Who are the stars at risk of missing out on the 2022 World Cup?

Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament Donnarumma, record goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo and Ballon d’Or favourite Robert Lewandowski have yet to book their places in Qatar… so who are the biggest stars at risk of missing out on the 2022 World Cup?

  • Portugal blew automatic qualification in a 2-1 defeat by Serbia on Sunday
  • Euro 2020 winners Italy shockingly head to the play-offs after a goalless draw 
  • Austria finished fourth in Group F but make play-offs due to the Nations League
  • Egypt topped their qualification group and face one of nine other group winners 
  • After qualification shocks, who are the stars at risk of not heading to Qatar?

The majority of football fans may be relieved that international football is over for 2021 but some countries are still left sweating it over their place in Qatar. 

November’s international break had its fair share of thrills and spills but the greatest shock came when Italy and Portugal failed to book their spot in next year’s showdown and were left to do battle in the play-offs. 

Euro 2020’s Player of the Tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma is in danger of being unable to repeat his display at the World Cup after this summer’s champions failed to automatically qualify. 

Euro 2020 champions Italy failed to automatically qualify after drawing with Northern Ireland

Meanwhile, men’s record international goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo saw his chances of making it to fifth consecutive World Cup put in serious jeopardy as Portugal suffered a last-gasp defeat by Serbia. 

Elsewhere, Ballon d’Or favourite Robert Lewandowski and this season’s Premier League goalscorer Mohamed Salah are yet to fire their countries to Qatar. 

Here, Sportsmail takes a look as the biggest stars who are at risk of missing out on the 2022 World Cup. 

Italy’s failure to automatically qualify out of Group C was one of the biggest shocks of this month’s qualifiers. From the dizzying heights of Euro 2020 glory to slumming it in the play-offs, it was baffling to see the Azzurri stumble in World Cup qualification – again. 

For the champions of Europe – and along with them the Euro 2020’s player of the tournament – to fail to make it to Qatar would be unthinkable, except it is very much on the brink of becoming a reality.

Donnarumma earned his award through his final heroics during Italy’s penalty showdown with Italy. The goalkeeper saved Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka’s spot-kicks to ensure Italy’s victory. 

The 22-year-old also kept three clean sheets from seven games throughout the tournament to write himself into Azzurri folklore but now he faces the risk of missing out on the next chapter. 

Gianluigi Donnarumma (right) saved Bukayo Saka’s (left) penalty in the Euro 2020 final

The Italian goalkeeper was awarded Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament for his displays

DEFENDERS 

JOAO CANCELO (PORTUGAL)

Portugal’s star-studded squad featuring Joao Cancelo, Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias and Cristiano Ronaldo will be sorely missed if they fail to make it through the play-offs. 

Cancelo is vital to Pep Guardiola’s side after starting all 11 of Manchester City’s league games this season. 

The Portugal international has proven to be lethal on both his right and his left foot netting two goals and providing five assist this term. 

But the full-back failed to fire Portugal one step closer to qualification as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat by Serbia.  

Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo (right) failed to fire Portugal one step closer to qualification 

RUBEN DIAS (PORTUGAL)

Last season’s Premier League Player of the Year would be a huge miss in Qatar. 

Ruben Dias has had an incredible impact at the Etihad Stadium since arriving from Benfica, bringing a much-needed leadership and defence-first approach, which has earned him comparisons to City cult icon Vincent Kompany. 

But the defender failed to have the same impact for Fernando Santos as goals from Serbia’s Dusan Tadic and Aleksandar Mitrovic along with automatic qualification slipped past their back line on Sunday.

Dias is one of the best defenders out there but he looked unimposing and dejected against the Serbs. 

It was a disappointing night for someone of his calibre and Portugal need him to rally ahead of the play-offs.  

DAVID ALABA (AUSTRIA) 

David Alaba has swiftly become a vital member of Real Madrid’s backline. Since his arrival at the Bernabeu this summer, Los Blancos have barely felt the departures of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. 

Since joining as a free agent from Bayern Munich, Alaba is undoubtedly Madrid’s new star man, even netting a stunner in his first ever Clasico last month.  

But the defender may not be able to transport his quality to Qatar, if he can’t carry his country to the World Cup in the same way he has lifted Madrid to second place in LaLiga. 

Austria have not qualified for a World Cup since 1998 and are extremely lucky to find themselves in the play-offs this year. They finished fourth in Group F as Denmark automatically qualified, while Scotland clinched a play-off spot. But the Austrians achieved a play-off position thanks to their Nations League run. 

David Alaba has been Real Madrid’s star man and will hope he can replicate his form for Austria

MIDFIELDERS 

BERNARDO SILVA (PORTUGAL)

Another member of Fernando Santos’s squad who could miss out on entertaining on the global stage. 

