Radamel Falcao and the World Cup Squad from Culled Player Lists
The 32 nations competing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals have almost all now finalised their 23-man squads for the tournament, meaning a cull of big names from the final lists.
In some cases, such as that of Colombia striker Radamel Falcao, that has been an enforced decision due to injury, but several other names were left out by the choice of the nations' managers.
Here's our best XI of players who were initially named in preliminary squads for the competition, only to fall just short of the final cut.
The side was selected from players named in full preliminary squads, not those placed on standby lists with a 23 already selected from the outset. We line up in a 3-5-2 formation, with subs chosen too.
Goalkeeper: Steve Mandanda, France
French stopper Steve Mandanda would have gone as the No. 2 goalkeeper for his nation behind Hugo Lloris.
Unfortunately for Mandanda, his World Cup was wrecked after he suffered cracked vertebra in his neck in the final Ligue 1 game of the season, requiring around a six-week recovery period.
Mandanda, who plays for Marseille, has 16 caps for France.
Centre-Back: Rolando, Portugal
Our first defender is Portuguese centre-back Rolando, who was named in Paulo Bento's initial squad but was one of those axed as the list was cut to 23.
Having not enjoyed a stellar campaign with Inter Milan this season it was perhaps not unexpected, but it will still be a big disappointment to him not to feature at a finals—he made the 2010 squad but did not play a minute.
Rolando has 19 caps.
Centre-Back: Nicolas Otamendi, Argentina
Argentina's defence has been changed with some regularity over the past few years, but Nicolas Otamendi hasn't done enough this time to be one of those charged with being part of the base for the talented attackers of the nation to play from.
Otamendi moved to Atletico Mineiro on loan during the winter, but it hasn't helped his cause enough—he was cut from the squad, with Martin Demichelis preferred by Alejandro Sabella.
The centre-back featured at the World Cup in 2010 and has 16 caps.
Centre-Back: Shkodran Mustafi, Germany
Less of a surprise than Otamendi's exclusion from Argentina was that of Shkodran Mustafi from Germany.
With Mats Hummels, Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng three definite inclusions, Mustafi had to impress significantly to usurp Benedikt Howedes as the fourth choice.
He hasn't quite managed it but surely has an immense future ahead of him. Mustafi has a single cap to date.
Right Wing: Jesus Navas, Spain
Injury concerns were ultimately the reason for Spanish winger Jesus Navas to miss the World Cup, after not having played for a couple months.
Despite having battled back to be a contender, Vicente del Bosque deemed his lack of fitness too much of a risk to carry as Spain look to defend their title. His exclusion was almost certainly a factor in not taking Fernando Llorente, too.
Navas has won 35 caps for Spain and was part of the winning squad at the 2010 World Cup.
Central Midfield: Riccardo Montolivo, Italy
Italy's central midfielder Riccardo Montolivo would certainly have played a significant part for his country at the finals, but he misses out after suffering a broken leg in the World Cup warmup match against Republic of Ireland.
His experience and ability on the ball will be a miss for the squad, though it's not an area Italy are exactly light in.
Montolivo has won 58 caps in his international career.
Central Midfield: Ever Banega, Argentina
Ever Banega was the Argentine midfielder cut on Monday when Sabella named his squad, edged out by Fernando Gago.
Argentina's midfield options are one of the strongest around, certainly with plenty of depth, but Banega will have been disappointed in the extreme to miss out nonetheless—he also missed out on the 2010 World Cup.
He has played 24 times for his nation.
Central Midfield: Rafael Van Der Vaart, Netherlands
Rafael van der Vaart wouldn't have been a starter for Netherlands at the World Cup, but would have been confident of his squad place.
With over a century of caps to his name, he was the most experienced player in the preliminary squad and the fourth-highest scorer, too.
A calf injury sustained during training has ruled him out of the tournament, however, so he will not be adding to his 109 caps.
Left Wing: Ricardo Quaresma, Portugal
Ricardo Quaresma is still only 30 years old. Can you believe that? The skillful and utterly inconsistent winger was named in Portugal's preliminary squad, but was cut from Bento's final 23.
