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Top players who won't be at the World Cup

Tuesday 10th October 2017
As the World Cup qualification process draws to its climax, we've taken a look at a list of stars who won't be taking part in Russia next summer.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

One of the stars of Manchester United's impressive start to the season hasn't qualified for the World Cup this time around; I doubt he ever will. Henrikh Mkhitaryan's Armenia side is incredibly average, whilst boasting very few players that play at the highest level. Centre-back Gael Andonian is the only other player that plies his trade in one of Europe's top 5 leagues. The squad is mostly made up of footballers who play in their home country, hail from either the Russian or Ukrainian leagues - or even from the Cypriot division. They finished second-bottom in their European qualifying group; only finishing higher than Kazakhstan. Mkhitaryan is the captain of Armenia and, if I'm honest, he isn't going to be leading them to Qatar in 2022, either.

David Alaba

Another victim of being among teammates who aren't up to his standard. David Alaba's Austria couldn't keep up with the likes of Serbia, Wales or Ireland in Group D of European qualifying. Aged just 25, the Bayern Munich left-back has been carrying this team for years without much success. They crashed out of Euro 2016 despite playing in a weak group during the only major tournament they've qualified for since the start of the 21st century (they qualified for Euro 2008 as hosts). Alaba often plays out of position because Austria lacks creativity in midfield. He also takes every set piece. It really is a one-man team.

Riyad Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez's Algeria side have seriously underachieved in their qualifying campaign, finishing behind the likes of Nigeria and Zambia in their CAF group. Unlike Mkhitaryan and Alaba, Mahrez plays alongside talented players such as Islam Slimani, Yacine Brahimi and Faouzi Ghoulam. The Leicester man has many teammates playing in Europe's best leagues, some are also taking part in top continental competitions on a regular basis. In 2014, they qualified for the World Cup, where they finished as runners-up in their group, behind Belgium. They took eventual winners Germany to extra-time in their knockout tie. Mesut Ozil's strike ended Algeria's hopes of making the quarter-finals that year.

Naby Keita

Liverpool will welcome a fresh Naby Keita next summer after his Guinea side failed to make the cut in qualifying for Russia 2018. They are battling it out to finish third in their group, ahead of Libya. Ibrahima Traore, like Keita, plays his football in Germany and is a regular in the Borussia Monchengladbach team when fit. Both of Paul Pogba's brothers, Florentin and Mathias, play for their country of birth. They were born in Conakry, Guinea's capital city, while Paul was born in France. The most capped player in their latest squad, Naby Yattara, plays his football in the 4th tier of French football and that tells you everything you need to know.

Antonio Valencia

The vice-captain of Manchester United and arguably their most consistent player, Antonio Valencia, won't be making a return to Russia after his Ecuador side failed to qualify for the second successive World Cup. They scored more goals than both Colombia and Argentina during their qualifying league, but their leaky defence is what has cost them. One reason for this is that Valencia still plays in midfield for his country, despite playing as a right-back for the Red Devils. They could still have a huge say on who does qualify because Ecuador still has to play Argentina, who need a win to have any chance of automatic qualification.
Billy Munday

I'm a young, aspiring sports journalist and also a Chelsea fan, living the dream in London. You can find more examples of my work on Chelsea blogs such as the Chelsea Chronicle.

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