ARSENAL striker Alexis Sanchez and Real Madrid star Gareth Bale headline a host of big names who will be absent from next summer’s World Cup after their countries failed to qualify for the tournament.
But Lionel Messi was the hero for Argentina as they survived an early scare against Ecuador to seal their place at Russia 2018.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal also took it to the last day, with a win over Switzerland enough to send them through.
There was agony for the USA as they missed out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986, losing 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago.
Here’s a look at some of the big name stars who’ll be watching from home next summer.
Jan Oblak (Slovenia/Atletico Madrid)
Voted the best goalkeeper in LaLiga for the past two years, the 24-year-old’s hopes of appearing at a maiden World Cup were dashed after Slovenia were unable to progress from the qualifying group won by England.
Antonio Valencia (Ecuador/Manchester United)
A string of consistent performances at right-back led to Valencia being named players’ player of the year at Old Trafford last season but the 32-year-old could not inspire Ecuador to what would have been his third World Cup.
Virgil van Dijk (Holland/Southampton)
Former Celtic defender Van Dijk has made no secret of his desire to leave St Mary’s but, if he is still there next June, he will miss the opportunity to showcase his talents on the biggest stage following Holland’s third-placed finish in UEFA qualifying Group A.
Gary Medel (Chile/Besiktas)
The former Sevilla and Inter Milan man wears his heart on his sleeve and is an influential figure for his country, but was unable to lead them to qualification as they missed out on the four automatic places and were edged out of the play-off spot by Peru.
David Alaba (Austria/Bayern Munich)
A winner of six Bundesliga titles and the Champions League, Alaba’s international career has been less illustrious with Austria’s abysmal Euro 2016 campaign his only experience of a major tournament.
Naby Keita (Guinea/RB Leipzig)
The Liverpool-bound midfielder will be fresh when he arrives at Anfield next summer after Guinea could not qualify from a group containing Tunisia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Libya.
Arturo Vidal (Chile/Bayern Munich)
The key midfielder, who starred in the last two World Cups, was suspended for Chile’s final qualifier against Brazil and watched on powerless from Munich as his team were eliminated.
Arjen Robben (Holland/Bayern Munich)
A veteran of three World Cups, Robben announced his retirement from international football shortly after scoring twice against Sweden in the final match of Holland’s unsuccessful qualification campaign.
Gareth Bale (Wales/Real Madrid)
It has been a positive few years for Wales but the Euro 2016 semi-finalists were pipped to a play-off spot by the Republic of Ireland, meaning Bale’s wait for a first World Cup goes on.
Alexis Sanchez (Chile/Arsenal)
Chile suffered last-minute heartbreak as they were pushed out of a play-off place when Peru equalised against Colombia, meaning the Arsenal star will not be sprinting up the flanks for La Roja in Russia.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon/Borussia Dortmund)
Gabon have never qualified for the World Cup and the African country’s shortage of top-class players means talented forward Aubameyang may never have the opportunity to play at one.
Jasper Cillessen (Holland/Barcelona)
Daley Blind (Holland/Manchester United)
Miralem Pjanic (Bosnia and Herzegovina/Juventus)
Marek Hamsik (Slovakia/Napoli)
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Armenia/Manchester United)
Riyad Mahrez (Algeria/Leicester)
Edin Dzeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina/Roma)
Nations qualified for the finals
- Russia (hosts)
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
NORTH, CENTRAL AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN
- Costa Rica