Buffon, Bale, Sanchez among the star names to miss out on 2018 FIFA World Cup

Gianluigi Buffon and his illustrious Italy team-mates crashed out of World Cup qualifying on Monday night after a 0-0 draw against Sweden at the San Siro, having lost the away leg of the play-off 1-0 on Friday.

The loss means Buffon joins a star-studded list of players who have failed to qualify for next year’s showpiece event.

Gareth Bale and Alexis Sanchez are among the other headline names who will miss out on the World Cup in Russia as several high-profile teams shockingly failed to qualify.

Here’s an all-star XI of World Cup absentees.


Buffon’s international career ended in tears after Italy’s failure to qualify. The Juventus goalkeeper won the World Cup in 2006, which is a memory he’ll undoubtedly always cherish, but bowing out in this manner was unbecoming for such a legendary player.


Antonio Valencia has quietly become one of the world’s best right-backs over the last couple of seasons at Manchester United. However, he was unable to inspire his national team and lead them to the World Cup, as Ecuador were one of the casualties of a strong South American qualifying group.


Leonardo Bonucci’s nightmare start to the season continued on Monday. He’s had a tough start to his AC Milan career after moving from Juventus in the summer. However, he put in a heroic effort for his national team, playing with a facial mask after an injury he suffered in the first leg and even soldiered on after pulling up with what looked like a hamstring injury on Monday, but it wasn’t enough.


Giorgio Chiellini joined Buffon, as well as Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi, in announcing his international retirement immediately after Italy crashed out against Sweden. Unlike the other three, Chiellini retires having never tasted success at the international level. He and Bonucci were both Italy youth-team players when the senior squad won the 2006 World Cup.


David Alaba endured injury struggles that caused him to miss crucial qualifiers for Austria, who had the misfortune of being drawn in one of the toughest groups in Europe alongside Serbia, Ireland, and Wales. Austria won their final two qualifiers without the Bayern Munich man, but it wasn’t enough to get into second spot in their group.


At 25, Marco Verratti has plenty of time to banish the memories of Italy’s disappointing qualifying campaign. He’ll especially rue missing out on Monday’s second leg, as he was suspended and could only watch on as his team-mates failed to breach Sweden’s defence. Who knows how different things would’ve been had the PSG star been conducting play from midfield.


Like Bonucci, Arturo Vidal hasn’t had a great start to his campaign. He’s missed games through injury, his Bayern Munich side were on the verge of a crisis before righting the ship, and the all-action midfielder failed to help his national side qualify for the World Cup. Chile were highest-profile casualties in what is arguably the world’s toughest region – Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Colombia were the sides that qualified automatically. Still, Chile should have at least finished fifth and earned a playoff spot against New Zealand, but they lost out on that to Peru.


Speaking of a poor and injury-impacted start to the season, Bale was a huge miss for Wales in their crucial qualifiers towards the end of the group stages. There’s no guarantee Wales would have beaten Ireland in their final qualifier, when a win would have ensured a play-off spot, but Bale would certainly have made his side more potent. His injury struggles are likely going to cost him his status as a Real Madrid player, and they played a big part in costing his country a World Cup spot.


Christian Pulisic was left bemoaning USA’s shortcomings in developing young players after a shock loss to Trinidad and Tobago saw the Americans fail to qualify. He should know best: at the age of 17, Pulisic decided moving out of his country was the best option for his development. Now, he’s a star at Borussia Dortmund, and a 19-year-old who’s head and shoulders above his international team-mates – an indictment of USA’s lack of quality even considering his talent.


For a few weeks early in this season, it seemed like everything was going wrong for Sanchez. He wasn’t playing for Arsenal due to injury and a transfer dispute. Then he never got the transfer he so desperately wanted. And after all that, he couldn’t lead Chile to the World Cup. It’s been quite a fall for Chile, who reached the quarter-finals at the 2014 World Cup.


Gabon were one of the weaker sides in African qualifying, so it’s not entirely a surprise to see them miss out on the World Cup, especially in a group that also had Morocco and the Ivory Coast. Still, it was a disappointing effort from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Borussia Dortmund striker scored the winning penalty in the shoot-out against Mozambique that took Gabon to the group stages, but otherwise he failed to score a single goal during Gabon’s qualifying campaign.

