03.10.2022
World Cup: 10 players who DON’T play in Europe who can steal the show

As the footballing world draws to a standstill for the first-ever winter edition of the World Cup, all eyes will be on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Harry Kane in a tournament largely dominated by those who play their club football in Europe.

But within the 32 teams who battled for qualification across six confederations are a number of enticing talents – who fall outside of that category – looking to make their mark, particularly with the January transfer window looming.

The Qatar World Cup, which gets underway on November 20 and runs until December 18 – with top-flight English football then resuming a week later – will be the perfect setting for those perhaps not quite in the spotlight to either become a star, or to remind the world of their quality.

The action will now come thick and fast until the tournament’s opener between Qatar and Ecuador, with a jam-packed schedule of top-flight football to come until the players officially leave for international duty.

With that in mind, Sportsmail takes a look at the top-10 players playing their club football outside of Europe who can make a mark at the 2022 World Cup.

We start with Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who has certainly made a headline or two during his extensive spell as his nation’s No 1 shot-stopper.

The 37-year-old, who only last week became Mexico’s most-capped goalkeeper with 130 appearances, initially suffered disappointment as he acted as deputy to Oscar Perez at the 2010 World Cup, despite being tipped to start.

Ochoa has since become a permanent fixture in the Mexico XI, however, putting in exceptional performances at both the 2014 and 2018 World Cups.

In 2014, Ochoa became a sensation after his stunning performance in Mexico’s goalless draw against Brazil, after which opposition striker Fred insisted the keeper had made ‘four miracles’ throughout the game.

Included was a quite sensational save to deny a dumfounded Neymar, who looked on in disbelief as his goal-bound header was somehow clawed away by the flying Mexican.

Ochoa was then at it again in 2018, producing nine saves as Mexico stunned Germany in their tournament opener. Again, he caught the attention of the masses with a fingertip save to nudge a Toni Kroos free-kick onto the bar.

Now playing his club football for Club America, where he first played as a youngster before moving to Europe, Ochoa will hope to make the headlines once more this winter.

Next up we have Garang Kuol, an 18-year-old Australian starlet who will certainly look to impress in the next couple of months.

Kuol is perhaps a controversial pick, given he has just been signed by Newcastle, who saw off competition from Barcelona to land their man, but the youngster won’t be playing English football until after the World Cup.

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has revealed he could be integrated into the squad sooner than expected should he perform well at the tournament, however.

The Premier League-bound star currently plays his football with Aussie club Central Coast Mariners, where he scored within seven minutes of his introduction during his debut last year.

Newcastle had tracked the teenager for some time but had to act swiftly as Stuttgart made a bid and Barcelona proposed a two-year loan.

The Magpies, however, won the race for the Socceroos star and agreed a $515,000 (£300,000) fee with the Aussie side.

Though playing his international football for Australia, Kuol was born in Egypt, where his family had fled from Sudan, before moving Down Under when he was six.

Kuol was called up to the Australia squad for the latest international break, becoming the youngest star to do so since Harry Kewell, making a substitute appearance in their 2-0 win over New Zealand.

And with a huge future ahead, the starlet will look to make an impression in Qatar over November and December.

Next up is Argentina attacker Thiago Almada, who impressed during his senior debut during the most recent international break.

Almada featured in Argentina’s 3-0 win over Honduras, earning praise from seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.

‘Thiago is very fresh,’ Messi sad. ‘He’s a very fast player who can play 1v1. He’s clever and isn’t afraid of anything.’

Playing his club football for Atlanta in the MLS, Almada, 21, has been lethal in front of goal this season, scoring six goals and providing 11 assists in 27 games.

The midfielder has certainly justified his league record £13.5million transfer fee, shining since making the move from Argentine first division side Club Atletico Velez Sarsfield.

Almada was an unused substitute in Argentina’s subsequent 3-0 win over Jamaica, but the youngster will hope his enticing cameo will ensure him a place on the plane to Qatar.

Crucially, Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni is a big fan of Almada, wanting to shape La Albiceleste’s future around him. The Argentina coach has even encouraged the player to seek a move abroad to one of Europe’s top leagues in the future.

Next up we have a player who will be featuring in the tournament opener between Qatar and Ecuador in versatile attacker Akram Afif.

The winger, who can also play up front, is undoubtedly the star man for Qatar; he will need to be at his very best if they are to see off two of Ecuador, Senegal and the Netherlands and progress to the knockout stages.

