5 world-class players who could miss the 2018 World Cup

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These stars might not make it to Russia

The World Cup brings all of the best international sides together to compete for the biggest prize in football. But some of the best players in the world might not make it to next year’s tournament.

Gareth Bale is already certain to miss out following Wales’ defeat to the Republic of Ireland. And more elite players may have to join him in watching the action in Russia on TV after the final qualifiers tonight.

Here are five top players who may not make it to the World Cup…

Lionel Messi

Arguably the best player in the world and certainly one of the greatest of all time, a World Cup without Lionel Messi is almost unthinkable. And yet, that may become reality. Argentina are sixth in South American qualifying and need a win to secure their place in the tournament.

Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli has an incredible array of attacking talent to choose from but the team isn’t clicking. Messi is the only Argentina player to score a competitive goal since last November.

La Albiceleste will look to the Barcelona ace to overcome the altitude in Ecuador and fire them to victory in their final qualifier.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Messi’s great rival Cristiano Ronaldo could also miss out, although Portugal are in a better position than Argentina.

Portugal are guaranteed a place in the play-offs at least. And they can qualify automatically if they beat UEFA Group B leaders Switzerland at home in their final game.

Ronaldo inspired Portugal to victory in Euro 2016. This is likely to be his last chance to win the World Cup and the Ballon d’Or holder will be determined to make it count.

Alexis Sanchez

Chile’s speed, energy and attacking mentality made them one of the most entertaining sides to watch at the 2014 World Cup. La Roja have won two successive Copa America tournaments since then, but now face a battle to reach Russia.

Alexis Sanchez is Chile’s record goalscorer with 39 international strikes. The 28-year-old’s skill, determination and eye for goal make him one of the Premier League’s most exciting players. And he has the talent to light up the World Cup.

To guarantee their place, Chile have the tough task of beating Brazil away from home. A draw should also be enough but defeat would leave their fate out of their hands.

Luka Modric

Luka Modric has been vital to Real Madrid’s consecutive Champions League wins in the last two years. Now the Croatia captain will need to guide his team through a potentially tricky play-off to make sure they qualify for the World Cup.

For Madrid, Modric is often the one who knits the play together. His ability to move the ball around provides the platform for the likes of Bale and Ronaldo to shine.

The 32-year-old has been one of the best midfielders around in recent years. It would be a real shame if he doesn’t get a chance to perform on the World Cup stage.

Arjen Robben

Sweden beat Luxembourg 8-0 last weekend, much to Dick Advocaat’s surprise. That huge win means that the Netherlands now need to beat the Swedes by seven goals to reach the play-offs.

It means the Oranje’s loss in the 2010 World Cup final is almost certainly the closest Arjen Robben will come to lifting the Jules Rimet trophy. Even at the age of 33, he remains the biggest Dutch threat.

Everyone knows he likes to pick up the ball on the right flank and cut inside onto his stronger left foot. And yet, few defenders are able to stop him.

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