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Liverpool's Sadio Mane stars as Senegal book World Cup 2018 slot

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Premier League pair Diafra Sakho and Sadio Mane played key roles as Senegal defeated South Africa 2-0 in Polokwane Friday to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

West Ham striker Sakho opened the scoring off a pass from Liverpool attacker Mane and both were involved in the move that led to a Thamsanqa Mkhize own-goal before half-time.

Victory gave Senegal an uncatchable five-point lead over Burkina Faso and Cape Verde in Group D with one round left.

The only previous World Cup appearance by Senegal was in 2002 when current coach Aliou Cisse captained a team that reached the quarter-finals in South Korea.

Bottom-of-the-table South Africa lie seven ponts behind Senegal ahead of a return match in Dakar next Tuesday, with Burkina Faso hosting Cape Verde at the same time.

South Africa defeated Senegal 2-1 in Polokwane last November, but FIFA ordered a replay because of “match manipulation” by Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey, who was banned for life.

Senegal are the third African qualifiers for the World Cup in Russia after Nigeria and Egypt, who secured places during the penultimate qualifying round last month.

The other two slots will be filled Saturday with north African countries Tunisia and Morocco needing draws to qualify.

Tunisia host out-of-contention Libya in Group A holding a three-point advantage over the Democratic Republic of Congo, who play Guinea in Kinshasa.

Morocco are one point in front of the Ivory Coast ahead of a showdown in Abidjan with the visitors hoping to end a 20-year absence from the World Cup.

South Africa goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune played with a protective white mask after fracturing a facial bone in a club match last weekend.

Senegal took the lead after 12 minutes when Sakho raced on to a Mane pass and side-footed the ball to the right of onrushing Khune.

Stung by falling behind so early, South Africa sought an equaliser and came close midway through the opening half at Peter Mokaba Stadium.

Goalkeeper Khadim Ndiaye failed to grasp a fierce close-range Themba Zwane shot, but recovered to catch the rebound after the ball struck inrushing Percy Tau.

South Africa came even close soon after when Lebogang Manyama swept a low cross against the crossbar and Senegal hastily cleared the loose ball.

The Senegalese Teranga Lions doubled their lead after 38 minutes against the run of play with another goal involving Sakho and Mane.

Sakho broke clear and crossed to Mane, whose shot was blocked by Khune only for the clearance to hit Mkhize and trickled back into the net.

As half-time approached, Manyama went close again to scoring, this time from a free-kick that Ndiaye tipped over.

South Africa introduced midfielders Andile Jali and Siphiwe Tshabalala midway through the second half, but neither made an impact.

Provided by AFP Sport

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The 13 official World Cup footballs as Lionel Messi unveils the Adidas Telstar18 for the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Alex Rea 10/11/2017

For the most iconic stage, an iconic ball – Adidas unveiled the Telstar18 as the official match ball for next year’s World Cup in Russia and it’s one with a nod to the past, present and future.

The World Cup ball has been revolutionised by the German sports giant ever since their first at the 1970 tournament in Mexico.

Recent iterations like the Brazuca for Brazil 2014 and the infamous Jabulani for South Africa 2010 have used the host countries as a foundation for the design.

However, Adidas have opted to bring back a classic, unleashing the Telstar onto a 21st century audience.

The original, a 32-panel ball with 12 black panels on a predominantly white design was created to be more visible on black and white televisions.

The Telstar Durlast was a similarly designed version used in Germany four years later and it rightly lives within football folklore.

Among the many new features for Telstar18, the one which stands is out the embedded NFC chip.

It will be the first time the chip is ever used in an official match ball and enables consumers to interact with the ball using a smartphone.

Having gone through extensive testing with teams like Argentina, Colombia, Manchester United, Ajax, Real Madrid and Juventus you can be sure it’s one of the best yet.

And Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi gave the Telstar18 his seal of approval at a launch event in Moscow on Thursday.

“I was lucky enough to get to know this ball a bit earlier and I managed to have a try with it,” Messi said. “I like all of it: the new design, the colours, everything.”

Check out the gallery above to see all 13 of iterations of Adidas’s official World Cup match ball.

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