1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden
This is a no-brainer. Ibrahimovich has elevated himself in recent years, if not to the level of Messi and Ronaldo, then into a level just below them. He led Ligue 1 in goals this past season—by ten. He added an additional ten in the Champions League. He is one of the five best players in the world, and certainly the best not going to Brazil. It is all the more a shame because at 32, this may have been his last chance on the international stage with Sweden.
2. Radamel Falcao
Falcao is 26, and with a resurgent Colombia, he may have a hope at one or two World Cups in his career. But nothing is guaranteed, and Falcao’s place in this list is particularly sad because it is the result of injury. He scored 70 goals over two years with Atletico Madrid, but was held to 11 this past season with AS Monaco when a knee injury cut his year short. Falcao is one of the reasons Colombia is in Brazil with a seeded spot; he scored nine goals during qualification.
3. Gareth Bale
Bale’s goal in the Champions League final might be the biggest moment of his career. It is unfortunate for a player of his quality that his country is unlikely to qualify for the World Cup during his career. The Welsh haven’t been to the World Cup since 1958, and Bale’s three goals in qualifying were unable to lift them above fifth in their group. They haven’t even qualified for a European Championship since 1976, though the expansion of that tournament might help that change.
4. Samir Nasri, France
Nasri’s exclusion from the French World Cup squad is a matter of no small controversy. He was 22 in 2010, but even then a candidate to go to South Africa. But despite continued success for his club and fairly regular appearances during qualifying, Nasri won’t be going to Brazil with Les Bleus. After Euro 2012, foul-mouthed tirade earned Nasri a three-match international ban from the French squad, and it may have been a lingering factor in Didier Deschamps’ decision
5. Robert Lewandowski
Poland didn’t qualify for the World Cup, which gives Lewandowski a bit more time to get acquainted with his new club at Bayern Munich. His twenty goals led the Bundesliga this past year.
6. Carlos Tevez
Only Ciro Immobile scored more goals in Serie A this season that Carlos Tevez, but the 30-year-old striker was deemed superfluous in a squad that already contains Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Argentina have been blessed with attacking talent, but it is looking like a curse for Tevez.