World Cup 2022: Rest of World Team

Every four years the FIFA’s Men’s World Cup dazzles the globe. Most of the best soccer players get the opportunity to vault themselves, and their nation, into the spotlight, and maybe even the history books. However, only 32 teams get to play in the Men’s World Cup and so there are always talented players left to watch the big tournament from home. FIFA is addressing this by expanding the Men’s World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, meaning this 2022 iteration may be the last time where a glutton of big stars miss the tournament. What if we took all of those players whose nation’s did not qualify and placed them on one team? To imagine player combinations which we don’t usually see is part of the fun that international soccer provides. In this article, I am going to do just that: have some fun creating a hypothetical World Cup team comprised of player who’s nations did not qualify.

Most of the time, such imagined “Rest of World” teams only pick from the top 2-3 teams that missed out on qualification. For 2018, imagine an Italy/Netherlands combo team with a sprinkling of non-European players. In creating my own “Rest of World” team, I wanted to be a little more creative so I added a simple, yet limiting, rule: I am only allowed to pick 1 player from each country to join my team. This made for some tough choices which I will explore below.

Before sharing my team, a few more parameters: I chose a 26-man roster, as it is rumored each nation will be allowed 26 players in 2022. I did not include players whose nation qualified, but they are outside of their nation’s World Cup roster (sorry Hakim Ziyech of Morocco), as it made the pool of players almost too big, and we don’t know the official World Cup rosters yet. Also, given my 1-player-per-country rule, there are many permutations of this team. The team I name below is not a definitive team, simply the one I chose. If I didn’t pick your favorite player, or I missed a player, it’s not a knock on them. There are only so many spots on the roster and so many players deserving of a spot! I also went with a relatively standard 4-3-3 shape which affected my choices. With that, here is my roster followed by a breakdown of my choices:

Name (International team, Club team)

Goalkeeper (3): Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy, Paris-Saint Germain), Jan Oblak (Slovenia, Atletico Madrid), Odysseas Vlachodimos (Greece, Benfica)

Right-back (2): Mehmet Zeki Çelik (Turkey, Lille), Elseid Hysaj (Albania, Lazio)

Center-back (4): Guillermo Maripán (Chile, AS Monaco), Milan Škriniar (Slovakia, Inter Milan), Stefan Savić (Montenegro, Atletico Madrid), Willi Orbán (Hungary, RB Leipzig)

Left-back (2): Andy Robertson (Scotland, Liverpool), Arthur Masuaku (Democratic Republic of the Congo, West Ham)

Defensive Midfielder (3): Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria, Leicester City), Tomáš Souček (Czech Republic, West Ham), Renato Tapia (Peru, Celta Vigo)

Central Midfielder (4): Emil Forsberg (Sweden, RB Leipzig), Amadou Haidara (Mali, RB Leipzig), Konrad Laimer (Austria, RB Leipzig), Naby Keita (Guinea, Liverpool)

Wingers/Attacking Midfielders (5): Mohamed Salah (Egypt, Liverpool), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City, Algeria), Luis Diaz (Colombia, Liverpool), Elif Elmas (North Macedonia, Napoli), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Armenia, AS Roma)

Strikers (3): Erling Haaland (Norway, Manchester City), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon, FC Barcelona) Sébastien Haller (Ivory Coast, Ajax)

First of all, let’s acknowledge that, despite any limitation I put on myself, this team is *stacked like pancakes*. Almost every player plays in a traditional Top 5 league in Europe, many of which are Champions League caliber, and those who aren’t are at the very least playing on mid-table teams if not Europa League or Conference League teams. This team would pretty easily be competitive at the World Cup. Most of these players fell into one of four categories of my decision making process.

The Easy Choices. I found some national teams where one player stood out amongst the rest and made me say “Well I gotta pick him”. This includes, Salah, Aubameyang, Mahrez, Haaland, Haidara, Keita, Ndidi, Skriniar, Oblak, and Vlachodimos. While these mostly seemed like obvious choices, some did eliminate other good players from selection. For example, by picking Haaland, arguably the best young striker in the world, I eliminate the option of picking Martin Ødegaard, who isn’t at Haaland’s level, but is still a great player in his own right. Similarly with picking Mahrez over Bennacer from Algeria. Bennacer is a great player, but not as great as Mahrez. This is also where I noticed “Between, Salah, Haidara, and Keita, I have some players used to playing in a high press. Maybe I should run with that”.

