruPosition:attacking midfielderReason:did not qualify
At the age of 29, Jefferson Farfan has established himself as one of the five or ten best midfielders in the world. He's a brilliant passer and playmaker, but he can also put the ball in the net himself. You won't see him at the 2014 World Cup, however, because his native Peru hasn't qualified for the tournament since 1982—before Farfan was born.
11. Jefferson Farfan
Club:Chelsea (England)Country:Czech RepublicPosition:goalieReason:did not qualify
Chelsea netminder Petr Cech has long been considered one of the best goalies in the English Premier League. However, at the age of 32, it's likely that he'll finish his career with just one single World Cup appearance, because the Czech Republic hasn't qualified for the World Cup since 2006.
10. Petr Cech
Club: Isco: Real Madrid; Illarramendi and Martinez: Real SociedadCountry:SpainPosition:Illarramendi:defensive midfielder; Isco: attacking midfielder; Martinez: defenderReason:not selected
This year Spain has decided to take one last shot at glory with the guys who won the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 European Championship. And that's understandable, since they probably are the greatest national team in the history of the game. However, if Spain does start to show its age, people will wonder why none of these three young stars were included on the roster.
Isco was "Breakthrough Player" in La Liga last season and was runner-up this year for "Best Attacking Midfielder," right after Iniesta. Martinez, meanwhile, was runner-up for "Best Defender" after Sergio Ramos, and Illarramendi won "Best Midfielder." And they're all under the age of 25.
That's a lot of young talent left at home, even for Spain.
9. Tie: Asier Illarramendi, Isco, and Inigo Martinez
Club:Hoffenheim (Germany)Country:BrazilPosition:attacking midfielderReason:not selected
Speaking of brilliant young taken left at home, how about Roberto Firmino? The 22-year-old forward/attacking midfielder still has room to improve, but some advanced metrics already rate him as the seventh-best all-around player in Europe. This past season he finished fourth in goals (16) and second in assists (11) this year in the Bundesliga, and he was man of match 9 times.
Unfortunately, Firmino is from Brazil, and Brazil is so loaded with talent that they can just leave a guy like this off the team and still expect to win.
8. Roberto Firmino
Club:Everton (England)Country:IrelandPosition:defenderReason:did not qualify
Coleman, 25, was the best right back in the Premier League this past season and, as such, was named to the PFA Team of the Year—which is like being named first-team All-Pro in the NFL. He's a little weak on aerials, but in every other aspect—blocking, crossing, passing, and especially dribbling—he's dynamite.
Unfortunately, after reaching the World Cup in 1990, 1994, and 2002, Ireland was cheated out of the tournament by the French in 2010 and they failed to qualify again in 2014. So you'll have to wait until 2018 (maybe) to see Coleman take the game's biggest stage.
7. Seamus Coleman
Colombia's Falcao might not be one of the most well-rounded players in the world, and he's definitely what you would call "mercurial." However, he is without a doubt one of the greatest finishers in the world, and as such he is also one of the most exciting players.
It's a damn shame, therefore, that he won't be playing with his countrymen in Brazil. He tore a ligament in his knee in January and, after a valiant effort, he was unable to make a miraculous recovery.
6. Radamel Falcao
Club:Paris-Saint Germain (France)Country:SwedenPosition:attacking midfielder/forwardReason:did not qualify
In Zlatan Ibrahimovic we're not just missing out on one of the great goal scorers in soccer. We're also missing out on one of the game's biggest personalities—and he himself will tell you as much.
After his Swedish side lost to Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal for one of the last European slots, he declared that "a World Cup without me is nothing to watch." And if you've ever seen what he can do, you know he's kind of right.
5. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Club:Borussia Dortmund (Germany)Country:GermanyPosition:attacking midfielder/forwardReason:injury
The Germans have one of the deepest, most talented squads in the world. However, even they will have a hard time dealing with a loss like this.
In a World Cup tuneup against Armenia on June 7, Marco Reus, perhaps Germany's most potent offensive weapon, suffered a severe ankle sprain that knocked him out of the World Cup. Now his country will have to make due without a guy who recorded 21 goals and 15 assists (first in the league) in all competitions this past season.
4. Marco Reus
Club:Borussia Dortmund (Germany)Country:PolandPosition:attacking midfielder/forwardReason:did not qualify
Speaking of Borussia Dortmund players who won't be at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, at #3 we have Robert Lewandowski. All this 25-year-old did this year was lead the league in goals (20) and establish himself as one of the most dangerous players in the world. However, he won't be at the World Cup because Poland did not qualify.
3. Robert Lewandoswki
Club:Bayern Munich (Germany)Country:FrancePosition:attacking midfielderReason:injury
Franck Riberty is, without a doubt, the greatest French player of his generation. Last year he led Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga title and the Champions League title and was named a finalist for the FIFA Ballon d'Or world player of the year award. However, he will be sitting out the 2014 World Cup with a back injury, dealing a pretty big blow to the French.
2. Franck Ribery
Club:Bayern Munich (Germany)Country:FrancePosition:attacking midfielderReason:injury
Gareth Bale is so good that Real Madrid paid a world record transfer fee last summer just to get the right to pay him $25 million a year. Then he helped Real win the Champions League.
Unfortunately, though he's still just 24 years old, we'll probably never get to watch Bale play in the World Cup because he hails from tiny little Wales.
1. Gareth Bale
2014 FIFA World Cup, fifa world cup, Soccer, world cup,