Picking the Best Premier League Non-Qualifying 2022 FIFA World Cup Squad

by Antonio Duran · Uncategorized

During a recent podcast, The Podfather offered his patrons to submit an article listing the best Premier League players whose countries they represent failed to qualify for the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Knowing just enough of the Premier League, I figured I would accept the challenge by creating a full, 23-man squad to “bring” to Qatar in November. I then elaborated on the more notable players by each positional group. Here it went.


  • Martin Dubravka (Newcastle United, Slovakia)
  • Asmir Begović (Everton, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
  • Robin Olsen (Aston Villa, Sweden)

Notable: Martin Dubravka

Despite being purchased by the Saudi Royal Family that will soon turn the club into a European superpower, Newcastle United has been a bit disappointing this season. Despite conceding 55 goals this season (the fourth highest in the Premier League), Newcastle’s goalkeeper Martin Dubravka has five clean sheets (known as “shutouts” in the US), quite an impressive number considering his virtually nonexistent defense. He can start, but the options behind him are tempting: Asmir Begović, backup goalkeeper extraordinaire with previous World Cup experience, and Robin Olsen, who has done exceptionally well between the posts for Sweden for the past few years (such as his exceptional performance against Spain at the recent Euros where he earned a clean sheet). All three are good options, but are not spectacular by any means.


  • Davinson Sánchez (Tottemham Hotspur, Colombia)
  • Victor Lindelöf (Manchester United, Sweden)
  • Eric Bailly (Manchester United, Côte d’Ivoire)
  • Ozan Kabak (Norwich City, Turkey)
  • Arthur Masuaku (West Ham United, DR Congo)
  • Hassane Kamara (Warford, Côte d’Ivoire)
  • Vladimír Coufal (West Ham United, Czech Republic)
  • Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur, Republic of Ireland)

Notable: Davinson Sánchez

The defense is, by far, the worst unit on this team. It’s terrible. They would likely concede at least two goals per match, but these players were all I had to work with when making this team. As strange as Spurs’ season has been (they sacked their manager four months into the season), Davinson Sánchez has put in some nice performances this season, even scoring a match-winner against Watford. He’s strong and fast, a rarity at the centre back position that should help this team deal with opposing forwards who try to make quick dashes behind the back line. Sánchez nearly helped his native Colombia qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but his team’s abysmal offensive performance plagued by James Rodriguez (who is, to borrow a description from The Podfather, DUST) resulted in the team failing to qualify for the first time since 2010. As long as he is kept at centre back, Sánchez should be, well, decent.

Notable: Victor Lindelöf

Victor Lindelöf is one of those players who just perform significantly better for country than club. Manchester United’s defense has been a joke, largely due to injury problems not resulting in a consistent back four. So, Lindelöf has not been spectacular at United by any means, but for Sweden he turns into a formidable centre back. Similar to Sánchez’s Colombia, Lindelöf’s Sweden almost qualified for the World Cup and Lindelöf played an integral role in Sweden’s incredibly strong back line only for Sweden’s offense to never get all of its cylinders firing when it mattered. Ultimately, Sweden lost to Poland 2-0 in a one-match playoff, which resulted in Sweden failing to qualify. Starting Sánchez with Lindelöf would be a risk, but with both faring well for their respective countries, they could be an interesting centre back partnership (but trust me, don’t bank on them).


  • Martin Ødegaard (Arsenal, Denmark)
  • Wilfried Ndidi (Leicester City, Nigeria)
  • Tomáš Souček (West Ham United, Czech Republic)
  • Yves Bissouma (Brighton & Hove Albion, Mali)
  • Gylfi Sigurðsson (Everton, Iceland)
  • Abdoulaye Doucouré (Everton, Mali)

Notable: Martin Ødegaard:

The midfield is less dire of a situation. Beginning his professional career at 15 years of age and subsequently well known for signing with Real Madrid at 17 years of age, Martin Ødegaard had loads of potential to be a generational talent at the central attacking midfield position. However, after never seeing quite the amount of playing time he wanted due to Real’s loaded squad at the time, Ødegaard went on loan in the Netherlands and Spain to regain his confidence before signing on a permanent deal with Arsenal in 2021. Ødegaard has been one of the few notable players at Arsenal this season, and has shown to be an excellent playmaker whose overall work on the ball almost had his native Norway qualify for the World Cup double-handedly with upcoming star forward Erling Haaland. They’re likely to make amends by shredding at Euro 2024. But for now, Ødegaard is resorted to making this imaginary team.

