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Qatar 2022 is set to be a World Cup like no other — but some of the game’s biggest stars will sit out the mid-season showpiece.
Due to the host country’s extreme summer heat, the tournament is taking place this month and next instead of at the end of the season.
And a number of players will miss out because they are stuck on the sidelines.
Ahead of the upcoming festival of football, we have picked out 11 injured absentees who will be watching from their armchairs or the treatment table.
In goal is AC Milan stopper Mike Maignan, who suffered a calf injury that has ruled him out of action since September.
The Rossoneri custodian may not have started for France — with Hugo Lloris continuing to defy his age at Tottenham — but he was almost certainly next in line to play, given his form for the Scudetto winners last season.
Chelsea have suffered a litany of injuries to key players this term, including England left-back Ben Chilwell.
It is a massive setback for the former Leicester man, who did not play a single minute during England’s Euro 2020 run and is now out with a hamstring issue.
With Luke Shaw underperforming, Chilwell began to cement a place in the Three Lions’ starting line-up and made five appearances in World Cup qualifying — but now he will be forced to watch from home.
Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Presnel Kimpembe saw his World Cup hopes end after failing to recover from hamstring and Achilles tendon injuries.
The centre-back has previously racked up 28 appearances for France — but his absence could make way for an up-and-coming star to feature, such as William Saliba or Ibrahim Konate.
Reece James’ fine form for club and country was halted in its tracks, when he picked up a knee injury in Chelsea’s Champions League clash with AC Milan.
The Blues’ No24 believed that recovery for Qatar was possible — but was unable to convince Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate, who left him off the squad list.
England will sorely miss his attacking and defensive abilities, with fellow right-back Kyle Walker only just recovering from an injury himself.
Paul Pogba is yet to play a single minute for Juventus after joining from Manchester United last July — but his importance to France is undeniable.
The 29-year-old midfield ace helped unlock Les Bleus’ attacking potential at the 2018 World Cup, though he has not recovered from knee surgery in time to have a similar impact this time around.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s World Cup dream was shattered when he broke his leg two weeks after joining Serie A side Roma.
However, the former Liverpool player’s inclusion was not guaranteed — even before that injury — with Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal delivering a harsh assessment of his recent performances for the Oranje.
He said: “It’s about the form of players. We played six games in qualifying, Georginio [Wijnaldum] played five and I substituted him three times. I think you have to deliver when you play in the Dutch national team.”
N’Golo Kante is another key omission for France, given the pivotal role he played in their World Cup triumph four years ago.
The Chelsea midfielder was ruled out of the squad after having an operation on a hamstring injury — and leaves a notable gap in the centre of the park.
Villarreal creator Giovani Lo Celso has been a regular in Argentina’s squad, playing six of the seven games in their 2021 Copa America triumph.
The Tottenham loanee was in red-hot form during qualifying too, registering five assists to help Argentina book their spot in Qatar — but a torn quadricep needing surgery means he will miss out.
Despite an underwhelming stint at Stamford Bridge, Timo Werner has been a standout performer for the German national team — netting five times in World Cup qualifying.
The forward has since returned to RB Leipzig and has excelled, scoring four goals in seven Bundesliga starts.
But an ankle injury during their Champions League match-up with Shakhtar Donetsk saw him left out of Hansi Flick’s squad for Qatar.
Diogo Jota had only just recovered from a hamstring issue when he cruelly suffered a calf injury weeks later.
In qualifying, the Liverpool forward scored five goals and assisted two more for Portugal, illustrating his importance to the Selecao.
It is a tale as old as time for German forward Marco Reus, whose career has been littered with injuries — and this year has proved no different.
The 33-year-old will not be heading to the Middle East after aggravating an ankle injury, originally suffered against Schalke back in September.
He has scored 15 goals and registered 14 assists in 48 appearances for Germany — with two goals and three assists coming in four qualifying matches for Qatar 2022.
This is the second World Cup that Reus has missed due to injury, after his ankle betrayed him in 2014.
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