Difficult Decisions. There were some teams where I had to pick between two or three solid players of a similar level. In these cases, it depended on what positions I needed and whether I thought they would fit my “high pressing” scheme. This includes Colombia, Ivory Coast, Sweden, Scotland, Chile. Luis Diaz, Andy Robertson, and Emil Forsberg were all selected over their countrymen because each of them play on club teams that like to press. Instead of Diaz, I could have chosen Colombia’s ‘keeper Ospina. Picking Forsberg eliminated Lindeloff from Sweden as a right-back. Picking Robertson eliminated Tierney and McTominay from Scotland as a left-back and central midfielder, respectively.

Wealth of Riches. There were a few teams where I could pick almost any player from their Starting XI to fit into this roster. The obvious team being Italy who won the 2020 European Championship, and then somehow flopped in World Cup qualification for a second cycle in a row. It is perhaps because of Italy’s quality that I chose their goalkeeper, Donnarumma, as my sole Italian. A ‘keeper can often have the most influence on a game relative to any individual field player. Plus, Italy’s defensive record is a large part of what won them that 2020 Euro’s tournament. Austria also provided me with plenty of options but again my high press theme made Laimer an easy choice as he is a teammate with Haidara and Forsberg at Leipzig. Although, it wasn’t easy to leave off Alaba after he and Real Madrid won the Champions League this season.

Filling in the Gaps. Lastly I had to assess where I was missing players in my roster. This is where positional needs pushed some players ahead of others on their national team. For example, I was in need of right-backs and found Celik from Turkey. On the other hand, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Turkey’s captain, might be a “higher profile” player in the eyes of many. Then again, Çalhanoğlu doesn’t seem to fit my high press scheme, so he would likely start on my bench. Am I going to bring Çalhanoğlu as a sub and then dig deeper at the right-back spot? For me, it made more sense to bring Celik. This is also the point where I found some fun standouts who usually wouldn’t be included in these “Rest of World” teams. This included Albanian defender Hysaj, Elif Elmas of North Macedonia, and Masuaku of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Honorable Mentions. These are the players who stood out on their national teams but missed the cut for me: Omar Alderete (Paraguay, Valencia), Amir Rrahmani (Kosovo, Napoli), Yangel Herrera (Venezuela, Espanyol), Edin Džeko (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Inter Milan), Eldor Shomurodov (Uzbekistan, Roma), Amir Murillo (Panama, Anderlecht), Alberth Elis (Honduras, Bordeaux), Michail Antonio (Jamaica, West Ham), Lukáš Hrádecký (Finland, Bayer Leverkusen), and Mu’nas Dabbur (Israel, 1899 Hoffenheim), Chris Wood (New Zealand, Newcastle United).

Lastly, how well would this team would do at the World Cup? 19 out of 26 of these players will be playing Champions League next year with 4 more playing in Champions League Qualifying, Europa League, or Conference League. This compares relatively well to teams which are considered favorites to win the competition, such as France, Brazil, England, and Germany. Of course, this team would have much less chemistry, so they would likely not play as cohesively as the favorites. At the same time, no one can scout them since they never played together before this. I think the disadvantages of being an All-Star-style team outweigh any advantages. Therefore, I would not call them favorites, but I think you could call them contenders. I would expect them to at least make it out of their group, likely win their Round of 16 game, and put in a good fight in the quarter-finals.

That’s all I have, let me know if you have a different “Rest of World” roster of your own! Hit me up at @BeardedJack on Twitter.

NFL Draft Daily: Wrapping up my early look at the 2023 quarterback class

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 328 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

I’m finally back to wrap up these quarterbacks. Turns out I needed a little break after the draft and sometimes life has its way of throwing other things your way.

It’s time for Part 3 of my watchlist, which includes 36 quarterbacks in total. Part 1 featured a lot of big names and Part 2 had a number of guys that could make things interesting with a big year. Part 3 of this loaded class has a couple of wild cards heading into this year that I think could make some noise. My final group also includes a few guys that have a lot to prove this year or likely candidates to return to school for another season. Let’s dive into these final 10 QBs.

Clayton Tune, Houston
I definitely did not pick the best game to watch for Tune. He threw four interceptions in the season opener against Texas Tech in 2021. As it turned out, it would be one of just two losses for Houston all season, in part due to Tune’s impressive play. He finished the year with over 3,500 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. He cannot afford to have meltdowns like he did against the Red Raiders, where he was way too careless with the ball. Decision making can be improved though.

Payton Thorne, Michigan State
This final group is definitely not among the favorites to be selected early in the draft. Thorne is no exception. Following an impressive 2021 season, he will be on the radar at least heading into the 2023 draft. He has good touch on his throws, but lacks elite arm strength. He is a solid athlete showing his ability to make plays on read options this past year. He definitely benefited from a lot of short passes and screens in the Michigan State offense. I would like to see him hit some more NFL throws more consistently this year across the middle and in rhythm with his receivers. Those throws are there on his 2021 film, but few and far between.

