Best of the rest XI

As World Cup qualifying reaches its conclusion, we pick an XI of players to miss the big event.

Last Updated: 05/05/14 at 12:15

World Cup Absentees

Petr Cech (Czech Republic)

The Chelsea goalkeeper has already played in a World Cup and is closing in on Karel Poborsky's record as the Czech Republic's most capped player of all-time. But the 31-year-old will not get the chance to add to his tally in Brazil. His side conceded just nine goals in qualifying, the same total as group winners Italy, but three goalless draws hinted at the problems endured in attack and improvement will be needed if Cech is to play World Cup football again.

Honourable mention: Samir Handanovic (Slovenia)

Lukas Piszczek (Poland)

The first of three Polish players to make this XI - all of them currently at Borussia Dortmund - Piszczek has established himself as one of the best right-backs in Europe. The 28-year-old won the Bundesliga in his first two seasons with BVB but has found success harder to find with the national team. Despite netting in the home qualifier against Ukraine, the three goals conceded at the other end saw Poland hopes dashed.

Honourable mention: Branislav Ivanovic (Serbia)

Martin Skrtel (Slovakia)

The Slovakia captain played a key part in his country's journey to the knockout stages of the 2010 World Cup but there will be no repeat for Skrtel in Brazil. The Liverpool defender might have fancied his chances in Group G but his side finished a distant third behind Bosnia and Herzegovina. A dismal draw with UEFA new boys Gibraltar in November, albeit in Skrtel's absence, suggests that there may be a long wait to see Slovakia back at the showpiece event.

Honourable mention: Jonny Evans (Northern Ireland)

Matija Nastasic (Serbia)

With Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic having retired from international football and Borussia Dortmund centre-back Neven Subotic electing not to make himself available for the latter stages of the campaign once hopes of qualification disappeared, much responsibility fell upon Nastasic. The 20-year-old has responded with characteristic composure and will be confident of tasting the drama of a World Cup before his career is out.

Honourable mention: Daniel Agger (Denmark)

David Alaba (Austria)

As the Bayern Munich left-back who played such a significant role in the team's treble last season, Alaba has a strong case to make any World XI let alone one assembled of players to miss the big event. The 21-year-old enjoyed a fine personal campaign for Austria, netting a remarkable six goals with only Germany's Mesut Ozil outscoring him in Group C. However, it was not enough to secure second spot as a late Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal in Sweden scuppered Austrian hopes.

Honourable mention: Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia)

Jakub Blaszczykowski (Poland)

Nobody did more than the Poland captain to haul his team to Brazil but his effort proved in vain as they had to settle for a disappointing fourth place in Group H behind England, Ukraine and Montenegro. Blaszczykowski scored four goals in qualifying - only bettered by Wayne Rooney in the group - but now faces the prospect of a career without a World Cup appearance... Particularly heartbreaking given that the winger missed the 2006 tournament through injury.

Honourable mention: Jefferson Farfan (Peru)

Aaron Ramsey (Wales)

The 22-year-old midfielder has emerged as a growing force at Arsenal with 11 goals from his first 17 games for the club this season. That improvement was also reflected in his performances for his country. After scoring from the spot against Scotland and Macedonia, Ramsey finished the campaign with a late equaliser against group winners Belgium to offer a further hint that there is more to come from him - and Wales - in the future.

Honourable mention: Christian Eriksen (Denmark)

Henrik Mkhitaryan (Armenia)

Armenia's fifth-place finish in their group belies a spirited effort in World Cup qualifying that saw them win as many games - four - as they'd managed in their previous four attempts. Mkhitaryan was undoubtedly the star man, scoring home and away against Italy and prompting much of what was good about the team's performances. As it turned out, a home win against Malta would have put them on the same points tally as second-placed Denmark. Roll on Euro 2016.

Honourable mention: Marek Hamsik (Slovakia)

Gareth Bale (Wales)

The Real Madrid winger became the world's most expensive player in the summer but there will be no place for him at the World Cup in Brazil. Bale netted his country's first three goals of their qualifying campaign, including a late brace to beat Scotland. But the fact that his solitary effort against Serbia saw six go in at the other end was indicative of the problem as Wales could only finish fifth in their group.

Honourable mention: Yevhen Konoplyanka (Ukraine)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)

The enigmatic Paris St Germain forward delivered a timely double for Sweden in the second leg of their World Cup play-off against Portugal. Unfortunately for Ibrahimovic, the opposition had a guy called Cristiano Ronaldo who was able to fire home for four goals of his own over the two matches. At the age of 32, this was Ibrahimovic's final chance to grace a World Cup at the peak of his powers but the show will now have to go on without him.

Honourable mention: Papiss Cisse (Senegal)

Robert Lewandowski (Poland)

Aside from an equaliser in the disappointing home draw against Montenegro, two penalties against San Marino were all Lewandowski had to show for his qualifying campaign and question marks remain over his international form. A goalscoring record for Poland that stands at worse than one in three does not reflect the talent of the man who fired Borussia Dortmund to the 2013 Champions League final in such spectacular fashion. Would he have delivered in Brazil? We'll never know.

Honourable mention: Stevan Jovetic (Montenegro)

Any names we've missed? Let us know and pick your own line-ups in the comments section below.

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