Could This “Snub XI” Have Won the World Cup?

There are way too many good players who didn’t get chosen for the World Cup. These are the best ones that didn’t make it, featured in our “Snub XI”.

With the World Cup squads being finalized yesterday, we are officially really really close to the World Cup starting, but we also get to find out who didn’t make the cut.

There are plenty of players we are excited to see play in the World Cup, but as always there are snubs who sadly won’t feature in the tournament. Players who didn’t get picked based on attitude, a poor season or simply inept managers not choosing them. Could the best snubs field a “Snub XI” good enough to win the World Cup? Before we go through them all, here are some ground rules to avoid confusion:

  1. Injured players don’t apply – We’d love to have Koscielny in our XI, but I’m sure Deschamps would as well if he wasn’t out until November.
  2. Players “banned” or retired from their national team don’t count – Benzema has World Cup quality, but no French manager would have chosen him after his scandal.
  3. Only players from teams that qualified – There are plenty of good players whose national teams didn’t qualify, but they won’t feature here. Don’t worry though, we’ll cover their potential team next!

On to our “Snub XI”:


Bayern Leverkusen might have had a forgettable season but Bernd Leno still managed to make an impression, with a lot of teams sending scouts for the 26-year-old. Leno had double digits clean-sheets (10 clean sheets in the Bundesliga to be exact).

His omission is strange, considering that Kevin Trapp has hardly played for PSG and probably hasn’t recovered from several individual errors from seasons past was preferred over Leno. It has to be noted though that even if Leno had made the team, he would have been the third option behind Manuel Neuer and Marc-André ter Stegen. Two of the best in the world. It still baffles us that Kevin Trapp was picked over Leno though. Might as well have chosen Loris Karius.

Our back-up goalkeeper for the “Snub XI” is the Brazilian Neto who has had a stellar season with Valencia. Allison gets all the attention and a ticket to the World Cup, but big teams should also take a look at Neto.


We’ve gone for attacking full backs and there might not be a better attacking full back in the world than Alex Sandro. In fact there are not many left backs full stop who are as good as the often rumored Chelsea target, Alex Sandro. Perhaps only Marcelo, the man preferred over him as the starting left back for Brazil.

In terms of pure skill, no defender is better than Alex Sandro, which makes this snub all the more upsetting. His trickery can get the crowd on their feet and his attributes could’ve helped Brazil raise their hands in victory, but sadly the World Cup will go on without him. He beats out the man he might replace at Chelsea, Marcos Alonso, for the left back spot in our “Snub XI”.

The other full-back, Sergi Roberto, is similarly a defender who has skills to play further forward. Originally a central midfielder, Roberto has filled the right back shaped hole created after Dani Alves left Barca, a man who probably would be in either Brazil’s squad or this team if he wasn’t out injured.

In true Barcelona fashion, Roberto makes his living as a good passer of the ball and having the football smarts to confidently adapt to several positions. That includes his current role of right back, where he has bombed up and down the right flank all season long. His solid season with Barcelona earns him a spot over fellow La Masia product Héctor Bellerín, who had a difficult season with Arsenal.

In central defence, we have to mention yet another Brazilian (they sure make some good footballers) in David Luiz. He fell out of favour with Chelsea and has also fallen out of favour with Brazil, but still earns a spot in our “Snub XI”. The erratic character with the Sideshow Bob hairdo will be another personality missed in Russia and the 7-1 drubbing he got against Germany is likely his last moment in a World Cup.

Luiz, like our full backs, is in the squad mostly on his offensive merits. He is a good passer and packs a dangerous right foot on shots and free kicks. To even out all this offensive firepower, our last defender in the “Snub XI” is a proper one, Aymeric Laporte.

The French centre back of Basque descent is practically flawless defensively and can pretty much do it all now that he is an improved header of the ball. His cautious approach with the ball is offset by adventurous players around him and he’ll never lose it in dangerous positions. There’s a reason Man City spent £57 million on him.

