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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Absentee XI: Gareth Bale, Alexis Sanchez, David Alaba and others not going to the 2018 World Cup

A who's who of high-profile names who won't be heading to Russia next summer

While most of Wednesday's headlines focussed on Lionel Messi hauling Argentina out of trouble at the last with a hat-trick against Ecuador to seal a World Cup spot, there are plenty of big names who will not be joining the mercurial No 10 in Russia next summer.

The Chile of Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal were pipped at the post by Messi and co as Peru's draw with Colombia meant they finished fifth in the 10-team Conmebol group to take the play-off spot. They will face New Zealand in a two-legged play-off to punch their tickets to Russia.

In Europe, Gareth Bale could only watch from the sidelines as Wales lost 1-0 to Republic of Ireland to miss out on a play-off spot.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will be relatively happy knowing key players will get some much needed rest at the end of a long, hard Premier League season.

Defender Daley Blind will get an extended summer break after the Netherlands, still reeling from Sweden's 8-0 thrashing of Luxembourg, a result their manager Dick Advocaat had predicted "will not happen", missed out on second in European qualifying Group A to the Swedes on goal difference. Maybe he can plan a summer holiday with fellow teammates Henrik Mkhitaryan (Armenia) and Antonio Valencia (Ecuador) after their respective country's failed to negotiate their way through qualifying also.

Other high-profile absentees from next year's global showpiece will be Bayern Munich's Austrian defender David Alaba, Roma's Bosnian-Herzegovina striker Edin Dzeko and Atletico Madrid's Slovenian goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

The new darling of the United States national team, Christian Pulisic, will also be able to rest his weary bones at the end of a slog in the Bundesliga after the US contrived to somehow not even finish fourth in the six-team Concacaf region that would have guaranteed them a play-off against Australia, who ended Syria's fairy-tale campaign in Sydney on Tuesday.

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