Every World Cup cycle produces a good cluster of surprising roster snubs, and we’ve been privy to a handful of them over the past week or so as 30 and 23-man rosters roll out. And the announcement that in-form midfielder Samir Nasri wouldn’t join France in Brazil was one of the biggest snubs of our time.
With that in the lens, here’s my All-Snub XI so far as the World Cup creeps ever nearer. Maybe next time, Bornstein.
GK Diego Lopez, Spain: This one was always bound to be awkward. Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti had Lopez and Iker Casillas on a platoon system all year, with Casillas keeping the cup matches and Lopez between the pipes for the more plentiful league games. Vicente del Bosque only opted to roll the dice with one Real Madrid keeper (to join Pepe Reina and David de Gea), and he went with the more internationally experienced Casillas despite the fact that Lopez has played at a high level and in more games than Casillas this season. The Real Madrid locker room at the Champions League final in Lisbon should be interesting.
D Gregory van der Weil, Netherlands: The Dutch 30-man roster was littered with a number of prominent youngsters, including Karim Rekik, a precocious 19-year-old defender from Manchester City on loan to PSV. Rekik’s inclusion, though, came at the expense of fullback Gregory van der Weil, unquestionably the biggest snub for this Dutch team, which will presumably lean on Augsburg’s Paul Verhaegh in the talented PSG defender’s stead.
D Gael Clichy, France: This is perhaps not the most vicious of snubs, but Clichy is an internationally experienced fullback who had presumably done enough with Manchester City this season to at least earn a call-up to the 30, if not the 23. Clichy has consistently been overlooked at left back in favor of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra going back to the Laurent Blanc days, and you’d figure his relatively consistent playing time with City would’ve translated somehow to the national team setup. But no dice. Clichy’s snubs continue.
D Ashley Cole, England: This one’s unique. The snub hit Cole so hard (and was perhaps so revealing) that he retired from international soccer altogether in its wake. Cole had a hard time cracking the Chelsea 11 at times this season, but that doesn’t diminish his skill set when he played, which was still incredibly high for a 33-year-old. Cole is still one of the world’s best left backs – he’s assuredly still England’s best – and it’s a shame we won’t see him in Brazil.
D Park Joo-ho, South Korea: A few months ago, it was hard to imagine a South Korean side without Joo-ho, a reliable fullback who plays in the Bundesliga for Mainz, which finished in the top half of the table this year. But some foot inflammation threw some doubt into his inclusion, and coach Hong Myung-bo opted to keep him off the 23, which South Korea went ahead and announced last week. Park would’ve been the starting left back in Brazil, and his doctors cleared him to play by the end of May, but Hong didn’t roll the dice.
M Samir Nasri, France: The biggest snub on this list? Could be. Nasri was in sizzling form for league winners Manchester City for nearly the entire season, but he was left off the French 30-man roster because Didier Deschamps had questions about his demeanor when he doesn’t start. As in, Nasri is temperamental on the bench, and that kind of attitude can be cancerous in a closed system like a tournament locker room. Still, Nasri would’ve been one of the best French players on the field in Brazil. Hard to imagine him sitting home.
M Radja Nainggolan, Belgium: No matter who treks to Brazil, the Belgian XI is loaded, so there was bound to be some damaged egos when the final roster was released. The biggest was the omission of Nainggolan, otherwise known as the final personnel domino to fall in Michael Bradley’s exodus from Roma. Nainggolan came to Roma on loan from Cagliari in January and has absolutely ripped through Serie A this season. Meanwhile, Marouane Fellaini is fresh off an embarrassingly bad season-long run of form with Manchester United, and it’s hard to believe Nainggolan didn’t deserve the chance more.
M Philippe Coutinho, Brazil: The Brazilian roster is notoriously difficult to crack, so it’s understandable that a 21-year-old talent like Coutinho isn’t getting his shot just yet. But how many creative Brazilian midfielders had a better season than Coutinho? He played more than 2,300 minutes for title-contending Liverpool and showcased his wares as one of the brightest attacking lights in England last season. At the very least would’ve been a wonderful option off the bench.
F Ike Uche, Nigeria: Uche said all the right things in the aftermath of his 30-man snub late last week, but it’d be hard to imagine there isn’t some underlying dismay at being left off the Super Eagles’ roster. The 30-year-old Villarreal striker is lighting up La Liga this year with 13 goals and three assists in 29 matches, and it’s hard to imagine Nigeria not needing his services, be it off the bench or as the team’s primary striker. There’s certainly no Nigerian striker more World Cup-ready.
F Carlos Tevez, Argentina: Strange But True fact of the day: Tevez hasn’t pulled on an Argentina jersey since the 2011 Copa America. Seems baffling considering his prodigious skill set up top, but the bulldog striker has been at odds with the AFA for some time. It’s unfortunate that Tevez’s mercurial personality can push people away, because watching him with Juventus this season was enough to make your mouth water at the prospect of seeing him in Brazil.
F Eddie Johnson, USA: This is an American list, so we include an American. Eddie Johnson can certainly be excused for thinking the world works in mysterious ways after he was left off Monday’s USMNT 30-man roster reveal. It’s hard to imagine anyone believing Chris Wondolowski, for instance, deserved the call-up more than the player whose goal clinched the USMNT’s place in Brazil. The even more unfortunate bit is this was likely Johnson’s last shot at a World Cup call-up.