The World Cup brings together the best of world football every four years for the game’s most exciting spectacle. With competition to make the tournament intense, however, club prowess is no guarantee of a place, no matter how good the individual.
The likes of Arjen Robben, Alexis Sanchez, and many others are now facing up to a free summer next year after their nations failed to make the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
They are in fine company, as plenty of top-drawer talents will be left kicking their heels next June while the 32 qualified countries lock horns.
Borussia Dortmund’s Gabon superstar was close to helping his nation make their first finals in history. But after reaching the third round of African qualifying, Gabon found it a bridge too far.
Aubameyang failed to score in the final phase, but at 28 he may yet have another chance of making a World Cup in five years time.
Wales’ hero during their run to the semi-finals in Euro 2016 was unable to help them when it really counted this time around.
A hip injury cost Bale his place in Monday’s qualifying decider against the Republic of Ireland, and without their talisman, the Dragons slumped to a 1-0 defeat which saw them miss out on a play-off place.
An unstoppable Belgium team in Group H of UEFA’s competition saw Greece and Bosnia & Herzegovina left to fight for second place, a battle ultimately won by the former who move on to the playoffs.
Roma star Dzeko pitched in with five goals for his nation but fell short as Bosnia ended the campaign two points shy of their rivals.
Having started the World Cup qualifiers in dreadful fashion with two defeats and a draw, Hamsik helped Slovakia stay in contention until the end. A 3-0 win over Malta on the last day sealed second place in Group H behind England, but it was not enough as other results condemned them to elimination as ninth-ranked of the runners-up.