At the end of this week, football’s biggest stars will come together to partake in the sport’s biggest event; the World Cup.
Though, in unprecedented circumstances, this edition of the tournament will be played mid-way through a domestic season – leading to a number of star players to miss out through injury.
With some of football’s biggest names sidelined for the World Cup, it only seems right to shine a light on the wealth of talent that unfortunately will not be in Qatar.
Here, Sportsmail takes you through our World Cup Injured XI which features a host of Premier League, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 talents.
France’s Christopher Nkunku (r) has been ruled out the World Cup after picking up an injury
GOALKEEPER – KEPA ARRIZABALAGA (SPAIN)
Injuries are a cruel moment in any player’s career, though the timing of Kepa’s foot injury couldn’t have been any worse for the Spanish goalkeeper.
Having lost his place in Chelsea’s starting line-up in the previous two seasons, the Spaniard had finally worked his way back into first-team after impressing new boss Graham Potter.
He would’ve likely been included in Luis Enrique’s 26-man squad – over Brentford’s David Raya or Brighton’s Robert Sanchez – but after his injury at Brighton last month, he’ll have to wait until after the World Cup before making his return to the pitch.
Kepa Arrizabalaga had finally won his starting-spot back before picking up a knee injury
RIGHT BACK – REECE JAMES (ENGLAND)
Potentially the biggest loss to Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad selected for Qatar.
James was a shoo-in to be on the Three Lions’ plane to the World Cup given his impressive performances at wing-back for Chelsea this year.
But after picking up a knee injury during their Champions League clash with AC Milan last month, his dreams were crushed.
It’s a massive shame for James, who only has one appearance at a major competition for England to date. He played the full 90 minutes in their Euro 2020 group stage clash with Scotland but was not selected for the rest of the tournament.
Reece James was hopeful he’d recover in time but was left off England’s 26-man squad-list
CENTRE BACK – PRESNEL KIMPEMBE (FRANCE)
After initially being named in Didier Deschamps’ World Cup squad, the PSG defender was forced to withdraw after failing to recover from a hamstring injury.
It comes as a massive blow for the reigning champions who were forced to replace the experienced defender with Monaco’s Axel Disasi – who is yet to earn his first cap for the senior squad.
Kimpembe did make a 15-minute cameo in PSG’s 5-0 win over Auxerre on Sunday, but Deschamps feels that he’s still not at the fitness levels required for a World Cup.
PSG defender Presnel Kimpembe has pulled out of the France squad with an injury
CENTRE BACK – WESLEY FOFANA (FRANCE)
Goodness me, do France have some depth at centre back.
Ibrahima Konate, William Saliba and Dayot Upamecano are three of the most promising defenders in the world, with Raphael Varane – included in the 26-man list despite a knock – a proven European performer too.
Chelsea’s £70million summer signing Fofana is injured until December and was therefore ruled out, but chances are he would not have made it anyway given his country’s strength in the position.
Wesley Fofana was ruled out injured for the World Cup but was unlikely to make the squad
LEFT BACK – BEN CHILWELL (ENGLAND)
Another huge setback for Gareth Southgate’s plans out in Qatar.
Chilwell’s injury leaves the England boss with just one recognised left-back in his squad, Manchester United’s Luke Shaw, as they prepare to head into the tournament.
The 25-year-old saw his World Cup hopes shattered after limping off in the final moments of Chelsea’s European clash with Dinamo Zagreb last month.
It came as a crushing blow to Chilwell’s World Cup hopes and meant that his wait for a first appearance at a major international tournament goes on.
Ben Chilwell’s wait to represent England at a major international competition will go on
CENTRE MIDFIELD – N’GOLO KANTE (FRANCE)
Didier Deschamps will be hoping that the absence of N’Golo Kante will not affect his side as much as it has affected Graham Potter’s Chelsea.
The Blues have sorely missed their midfield general and it’s likely that France will endure that same feeling at the 2022 World Cup.
His midfield combination with Pogba was crucial to their 2018 World Cup success and his loss through injury will prove a big miss.
N’Golo Kante has made just two Premier League appearances this year due to injury
CENTRE MIDFIELD – PAUL POGBA (FRANCE)
Though he’s had his fair share of criticisms over the years, Paul Pogba’s importance for the French national side is downright undeniable.