Afif now plays his football in Qatar with Al Sadd, but the prolific forward did venture to Europe for a brief spell, initially signing for Belgian side Eupen in 2015.

In 2016, he then became the first Qatari-born signing in LaLiga history when he moved to Villarreal, but he never managed to make an appearance for the Spanish club.

Instead, he went on loan to Sporting Gijon, before spells back at Eupen and Al Sadd and finally returning to the Qatar club.

Nevertheless, with 76 goals and 63 assists for Al Sadd in only 124 games, as well as 24 goals in 83 games for his country, Akram Afif will certainly be Qatar’s most potent threat as they look to shine on home soil this winter.

Remember him? You certainly will if you’re an Arsenal fan, having spent seven years with the north London club between 2011 and 2018.

Indeed, a longer stint than legendary winger Robert Pires, but things certainly didn’t go to plan for the winger at Arsenal.

Campbell would make just 40 appearances in total, going on loan to Lorient, Real Betis, Olympiacos, Villareal, Sporting Lisbon and again to Real Betis before finally leaving Arsenal in 2018 and joining Frosinone on a permanent deal.

The 30-year-old, who received hefty praise from Arsene Wenger during his time at Arsenal, is now playing his football in Mexico with Club Leon, but perhaps he’ll have one eye on a Premier League return should he perform well at the World Cup.

For his country, Campbell resembles quite the opposite of a forgotten man, having scored the decisive goal that sent Costa Rica to the World Cup back in June.

Costa Rica defeated New Zealand 1-0 in a closely-contested affair to qualify for their third-straight tournament, having most notably reached the quarter-finals in 2014.

Campbell, a cult hero for his country, has scored an impressive 25 goals in 117 outings for Costa Rica, and though housed in the ‘Group of Death’ alongside Spain, Germany and Japan, he will be looking to make a name for himself once more.

Sticking with Costa Rica and we have another blast from the past in 37-year-old Bryan Ruiz.

The midfielder is now very much in the twilight years of his career – and the World Cup will be his final opportunity to dazzle.

Ruiz competed in the Premier League with Fulham for four years, before moving to Sporting Lisbon, Brazilian side Santos and finally Costa Rican outfit Alajuelense.

He memorably scored the winner in a major upset against Italy at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – that saw Costa Rica progress at the Italians’ and England’s expense – before also finding the net in the last-16 victory over Greece.

But now, Ruiz insists he will hang up his boots at the end of the year, bowing out in the best way possible by captaining his country at the World Cup.

Speaking of his retirement, Ruiz said: ‘For us, players of a generation that is coming to an end, so to say, it is nostalgic and very emotional to have this opportunity and to know that for many years we have given our best effort in the national team.

‘We have achieved important things, we have even cried for some failures we have had during this process.’

Another player who recently graced the Premier League is former Stoke and Liverpool attacker Xherdan Shaqiri.

The 30-year-old is currently playing in the MLS for Chicago Fire, where he has notched an impressive seven goals in 28 outings this season.

The well-traveled attacker is shortlisted for the MLS End of Year Awards, nominated for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP category, such has been the quality of his performances.

But it’s not just at club level where Shaqiri has excelled, also playing a pivotal role for his Switzerland side.

Shaqiri scores three goals in five games as Switzerland made it to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020, before eventually bowing out to Spain on penalties.

The 30-year-old has failed to hit the target for Switzerland since, however, despite playing in four World Cup qualifiers, two international friendlies and six Nations League games.

Regardless, having scored 26 goals in 108 games for Switzerland, the former Inter Milan and Bayern Munich star will certainly be on the plane, and he’ll be looking to impress on the big stage once more.

With Cameroon qualifying for the World Cup, having missed out on the 2018 tournament in Russia, striker Vincent Aboubakar will look to put on a show.

The 30-year-old is perhaps best known for his six-year spell at Porto, where he scored an impressive 58 goals and provided 16 assists in 125 games.

Aboubakar also scored 35 goals in 67 games during a fruitful period with Besiktas, and sits as Cameroon’s second-top goalscorer, behind Samuel Eto’o on 56, with 33 goals.

He was at his scintillating best as Cameroon secured third place at AFCON earlier in the year, scoring eight goals in seven games, the second-biggest tally at a single AFCON tournament.

The striker has now swapped Europe for the Middle East, playing his football for Al Nassr, where he has scored 10 goals in 30 games since arriving in 2021 on a free transfer.