Hank Bachmeier, Boise State
There was a time that I was very excited for Bachmeier to be draft eligible. The excitement has dropped off some, but he put together a solid junior season and I think could be in the mix as a late-round selection. He has a strong arm and throws a nice deep ball. The ball placement is a bit spotty at times. He has struggled with injuries, but he finally put together a full season in 2021. He is a decent scrambler, but he doesn’t do it too often. A bit undersized as well, he has a lot of questions to answer, but I like what he could become.

Jaren Hall, BYU
Meet Hall, your typical fifth-year junior. COVID has really messed up eligibility for a long time to come. On first watch, my initial assessment of Hall is that he is incredibly mobile and can throw on the run, but he is much less effective playing from the pocket. His accuracy is inconsistent and he overthrew a number of receivers downfield in the game I watched. That being said, I could see him having a ton of success in an offense that moves the pocket and allows him to roll out. It plays to his strengths and helps minimize the impact of his smaller frame.

Dylan Hopkins, UAB
Here’s a name you probably haven’t heard too much. Hopkins led UAB to a strong season with 18 touchdowns in his first full season as the starter. We don’t have a huge sample size with him given that he only attempted 235 passes last year. For reference, that’s less than half the number of attempts Bryce Young had in 2021. What I have seen is a player with a solid arm and a pretty deep ball. He also uses his eyes well to freeze or hold defenders. My concerns with Hopkins come to his mobility. He is not very quick in escaping the pocket and does not look overly comfortable throwing on the run. Hopefully, UAB will let him cut it loose a bit more often in 2022.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
From a name you don’t know to one you have likely heard of. Thompson-Robinson, aka DTR, arrived at UCLA with a ton of fanfare. He has not quite delivered on the hype, but he has developed into a solid player. A clear dual-threat option, he is a really fun player to watch in the open field. His accuracy is a bit inconsistent, with him missing high on a number of occasions down the field. The throwing motion is a bit elongated as well. The physical traits are enticing, but I think he would really need to work on his mechanics to have a shot at the next level. He will need to be a bit more polished to garner attention heading into his fifth season with the Bruins.

Jayden Daniels, LSU
One of the most interesting transfers of this entire offseason, Daniels leaves an Arizona State program under fire for an LSU program that has a bit of a checkered history in its own right. One thing is undeniable though, Daniels will have weapons to work with in Baton Rouge. Kayshon Boutte and Jaray Jenkins are proven commodities at the college level. The Tigers have a few up-and-comers as well. Daniels will need to bounce back after throwing as many touchdowns (10) as he did interceptions in 2021. He has a very compact and quick throwing motion, but his footwork is a mess. The accuracy is good, but not great. I think it could improve with better footwork actually. As a runner, he is one of the best, scrambling to pick up extra yards and very capable on designed runs. He will get a chance to prove himself in the SEC this season.

Cameron Ward, Washington State
Hat tip to my favorite subreddit NFL_Draft for putting this guy on my radar. A former FCS quarterback at Incarnate Word, Ward won the Jerry Rice award. He has a very quick release and looks very comfortable playing from the pocket. Now, he will have a chance to prove himself in a Power Five conference after transferring to Washington State. He will get some real tests at Camp Randall this September and then in Pac-12 play. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stayed another year, but he has the potential to be an NFL quarterback.

Cade McNamara, Michigan
I had an old friend from high school reach out to me to ask why McNamara wasn’t part of my first two entries. After all, McNamara became the first Michigan quarterback to beat Ohio State since Denard Robinson. Plus, the Wolverines did reach the College Football Playoffs. McNamara undoubtedly benefits from a run-heavy scheme, but he is still talented. He lacks elite arm strength, but he has a nice deep ball. His release is a bit of a concern. His side-arm style leads to a number of passes to be batted at the line of scrimmage. I don’t think he will be garnering first-round attention, but he could be a late-round draft pick come April.

D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson
I’m going to be completely honest. I forgot about Uiagalelei when I first started putting together my watch list. He went from the dazzling replacement to Trevor Lawrence to an afterthought in just one season. I still don’t know what happened to the guy who racked up 439 yards passing and three total touchdowns against Notre Dame in 2020. Looking at his 2021 tape, his accuracy is all over the place. His throwing motion is a bit elongated. As a runner, he has a bit of wiggle, but he is not a burner by any means. He doesn’t have as much power as you would expect for a player listed at 250 pounds either. There are still some special moments on film and his physical traits are great, but none of that is going to matter if he continues to complete 55 percent of his passes and throw only nine touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

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