No matter how dire his club situation may be, the 29-year-old has always stepped up when needed for France. Who can forget his fantastic, curling, left-footed strike from the 2018 final against Croatia?
It would’ve been his third World Cup with the national side after featuring in 2014 and 2018 but a knee injury means he’ll be watching the tournament from home.
Paul Pogba will be unable to recreate his 2018 final heroics due to his current meniscus issue
RIGHT WING – SADIO MANE (SENEGAL)
If there was one country who had so much dependence on one player it would be Senegal, and they will arguably be hit more than any other side with the absence of Sadio Mane.
The Bayern Munich star was crocked during their clash with Werder Bremen earlier in November and it was understood at the time that his leg injury would rule him out of the tournament.
Yet, Senegal – probably more in hope than expectation – still surprisingly selected the former Liverpool star to feature in Qatar.
The writing was on the wall when he was then confirmed to miss ‘the first few games’ before he was fully ruled out of the World Cup just days before the finals kicked off.
Sadio Mane’s World Cup dreams with Senegal in Qatar were extinguished by a late injury
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER – CHRISTOPHER NKUNKU (FRANCE)
The Leipzig star became the latest name to be sidelined for the tournament after picking up a knock in France training before the team flew out.
The 25-year-old sustained the injury during Les Bleus’ final training session at Clairefontaine – the French national football centre, on Tuesday.
He collided with Real Madrid midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, leaving Nkunku with an issue on his left leg and forcing him to limp off the pitch.
No-one will be more upset than than the French star, who had been highly talked up as one of the players to keep an eye on in the tournament.
Christopher Nkunku sits on the floor after taking a knock from Eduardo Camavinga in training
LEFT WING – DIOGO JOTA (PORTUGAL)
After getting taken off off during Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Manchester City in October, Jurgen Klopp quickly ruled out Jota’s chances of making the World Cup.
With 15 Premier League goals to his name in last year’s campaign, Portugal will sorely miss their wide-man when out in Qatar this month.
He played a crucial role in the nation securing their place in the tournament, having provided five goals and two assists during qualifiers.
Liverpool star Diogo Jota was forced off the pitch during his side’s 1-0 win over Man City
STRIKER – KARIM BENZEMA (FRANCE)
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for France, on the eve of the tournament’s kick-off star striker Karim Benzema confirmed he was ruled out.
The Real Madrid striker saw his first full training session in the middle-east brought to an early conclusion after he suffered an injury on Saturday.
He was then brought in for a scan in Doha and it had been hoped that he would just miss their opener against Australia on Tuesday.
However, it was not good news for the 34-year-old, and France have confirmed that he will take no part at the World Cup, as he suffered a thigh injury which will keep him out for three weeks.
Karim Benzema was ruled out for France on the eve of the World Cup finals kicking off
With a plethora of players ineligible for the tournament due to injury, there are still a host of big names that help fill out the seven bench spots for our Injured XI.
AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan suffered a calf injury in September that has ruled him out of the competition – but it’s unlikely he would’ve manage to displace France captain Hugo Lloris.
Aston Villa duo Boubacar Kamara and Diego Carlos have both suffered significant injuries this year – with Brazil’s Carlos sustaining a nasty achilles injury in August that has ruled him out until next year.
Former Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum will also miss the competition after breaking his leg at the start of the season. It was the worst beginning to a campaign imaginable, having only just signed for Jose Mourinho’s Roma.
Giovani Lo Celso suffered a major blow after picking up a hamstring injury last month
Dortmund’s Marco Reus will miss his third major international competition due to injury
Spurs loanee Giovani Lo Celso has been ruled out in a major blow for Argentina. The Argentine midfielder suffered a hamstring injury as Villarreal suffered a 1-0 defeat away at Athletic Bilbao last month.
Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus will be missing his second World Cup for Germany following an ankle injury, having also been sidelined for their triumph in Brazil in 2014.
Timo Werner would’ve been more than likely to have a starting role for Germany but an ankle injury picked up against Shaktar Donetsk last month means he’ll only be able to watch on from the sidelines.