Notable: Wilfried Ndidi

I was forced to create a lightning front three to make this team work, but it would be buoyed by a solid midfield capable of handling a boatload of traffic. Behind Ødegaard would have to be Wilfried Ndidi, a stalwart in the midfield for Leicester City whose cool composure and positional knowledge would be key to the team’s success during its defense-to-offense transition. With his midfield acumen, Ndidi has been wanted by clubs with bigger pockets season after season, from Manchester United to PSG. The strikers are often the superstars for any team, but if this team could somehow work, it’s actually mostly due to Ndidi’s command of the midfield. “Help us, Wilfried Ndidi – you’re our only hope.”


  • Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, Egypt)
  • Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City, Algeria)
  • Mohamed Elyounoussi (Southampton, Norway)
  • Michail Antonio (West Ham United, Jamaica)
  • Patson Daka (Leicester City, Zambia)
  • Leon Bailey (Aston Villa, Jamaica)

Notable: Mohamed Salah

The clear captain of this squad, Mohamed Salah’s season has been simply exemplary yet again. As of writing this article, Salah is the top scorer in the Premier League with 20 goals, and currently has the second-most assists with 11. Put simply, he would be the guy for this team. He’s the big cheese, el numero uno. Need I say more?

Notable: Riyad Mahrez

One of the French-born players who initially thought they weren’t good enough to represent France and decided to play where their parents were from (see Aubameyang, Pierre-Emerick), followed by likely regretting that decision as time went on, Riyad Mahrez was left watching in awe on the bench after putting in his shift when Algeria conceded a last-second goal to Cameroon that saw them dramatically crash out of qualifying. Playing a key role in the Cinderella story of Leicester City winning the Premier League in 2016, Mahrez is known for his natural dribbling and ability to effortlessly glide around the pitch. Mahrez is a regular for Manchester City after earning respect from manager Pep Guardiola, and has contributed to City’s ongoing success. Playing him at left wing parallel to Salah at right wing would result in a deadly duo that would be difficult for defenders to deal with.

Notable: Patson Daka:

Yes, Michail Antonio would start for this team, but once his 32-year-old legs get tired, it’s time for Patson Daka to breeze past defenders in the 70th minute. Put simply, Daka is fast. Really fast, as evidenced by competition in the UEFA Europa and Conference Leagues clearly being put off guard by his pace and subsequent success in the tournament (6 goals in 9 games so far). Daka’s transfer value has soared for the past two seasons, and his addition to this team only further illustrates the emphasis on pure pace up front.

In Closing

Creating a 23-man squad consisting of players representing countries that did not qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup was difficult, most especially for the defense. If this squad actually existed, all but the front three would be behind the ball during the opposition’s possession and contain and absorb all the firepower at all costs. Its offense would then exclusively rely on the counterattack via launching long balls to see if Salah, Mahrez, and Antonio can speed past ball-watching defenders and go one-on-one with the goalkeeper. In other words, it’s a party up front as long as the opposing offense can be contained.

Because the Scotland-Ukraine match has been suspended until June due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, I was unable to pick a few players from Ukraine, such as Yarmolenko and Zinchenko. I was also unable to pick among any players representing Scotland, namely Andrew Robertson, who is arguably the best left back in the sport. With the winner of the Scotland-Ukraine match playing Wales, I also could not select any Welsh players, namely Ben Davies and Daniel James. Zinchenko and Robertson would be no-brainers to be included should their countries fail to qualify.

But as it stands right now, would this squad advance past the group stage in any group at the 2022 FIFA World Cup? Considering the rather lacking defense, it seems unlikely, but it may have the ability to draw with better teams if the matches go their way. This team contains a plethora of leaders, possessing five national team captains with at least one in the defense, midfield, and offense (Salah for Egypt, Ødegaard for Norway, Mahrez for Algeria, Souček for the Czech Republic, and Lindelöf for Sweden). These leaders could help the team stay composed and organized during crucial situations and squeeze out points from every match. Just hope they don’t play France.

My starting XI (4-2-3-1):

Goalkeeper: Martin Dubravka

Left back: Arthur Masuaku

Left center back: Victor Lindelöf

Right center back: Davinson Sánchez

Right back: Vladimír Coufal

Left defensive midfielder: Wilfried Ndidi

Right defensive midfielder: Tomáš Souček

Left wing: Riyad Mahrez

Central attacking midfielder: Martin Ødegaard

Right wing: Mohamed Salah (Captain)

Forward: Michail Antonio

Projected substitutions: Sigurðsson for Ødegaard (65th minute), Daka for Antonio (70th minute), Bailey for Mahrez (75th minute)