Qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup is all but over, leaving us to notice just how much world-class talent will miss out on this summer's tournament. Manchester United and Arsenal stars feature.
The World Cup is still the grandest occasion in the footballing calendar but sometimes, either through sheer bad luck or hideous mismanagement, even the best players can miss out. Here is a Combined XI (and subs bench) of top quality players who won't be going to Russia in the summer of 2018.
Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak
Slovenia & Atlético Madrid
The big Slovenian is a world-class presence between the sticks for club and country. He marshalled a back-line of average players to create a solid defensive outlet that ground their way to finish just four points off a playoff spot.
Right-back: Antonio Valencia
Ecuador & Manchester United
At 32 years-old with 92 caps under his belt, Valencia is one of the leaders of the Ecuadorian side and a great force on the right-flank. Yet they struggled at the end, losing their last six qualifiers to finish six points off a play-off spot.
Centre-back: Leonardo Bonucci
Italy & Milan
Bonucci is one of the two best centre-backs in the world. Still, the great defender was unable to inspire those ahead of him as Italy failed to score in their play-off against Sweden, losing 1-0 on aggregate.
Centre-back: Giorgio Chiellini
Italy & Juventus
At 33 Chiellini has missed what would have been his last World Cup, and that's a great shame because he's still an absolute titan. But defending wasn't Italy's problem.
Left-back: David Alaba
Austria & Bayern Munich
Alaba is a wonderfully rounded player (although he has struggled since Pep Guardiola left Munich) and Austria weren't in a tough group, yet finished four points off a play-off spot.
Defensive midfield: Marco Verratti
Italy & PSG
Marco Verratti is a rugged yet magnificent midfielder who dominates for club and country. But Spain's excellence resulted in Italy's 23 points only getting them a play-off vs. Sweden, where their forwards let them down.
Central midfield: Miralem Pjanic
Bosnia & Juventus
Pjanic is one of the world's finest creative midfielders, yet Bosnia's failure to beat Greece in either of their encounters saw them finish two points behind them in the standings, missing out on qualification.
Attacking midfield: Marek Hamsik
Slovakia & Napoli
Everyone's favourite spiky-haired superstar, Hamsik had led an exciting Slovakian side to the brink of qualification, only for a surprise defeat in Scotland in the penultimate round of games to knock them out of contention.
Right-wing: Arjen Robben
Netherlands & Bayern Munich
Despite being 33, Arjen Robben fought valiantly to try and get the Dutch to the World Cup (it would surely have been his last). He smashed home 6 goals in qualification, but a shocking defeat to Bulgaria meant that they finished level on points with Sweden, losing out on goal difference.
Left-wing: Alexis Sanchez
Chile & Arsenal
Chile's supreme forward has been struggling for Arsenal lately but for Chile he was a dynamo. 7 goals in qualification (only Edinson Cavani had more in South America) drove Chile to the final day where they only needed to beat Brazil to qualify. Sadly, they lost 3-0 and Alexis now misses out on the World Cup.
Striker: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Gabon & Borussia Dortmund
Auba is one of the Bundesliga's leading marksman, but he couldn't lift Gabon to compete as they finished 6 points behind Morocco in their qualifying group.
Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast), Arturo Vidal (Chile), Naby Keita (Guinea), Gareth Bale (Wales), Lorenzo Insigne (Italy), Ciro Immobile (Italy)
Buffon is an all-time great but obviously past his best, meanwhile Gareth Bale and Lorenzo Insigne would have probably made the starting XI had they featured more for their countries during qualification. Although in Bale's case that's not really his fault.