Likely to be supported by Bryan Mbeumo and Toko Ekamb on the wings, an exciting attacking trio will look to give Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia a tough challenge.

Gareth Bale, who is surely the most notable of all the World Cup stars playing their club football outside of Europe, simply has to make the list.

While the attacker was jeered for much of his Real Madrid career, the same could never be said for his beloved Wales, who are firmly at the forefront of his mind as he enters the final stages of his career.

Now at 33 years old, a rejuvenated Bale has moved out to the States, switching Madrid for Los Angeles FC as he bids to be in the best possible shape for the impending tournament.

‘We have a plan in LA with what we’re doing. We’re not doing too much straight away,’ Bale recently said.

‘Every footballer wants to play as much as they can but we’re being clever and building myself up for the last important part of the season. Hopefully that should put me in great shape for the World Cup. I think I’ll be a lot fitter.’

Wales, who play their tournament opener against the United States on November 21, will certainly hope so, being the nation’s all-time top scorer with 40 goals.

Bale was integral as Wales made history by qualifying for Euro 2016 before eventually reaching the semi-final, and he was equally as influential as they qualified for the World Cup, netting the only goal as they beat Ukraine in the play-off final.

Competing the list is USA centre-back Walker Zimmerman, who has established himself as a clear starter in Gregg Berhalter’s side in recent months.

The 29-year-old plays for Nashville SC and has done since 2020, previously enjoying spells at Los Angeles FC and FC Dallas.

Zimmerman played a fundamental role in USA’s World Cup qualification, which they sealed despite finishing behind Mexico and Canada.

The defender – a two-time MLS Defender of the Year – has scored three goals in 31 appearances for his country, and his impressive form form for Nashville this season saw him picked for the MLS all star game against Liga MX All-Stars.

Zimmerman, who played the full 90 minutes in both of USA’s recent international friendlies, insists his side are out to make a statement in Qatar.

‘None of us have a lot of World Cup experience. People can hit on us for that or think that that is a disadvantage,’ Zimmerman recently said.

‘But I also know how eager we are to get out there and prove to people what we have in this group.’

Being in the same group as England and Wales, Zimmerman will certainly have plenty of eyeballs on him this winter.

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    TOP SPIN: England smash host of records as they pummel Pakistan in opening day of first Test

    England’s 506 for four from just 75 overs was the most runs they have made in a day’s Test cricket, beating their 503 for two on the second day against South Africa at Lord’s in 1924.

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    It is the first time four of their top five have made a century in the same Test innings.

    England have never made more in the first session of a Test than their 174 here – beating 169 against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1938.

    Zak Crawley made the fastest Test hundred by an England opener, from 86 balls – nine faster than the second of Graham Gooch’s centuries against India at Lord’s in 1990.

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    It was also England’s highest opening stand anywhere since December 2004, when Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick began with 273 against South Africa at Durban.

    Harry Brook’s 80-ball hundred was the third-fastest for England, behind Gilbert Jessop (76 balls against Australia at The Oval in 1902) and Jonny Bairstow (77 against New Zealand at Trent Bridge in the summer).

    Brook was also the first England player to hit six fours in a Test over.

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  • 8 часов, 16 минут назад 01.12.2022Sport
    Liverpool will get no ‘gifts’ from Dortmund over Jude Bellingham, their managing director reveals

    Borussia Dortmund’s managing director Carsten Cramer has warned Liverpool not to expect any ‘gifts’ in their pursuit of England star Jude Bellingham.

    Jurgen Klopp’s side have made the 19-year-old their top transfer target next summer, with the talented teen set to spark a £130million bidding war with Premier League rivals Manchester City, Man United and Chelsea all reportedly interested in him – along with Real Madrid.

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    Cramer told Vietnam News: ‘We have a high sympathy for Liverpool for sure.

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    Bellingham’s performances at the World Cup have highlighted why the 19-year-old has been such a coveted star, and the rumours about his path to the Premier League have been rife, despite his contract at Dortmund lasting until 2025.

    It has sent the former Birmingham City star’s value skyrocketing – something that Liverpool have said they cannot compete with, if richer clubs want Bellingham that badly.

    Dortmund’s managing director, who has been in the role since 2018, accepted that Bellingham’s value is likely to be linked to his nation’s continued success in Qatar.

    England were unbeaten on their run to the top of Group B, and they are now preparing for a last-16 clash with Senegal on Sunday night.