Luiz and Laporte are backed up by Mamadou Sakho and Marc Bartra who have both started to produce on a top level regularly, after inconsistent play and playing time earlier in their careers. They’d likely fit well together also, with Sakho’s physical attributes and Bartra being a tremendous passer. The lack of pace is the only worry with our central defenders.


With rampaging attacking full backs and a David Luiz who probably works best in a back 3, the midfield needs to be a bit more defensively minded to help out the back line. This is where the resurgent Javi Martínez and newest Liverpool member Fabinho come in.

Both are known for winning and retaining the ball and can cover for all the marauding defenders in the “Snub XI”. Martínez has a lot of experience as a centre back, coming from the same academy as Aymeric Laporte in Bilbao. Fabinho can cover both side back roles as a very versatile player himself. Fabinho also becomes our de-facto penalty taker, after taking and making 17 penalties during his time with Monaco. Take note Liverpool fans, no reason to watch Firmino and Salah miss penalties any longer.

Lastly in midfield, we have Radja Nainggolan, who unfortunately will never get to play in a World Cup. His omission from Roberto Martinez’ Belgium squad can’t be on the basis of his play, because Nainggolan is one of the best midfielders in the game. The box to box midfielder works tirelessly, spreads the ball around, is a fearless tackler and has a dangerous shot to boot. He can also provide cover defensively if need be, but can be the perfect trequartista, threading the needle to the forwards or scoring a long shot himself.

There is more offensive firepower on the bench, with big names Mario Götze and Cesc Fabregas more than capable of being X-factors. They both have World Cup winning pedigree, with Götze even scoring the tournament winning goal last time around. Götze’s career has been slightly derailed after struggling with injuries and health in general, but is healthy now and hopefully comes back stronger than ever. Still only 26 years old.

Adrien Rabiot can find solace in making our squad, even though he’s had a disappointing and early end to the season. The once promising midfielder needs to get his head in check and find the form that made him an attractive prospect to the biggest teams in the world.


We have a groovy back line and a defensive minded midfield so we’re going all out with this attack. So there’s fire and ice in our wings as we’ve got Payet, Dimitri Payet and of course the unfortunately snubbed, Leroy Sané.

Both are extremely gifted wingers as Sané helped City make Premier League history with them finishing the season with 100 points. Payet on the other hand helped Marseille reach their first European final since 2004. Payet was unlucky to be injured when he was because we all know that he had a real shot at making the France squad. His injury is about the same as Mohamed Salah’s however, so he still should’ve made the squad.

Leroy Sané on the other hand is healthy and just got screwed over to be honest. Julian Brandt is just happy to be in the squad, while Sané would probably expect to start. Can you blame him? But nevertheless with Marco Reus, Julian Draxler and Mesut Özil likely starters, there’s no guarantee Sané would make the starting XI, even though he should.

But let’s focus on the positives. The common link between Payet and Sané? They both got a crazy amount of assists this year as Payet finished with 24 assists and Sané almost broke the 20 mark as he finished the season with 19. So if we’ve got two great passers up-front filled with pace and precision, we just need a deadly striker and that’s exactly what we have in Mauro Icardi.

Icardi’s omission is odd, but considering his whole “Mr. Steal Yo Gurl” event and his strange behaviour with the Inter ultras, it seems that Mauro was judged by his attitude off the pitch rather than on it. He had a much better season than possible Argentina starter Gonzalo Higuain. Icardi scored 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches and has proven time and time again that he is the real deal. He is comfortable on a big stage scoring in vital games including the Milan Derby and when ensuring Inter a Champions League spot. He can score with both feet, headers, penalties… you name it.

On the subs bench we have both routine and young flair with such names like Alexandre Lacazette, Anthony Martial and World Cup/Euro winner, Pedro. It’s shame that we’re missing out on these players as they are such fun players who are capable of scoring wonderful goals, especially Pedro. It’s unfortunate that we won’t get to see Pedro play in a major tournament for Spain again, but there’s still a lot of time for Anthony Martial and there’s hope for Alexandre Lacazette.

Full Team, with subs:

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