The Portuguese magician excels for Pep Guardiola and his versatility enables him to play across the pitch for City. 

He demonstrates a mesh of tenacity, intelligence, anticipation and tactical efficiency which was essential in bringing down old foes Manchester United before the international break.

But unless Portugal can bounce back from their qualification quandary and blitz through the play-offs, Silva will not be taking his talent from the Etihad to Qatar.   

JORGINHO (ITALY)

The Chelsea star is one of the main contenders to take home the Ballon d’Or this year after winning the Champions League and Euro 2020 in the space of six weeks. 

But Jorginho is at risk of being unable to add a World Cup winners’ medal to his growing haul of silverware. 

The midfielder missed a decisive penalty against Switzerland in the penultimate qualifier meaning Italy had to grasp a win against Northern Ireland to secure automatic qualification. 

But the Azzurri walked away from a goalless stalemate at Windsor Park having to contend with the play-offs. 

The 29-year-old is one of a host of talented stars Roberto Mancini’s side boast but Jorginho and Co have won just two of six matches since lifting the Euro trophy and face the prospect of sensationally missing out on the World Cup for the second time in a row.

Jorginho was  named UEFA’s Player of the Year after winning the Champions League and Euros

TOMAS SOUCEK (CZECH REPUBLIC) 

The Czech Republic are left facing a World Cup play-off lottery despite a 2-0 win over Estonia. 

The Czechs head to the play-offs as the best of the rest thanks to their Nations League run after Wales clung on to a 1-1 draw against Belgium to keep the Czech Republic locked in third in the group. 

Soucek was rested for the clash against Estonia, earning a well-deserved rest after being ever-present for both club and country. 

The midfielder has not been able to replicate his goalscoring form of his first season with the Hammers this term but he is still a vital cog in David Moyes’s engine room.  

FORWARDS 

CRISTIANO RONALDO (PORTUGAL) 

This team is Portugal heavy for a reason. A Selecao have many players who would be greatly missed in Qatar but none more so than Portugal’s golden boy. 

Ronaldo broke the men’s international goalscoring record earlier this year with 115 goals but he missed out on the chance to reach 800 career goals as he failed to inspire Portugal to victory against Serbia. 

The 2-1 defeat by the Serbs leaves Fernando Santo’s side sweating in the play-offs as they face the risk of missing the World Cup – Ronaldo’s coveted fifth. 

Manchester United star Ronaldo broke down after the final whistle in Lisbon on Sunday

MOHAMED SALAH (EGYPT) 

Egypt may have topped their qualification group, seeing off Gabon, Libya and Angola, but the Pharaohs still have to get through the play-offs to make it to Qatar. 

Salah is currently one of Africa’s biggest names and the Egyptian King still has his crown firmly atop his head at Anfield. 

The forward has already racked up 15 goals across all competitions for Liverpool this season and his sniper-like ability to pull the trigger in front of goal is Jurgen Klopp’s greatest asset.

Egypt will hope his attacking prowess can see them through the play-offs as they face a huge test against one of nine group winners, including team-mate Sadio Mane’s Senegal.  

Mohamed Salah (centre) is Liverpool and Egypt’s greatest asset thanks to his goalscoring

LUIS SUAREZ (URUGUAY)

Luis Suarez has had some rather interesting and notorious World Cup campaigns. 

Uruguay heroically made it out of Group D, dubbed the Group of Death in 2014, after beating England and Italy. But Suarez’s tournament was tarnished when he bit the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini in their group stage clash. 

But history of biting aside, in the present day Uruguay’s hopes for 2022 are left hanging by a thread. They have been a permanent fixture at the last three additions of the World cup, making the last four in 2010, but currently sit one point off qualification in South America. 

However, they still have five games left to salvage their campaign and hope that, led by veteran Suarez, they can get the job done.

The forward has bagged seven goals in LaLiga so far this term and La Celeste need to get him firing to see them through. 

Luis Suarez (left) bit Giorgio Chiellini (right) on the shoulder at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (POLAND) 

Leading the odds to win the Ballon d’Or this year, Lewandowski could shockingly miss out on next year’s World Cup. 

The Poland captain has enjoyed a sensational start to the season, netting his second hat-trick of the season on his 100th Champions League appearance just before the international break, which took him to 81 career goals in the competition. 

Despite thrilling for Bayern Munich this season, Poland’s talisman couldn’t quite lift his country to qualification, instead having to settle for the play-offs. 

The Poles have suffered disappointing tournaments on the global stage, crashing out in the group stage in 2018 and this summer’s Euros, and this time they ranked behind England in Group I.

But Lewandowski will be hoping he can add to his 74 international goals to fire Poland to Qatar. 

Sportsmail’s XI of the biggest stars at risk of not making it to the World Cup in Qatar




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