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The 2018 World Cup field is almost completely set. After Europe’s teams sorted things out this week, there are only a few inter-confederation playoff matches left to finish. With several traditional powers failing to qualify for Russia, there are a number of top-flight players who won’t wind up in the World Cup.

Ryan Phillips of the Big Lead takes  a look at the 10 best players who won’t be in Russia next summer.

Gianluigi Buffon, Italy

Sadly, Gianluigi Buffon, the long-time keeper for the Italians retired from international competition after his side failed to qualify for the 2018 cup. The Azzurri lost a two-leg playoff against Sweden and will miss the event for the first time since 1958.
The 39-year-old Buffon was the team captain and racked up a remarkable 175 caps for his nation’s team. He made his international debut in 1997 and backstopped the Italians to a World Cup victory in 2006. He’s still considered among the best keepers in the world and has made an insane 496 Serie A appearances for Juventus.

Gareth Bale, Wales


After a solid run to the semifinals at Euro 2016, many thought Wales could actually reach the 2018 World Cup. Unfortunately, the Dragons fell just short, finishing third in Group D, and missing out on advancing to a playoff by just two points. That means Gareth Bale and his man-bun will be at home next summer.
The 28-year-old winger has now made 105 La Liga appearances for Real Madrid since his arrival in 2013, and has netted 56 goals. He also helped lead Madrid to the 2017 Champions League title after missing long stretches due to injury.

Arjen Robben, Netherlands

Somehow the three-time World Cup runners-up managed to miss qualifying this time around, as the Dutch finished third in Group A behind France and Sweden. They actually tied the Swedes with 19 points, but were done-in on goal differential. That means Arjen Robben won’t be headed to his fourth World Cup.

Robben led the Netherlands to the final in 2010 where his team fell to Spain. The winger won two Man of the Match awards at the 2006 World Cup and the Dutch reached the Round of 16. In 2014, he finished third in the race for the Golden Ball and led his team to a third place finish. The Bayern Munich star is now 33 and retired from international competition when his country failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Alexis Sanchez, Chile


It’s truly incredible that Chile has missed out on World Cup qualification this year, after winning Copa America in 2015 and 2016, then placing second at this summer’s Confederations Cup. Chile finished in sixth place in CONMEBOL qualification, tied with Peru in points. Unfortunately, the Peruvians had a better goal differential and are in the middle of a two-leg, inter-confederation playoff with New Zealand.

Sadly, that means Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez won’t be in Russia next summer. Alexis is a 28-year-old scoring machine, who has potted 54 goals in 109 Premier League matches for the Gunners. The pocket-sized forward won the Golden Ball at Copa America Centenario and the Silver Ball at the Confederations Cup.

Antonio Valencia, Ecuador

Ecuador was clearly on the outside looking in for qualification in CONMEBOL qualification, but that doesn’t mean Antonio Valencia will be missed any less. Valencia’s team finished eighth out of 10 teams in South America’s qualifying group, but the long-time Manchester United defender wasn’t part of the problem.

Valencia has been with the Red Devils since 2009 and has made a whopping 215 appearances for the club. He’s been equally as important to Ecuador, as he’s earned 92 caps since 2004 and captained the team during the 2014 World Cup. He also played for the team at the 2006 World Cup and was a finalist for the competition’s Best Young Player Award.


David Alaba, Austria

While Austria isn’t exactly a soccer power, the presence of a top-flight player like Davis Alaba sometimes takes a country’s team to another level. That didn’t happen this go-round, as the Austrians finished fourth in Group D and out of the running.

Alaba is a 25-year-old defender for Bayern Munich who has risen to become the captain of Austria’s national team. He has already earned 59 caps for his country, while making 174 Bundesliga appearances for his club. He’s been the Austrian Footballer of the Year for six years running, is a three-time member of the UEFA Team of the Year and a two-time member of the Bundesliga Team of the Season.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Gabon

No, Gabon was never on the inside track to reach the 2018 World Cup, but it’s still sad the Les Pantheres didn’t manage to break through this cycle. Gabon was third in its qualifying group in CAF, finishing six points behind first-place Morocco. As a result we won’t get to see one of the world’s premier wingers on the world stage.


Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has developed into one of the Bundesliga’s most reliable finishers and has led Borussia Dortmund in goals three seasons running, while leading the Bundesliga with 31 last season. The 2015 African Footballer of the Year was the 2015-16 Bundesliga Player of the Year and was on the league’s 2016-17 Team of the Year. He’s also Gabon’s all-time leading goalscorer with 23 international tallies.


Leonardo Bonucci, Italy

Like his countryman Buffon, LeonardBonucci will be missing out on another World Cup, as 2018 would have been his third. One of the best center backs in the world, Bonucci has had a rough go of things since leaving Juventus for A.C. Milan over the summer. Still, when he right, he’s an unbelievable force in the middle of a defense.

Since 2010, Bonucci has been a mainstay for the Italians, making 75 appearances. He was one of the best players at Euro 2016, and was on UEFA’s Team of the Year last season as well. Again, he hasn’t been in top form so far for Milan, but it will come and he will almost certainly be back among the best defenders in the world before long.


Riyad Mahrez, Algeria

This is a bit of an interesting pick because Riyad Mahrez hasn’t been the same player he was during the 2015-16 season. Still, Mahrez is an outstanding winger who is a little more than one season from being named the Premier League PFA Players’ Player of the Year and being on the Premier League Team of the Year. He also finished seventh for the Ballon d’Or in October of 2016.

The Leicester City man has expressed a desire to leave the club, and that has likely impacted his play of late. Still, his form had little to do with Algeria missing the World Cup. The Desert Warriors finished last in their CAF group, totaling just two points, 12 behind Nigeria. Unfortunately, Mahrez won’t get to return to his second World Cup.

Christian Pulisic, United States

I’ll admit it, this is a bit of a homer pick, but it’s hard to argue that Christian Pulisic isn’t among the best young players in the world right now. The 19-year-old lost out on the chance to go to his first World Cup when the United States shockingly failed to qualify. Pulisic has been a stellar addition to the American ranks, scoring nine goals and racking up a number of assists in just 20 caps.


Meanwhile, the midfielder/winger has been fantastic for Borussia Dortmund as well, netting seven Bundesliga goals in 49 appearances. It would have been a blast watching the Hershey, Pennsylvania native tear it up in Russia. Unfortunately, it was just a huge missed opportunity for America’s next big soccer superstar.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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International Football

New twist in Cameroon football coach crisis




The coaching crisis in Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions has taken a new dimension as the football federation, FECAFOOT, led by former international, Samuel Eto’o goes in direct confrontation with the coaching crew appointed by the sports ministry which also picks the bills.

  According to a Cameroon official who will not like to be named as he was not authorised to speak on the matter, the claims and counter claims of both the sports ministry and the FECAFOOT led by Eto’o had been heard and decided by the conciliation and arbitration chamber of the Cameroonian national Olympic committee, which is a court in charge of sports cases in Cameroon.

  “What is in contention is not the position of the Belgian coach, Marcc Brys, but that of the Cameroonian assistants attached to him.”

  The source explained to Sports Village Square that although the employment of Brys by the sports ministry was initially contested by Eto’o, the former player has come to accept the situation.


  “In Cameroon, there is always a techenical crew of nine to 11. The foreign coach is allowed to bring in two foreign assistants, while the others are always Cameroonians.

  In this case, the sports ministry approved the list of two foreign assistants by Brys while also announcing another set of local assistants that included former international, François Omam-Biyik, one of the stars of Italia ‘90  and the scorer of the goal that gave Cameroon a 1-0 win over a Diego Maradona-inspired  Argentina.

  “That is where the problem is. FECAFOOT also submitted a list of technical crew that included Brys and his two foreign assistants but dropped the names of the local assistants with new ones.”

