The group stage of the World Cup Qualifiers has been full of surprises in the final phase. Only 32 teams will compete in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022. As a reminder of how high the stakes are in football’s biggest spectacle, some of the game’s biggest names may not even make it.
Different continents have different qualifying formats for the FIFA World Cup 2022.
The World Cup will feature 13 European teams, five African teams, five Asian teams (four-plus host nation Qatar), four South American teams, and three North American teams. The winners of the intercontinental playoffs will fill the final two spots.
As things currently stand, several top footballing nations are in danger of failing to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. On that note, let’s take a look at five of the biggest stars who could miss the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
Number 5: Erling Haaland
With one round of games remaining, Norway is currently third in Group G. They are tied for second place with Turkey, who has a goal difference of +10, while Norway has a goal difference of +9.
Norway, on the other hand, will have their work cut out for them if they are to defeat the Netherlands on Tuesday. Worse, Norway will be without star player Erling Haaland, who is out with a hip injury and will not be back anytime soon.
Turkey takes on Montenegro in their quest for a playoff spot. It should be relatively easy for the Turks to win that game. Norway was never expected to qualify directly from the group stage, as the Netherlands was always considered the favorite to do so.
There could be a major twist in Group G. If Norway wins and Turkey wins, the Netherlands will be eliminated because they currently have only a one-point lead over the chasing pack.
But, if things go as expected, Norway will be eliminated from the Qualifiers in the group stage, and Haaland will be sorely missed at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He is currently the most sought-after striker in the world and one of the most prolific strikers on the planet.
In just 10 appearances for Borussia Dortmund in the 2021-22 season, he has 13 goals and four assists.
Number 4: Suarez
It would be extremely unfortunate if Luis Suarez did not qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The legendary striker is 34 years old, and this could be his final World Cup. However, things are looking bleak for Uruguay at the moment.
They have lost their last three games and are currently ranked sixth in the CONMEBOL 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. They must surpass Ecuador and Chile, which are currently fifth and fourth in the table, respectively. All three teams are tied in terms of points.
Uruguay still has a chance because all of their matches against Brazil and Argentina are completed, whereas Chile and Colombia have a challenging schedule. If Uruguay fails to qualify, Suarez and strike partner Edinson Cavani will be sorely missed at the quadrennial tournament.
Number 3: Bruno Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes is one of the world’s best playmakers. While he isn’t particularly skilled in possession, Fernandes has a knack for making ridiculously effective passes. He is equally adept at scoring goals as he is at orchestrating play.
Fernandes has been one of Manchester United’s few bright spots in the 2021-22 season. However, he has not been as effective for Portugal’s national team. Portugal has advanced to the World Cup playoffs after losing their final group stage World Cup qualifier match against Serbia.
Only three of the ten teams that make the playoffs will qualify. Fernando Santos’ men have allowed their levels to drop in recent months and are now suffering as a result. Fernandes is currently one of the biggest names in world football, and it would be a shame for him to miss the World Cup during his prime years.
Number 2: Robert Lewandowski
Right now, Robert Lewandowski is the most prolific striker on the planet. He has scored goals for fun for both club and country. For several seasons, the Polish international has been tearing up the Bundesliga and leading his national team admirably.
Poland appears to be heading to the playoffs after finishing second in Group I behind England. Only three points separate the two ahead of their respective group stage final matches. England will almost certainly win against San Marino. The Three Lions currently lead Poland by a goal difference of +6.
The Poles will face Hungary, who have already missed out on qualification. As things currently stand, Lewandowski and company are destined for the playoffs, and it will take a miracle for them to qualify directly from the group.
Lewandowski is one of the favorites to win the Ballon d’Or this season, and he has been in spectacular form for Bayern so far in the 2021-22 season. This season, he has 23 goals and two assists in 17 appearances for the Bavarians across all competitions.
Number 1: Cristiano Ronaldo
This could be difficult for all football fans to swallow. Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest footballers of all time, and this will most likely be his final World Cup as he turns 36. Ronaldo was moved to tears after Portugal lost their final group stage game against Serbia, sending them to the playoffs.
Aleksandr Mitrovic scored the game-winning goal in the 90th minute to help Serbia win Group A. Ronaldo, who has frequently performed heroics for Manchester United this season, was unable to score in stoppage time this time.
Portugal is still likely to qualify for the World Cup through the playoffs, but they must hold their ground now. They have an incredible amount of talent, but they have recently struggled against strong competition.
If Cristiano Ronaldo does not play in this World Cup, a lot of the luster will be gone before the ball is even kicked.