Unsurprising that it may be, it means Quaresma will have had minimal impact on any major tournament throughout his career: He missed the World Cup 2010 squad, did not get off the bench at Euro 2012 and now misses the latest tournament.
Quaresma has won 35 caps for Portugal.
Striker: Giuseppe Rossi, Italy
Giuseppe Rossi has endured a terrible few seasons of injury trouble with his knees, missing big chunks of his last term at Villarreal and his early time at Fiorentina.
Now back fit from his latest battle and in the Italy preliminary squad, it was expected that he would go as one of the forwards—but Cesare Prandelli opted not to include him in the final 23, despite having more caps and goals than three of the other forwards heading to Brazil.
Rossi has won 30 caps, scoring in seven.
Striker: Radamel Falcao, Colombia
Falcao's well-documented ACL injury appeared to rule him out of the World Cup straight away, but he fought back to be close enough to fitness to be named in Colombia's initial squad.
Naturally, the nation gave him every opportunity to be able to take part in the finals, but Jose Pekerman eventually decided, no doubt with the support of the medical staff and the player himself, that the striker would not be fit enough to play.
Falcao has 49 caps and 20 goals for Colombia.
Sub Keeper: Alexandros Tzorvas, Greece
Greek goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas was the national team's starter in the 2010 World Cup, but has failed to make the squad this time around.
It's quite a fall for the stopper, who also played at Euro 2012—none of the three goalkeepers in the squad that time are in the final World Cup 2014 squad though.
Tzorvas has won 16 caps for Greece.
Sub Defender: Marcel Schmelzer, Germany
Marcel Schmelzer has been ousted from the Germany World Cup squad by his own Borussia Dortmund team-mate, Erik Durm, who has a single cap to his name.
Schmelzer's injuries during the season paved the way for Durm's progression and now that has come at the expense of the more senior player's place in the final Germany 23.
The 26-year-old has won 16 caps.
Sub Midfielder: Lars Bender, Germany
Sticking with Germany, versatile midfielder Lars Bender was named in the initial squad and must have stood a good chance of making the final 23, but saw his hopes ended by injury.
The Bayer Leverkusen man suffered a thigh injury which ruled him out of the trip to Brazil, having previously featured at Euro 2012.
Bender has won 17 caps so far.
Sub Midfielder: Niko Kranjcar, Croatia
Another injury absentee is Croatia playmaker Niko Kranjcar.
The experienced attacker suffered an injury in the Championship playoff final with his loan club Queens Park Rangers, tearing his hamstring early on in the game, thus ruling him out for around six weeks.
One of the most experienced members of the squad, Kranjcar played at World Cup 2006 and has amassed 81 caps.
Sub Midfielder: Matias Fernandez, Chile
Chile initially named attacking midfielder Matias Fernandez in their preliminary squad, but it wasn't long before he learned he needed surgery on his injured ankle.
As a result, he does not have time to recover for the competition—unlike team-mate Arturo Vidal, who had surgery and has been named in Chile's squad.
An impressive performer at World Cup 2010, he has won 59 caps in total and scored 14 goals.
Sub Forward: Alvaro Negredo, Spain
Alvaro Negredo initially looked as though he would have an impressive season for Manchester City and go on to play a prominent role for Spain at the World Cup, but a big dip in form over the past three or four months has cost him his place.
Initially named in the preliminary squad, Negredo was cut on the final day along with fellow forward Llorente, with the more usual faces of David Villa and Fernando Torres making the final 23.
Negredo also missed the 2010 World Cup, though he did feature at Euro 2012. He has scored 10 goals in 21 games for Spain.
Sub Forward: Kevin Volland, Germany
Germany's decision to only name two forwards in their initial squad was somewhat perplexing—the decision to axe one of them from the final 23 was frankly bizarre.
Kevin Volland was not named in the 23, leaving Miroslav Klose as the only out-and-out striker, with Lukas Podolski or Mario Gotze expected to feature heavily in the role at the finals now.
Volland has won just one cap for Germany so far.
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