  In essence, there are two lists with both having three names as same, but differ on the rest.

 According to the source, the list submitted by the sports ministry was upheld by the tribunal which threw aside that of FECAFOOT.


  In another twist, FIFA has already removed the name of Marc Brys from the profile of Cameroon on its website. Only the name of national women’s coach, Jean-Baptiste Bisseck is listed.

The removal of Brys’ name is happening a second time as it was first removed at the end of last month before being reinstated.

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International Football

Cameroon’s appointment of Brys as manager suspended by sports tribunal



Marc Brys

Cameroon’s appointment of Belgian Marc Brys as head coach was suspended by the country’s top sports tribunal on Tuesday following the petition of an amateur football club.

The country’s sports ministry stirred controversy last month when it named 61-year-old Brys as manager of the Indomitable Lions without consulting the football federation (FECAFOOT).

The move sparked a dispute between the sports ministry and FECAFOOT, which said the government had made a unilateral decision.

In response, it asked its president Samuel Eto’o to propose a national coach and other management staff for the national side within 72 hours, deepening its standoff with the sports ministry.

Eto’o kept Brys as head coach but named different assistants, technical, medical and administrative staff.


An amateur club, meanwhile, took the matter to the Arbitration and Conciliation Chamber of the Cameroon National Olympic and Sports Committee.

In a provisional ruling on Tuesday, the court suspended the FECAFOOT appointments while it fully examined the matter. Concerned parties have 24 hours to appeal.

FECAFOOT in response said it “reserves the right to refer these decisions to FIFA, as they hinder the preparation process for the forthcoming sport events.

“The Emergency Committee of FECAFOOT will meet immediately to take appropriate measures,” it said in a statement.

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has strict rules against government interference in national federations and has frequently banned countries when governments get involved in federation affairs.


The president of the Cameroon Association of Amateur Football Clubs, Balla Ongolo Henri, had previously said Eto’o’s appointments would damage Cameroon’s image and disrupt preparations for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers next June.

Brys, 61, penned a contract on May 8 as head coach of the Indomitable Lions following the dismissal of Rigobert Song in February. FECAFOOT did not attend the signing ceremony.

The sports ministry says it has acted in accordance with national and international regulations.


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International Football

Amokachi, Adebayor and Amanda Dlamini confirmed for CAF African Schools Championship Finals



African football legends, Emmanuel Adebayor, Daniel Amokachi and Amanda Dlamini are some of the top names that have been confirmed for the Continental Finals of the CAF African Schools Football Championship 2024 scheduled in Zanzibar between 21 – 24 May 2024.

The CAF African Schools Football Championship is the school’s competition that includes over 44 African countries with over 800 000 participants of Boys and Girls under the age of 15.

This is the second edition of the competition that is not only focused on Football but also on a number of programmes including Young Referee’s Programme, Young Reporter Programme and Safeguarding. 

Adebayor, CAF Player of the Year in 2008, represented Togo at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany for their only appearance at the tournament. Ex-striker for Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid, and others, the Togolese star has had a successful career, earning over 85 caps with Les Eperviers.

Nigerian football star Amokachi played 42 international matches for the Super Eagles. He participated in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups and was part of the team that won the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 and the Olympic Games in 1996.


Former Banyana Banyana (South Africa) captain Dlamini played in two TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations competitions where they finished third and second in 2010 and 2012, respectively. She is one of the few footballers, both in the men’s and women’s national teams to reach 100 caps.

Dlamini recently made history when she became the first female to be part of the world commentary feed at the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023.

Also on the list are local stars Abdi Kassim Sadalla, former Tanzanian National Team Captain, and Hilda Masanche, Head coach of the Tanzania U17 Women’s National Team.

The Legends will feature in various activities to promote and support football development among African youth.

The finals will bring together talented young players from across the continent, providing them a platform to showcase their skills and passion for the game.



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