Missing World Cup XI: The star players who won't be at Russia 2018
By Peter Smith
Last Updated: 23/03/18 5:50am
England face the Netherlands and Italy this month - neither of whom will be going to Russia 2018.
Italy failed to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1958, while the Netherlands miss a second tournament in a row, following their absence from Euro 2016.
But the key men for Italy and the Netherlands aren't the only star names missing out. Here, we pick a talented XI who will be twiddling their thumbs rather than lighting up the world stage this summer...
Gianluigi Buffon, Italy - goalkeeper
There was heartbreak for Italy legend Buffon in November. The goalkeeper made his 175th appearance for his country in their play-off second leg with Sweden but the 2006 champions - who finished second behind Spain in their qualifying group - were unable to overturn a 1-0 deficit. Buffon, who was in the Italy squad for the 1998 World Cup, emotionally announced his retirement from international football after the game - although, after a U-turn, has been named in the squad to face England.
Antonio Valencia, Ecuador - right wing-back
Manchester United full-back Valencia will not be in Russia next summer after Ecuador finished eighth in South American qualifying, six points off a play-off spot.
Virgil van Dijk, Netherlands - centre-back
Liverpool centre-back - and new Netherlands captain - Virgil van Dijk was part of a disappointing side which, after missing Euro 2016, failed to qualify for Russia 2018. He and his countrymen missed out on a play-off spot on goal difference to Sweden.
Leonardo Bonucci, Italy - centre-back
Bonucci has enjoyed huge success at club level with Juventus, adding six Serie A titles to the one he won with Inter Milan. However, after finishing runners-up at Euro 2012 with Italy, he won't have a chance to improve on that result at the World Cup, following his team's play-off loss to Sweden.
Giorgio Chiellini, Italy - centre-back
Chiellini lifted the World Cup with Italy in 2006 but announced his international retirement immediately after his side's play-off exit to Sweden. He won't be adding to his 96 international caps at Russia 2018.
David Alaba, Austria - left wing-back
Austria's six-time footballer of the year, Alaba has enjoyed plenty of success at club level with Bayern Munich but he and his national team colleagues finished up fourth behind Serbia, Republic of Ireland and Wales in Group D qualifying.
Arturo Vidal, Chile - central midfield
Chile agonisingly missed out on World Cup qualifying in the final round of South American fixtures, with midfielder Vidal and his team-mates losing out on a play-off place to Peru on goal difference.
Marco Verratti, Italy - central midfield
Talented deep-lying Italian playmaker Verratti will be sitting out the World Cup along with his national team colleagues after their play-off failure to Sweden.
Gareth Bale, Wales - forward
Injured Bale could only watch on as his Wales colleagues lost their all-or-nothing final group game with Republic of Ireland. After lighting up Euro 2016, Bale will be stuck at home next summer.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Gabon - forward
Aubameyang has produced some superb goal-scoring feats with Borussia Dortmund in recent years, but the January Arsenal signing was unable to fire Gabon to Russia, with the country finishing way off the pace in the group phase.
Alexis Sanchez, Chile - forward
After helping Chile to back-to-back Copa America triumphs, Sanchez would have been dreaming of making his mark at the World Cup next summer. Instead, he and his team-mates painfully, narrowly, missed out.