    Cramer said: ‘Maybe there is a success existing between Jude Bellingham and (England’s) success in the World Cup.

    ‘He has a contract. I’m a sales person regarding commercial business, but not regarding the player’s business.

    ‘We are happy to have him on board a hundred percent and the longer Jude will play for us, the better it will be.’

    Without their World Cup stars, Dortmund lost 2-1 in a friendly to the Vietnamese national side on Wednesday, conceding a 90th minute penalty to seal their fate.

    Dortmund currently sit sixth in the Bundesliga table, and will not return for competitive fixtures until January 22.

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    Suarez was asked about the incident – which denied Ghana an extra-time winner and ultimately sent them crashing out of the 2010 tournament – during his press-conference earlier today.

    Instead of apologising for his actions, Suarez blamed Asamoah Gyan for missing the subsequent penalty and said their exit from the tournament was not his fault.

    A Ghanaian journalist raised the topic during Thursday’s press conference ahead of Uruguay’s final Group H clash with Ghana.

    The reporter said that people in Ghana regard him as ‘the devil himself’ and that they look forward to retiring him.

    Suarez responded to the comment by saying: ‘The first time, I don’t apologise about that. I take the handball – but the Ghana player miss a penalty, not me.

    ‘Maybe I apologise if I injure a player but in this situation, I take a red card, the ref say penalty, it’s not my fault.’

    All the painful memories from 12 years ago have come flooding back for Ghana as they are set to face Uruguay one the World Cup stage once again.

    On Friday, the Africans will take on the South Americans knowing a draw should be enough to take them through at their rivals’ expense.

    Additionally, it is a chance for revenge after their dramatic 2010 quarter-final in South Africa was eventually won on penalties by La Celeste.

    Ghana came close to scoring an extra-time winner during the game in 2010 but Suarez once again displayed the lengths he is willing to go to win by punching a header off the line.

    Suarez was duly sent off as a result of his actions and Ghana were handed a penalty. However, Gyan missed his spot-kick.

    Suarez’s celebration added to Ghana’s misery as he jumped for joy before heading down the tunnel.

    The game ultimately went to penalties and it was Uruguay who emerged victorious – winning 4-2 after Sebastian Abreu, Andres Scotti, Mauiricio Victorino and Diego Forlan scored their spot-kicks.

    Nevertheless, the handball during the game left a bitter taste for a heartbroken Gyan — and nation — and placed Suarez firmly in the role of public enemy No 1.

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  • 8 часов, 16 минут назад 01.12.2022Sport
    Declan Rice insists England haven’t got ‘the credit we deserve’ after finishing top of their group

    Declan Rice has claimed England have not been given enough credit for progressing through their group with relative ease at the World Cup.

    England got off to a flying start in Qatar by thrashing Iran 6-2 in their opening match, but were then held to a dire 0-0 draw by USA, prompting criticism from fans.

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    ‘You are seeing big nations lose. We have never been in a situation where we feel under pressure. We have always felt in control of our group.’

    Senegal await England in the first knockout round after finishing second in Group A.

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    Rice is relishing the prospect of playing knockout football at a World Cup for the first time, and has backed himself to raise his game as the pressure ramps up.

    ‘When you play bigger teams your level starts to go up,’ he continued.

    ‘They are the biggest games you want to play in and they are the games that get remembered for ever. And when that moment comes, I will be ready.’

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  • 8 часов, 16 минут назад 01.12.2022Sport
    England’s Declan Rice says ‘you only get one career’ amid speculation the West Ham star could LEAVE

    Declan Rice has strongly hinted at his desire to move away from West Ham in the summer as he looks to further his career.

    The 23-year-old has been a key part of England’s run to the last-16 of the World Cup, but in his latest press conference from the Three Lions training camp, he’s revealed bigger hopes for the next stage of his career, including Champions League football.

    West Ham captain Rice told reporters he’s been saying for years that he may consider an exit from the London Stadium. Rice said: ‘I’ve been playing consistently well for the club. I feel like I really wanna keep pushing.

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    The England camp includes friends such as Mason Mount, who plays for Chelsea. They formed a bond when Rice was a youth player at the Blues, before switching to the Hammers when he was released at the age of 14.

    Rice has spent his entire senior career with West Ham, rising to become club captain, and helping them to the Europa League semi-finals in his debut European campaign last season.

    But is thought that he would like to experience the top tier of European club football, something that West Ham are unlikely to achieve, currently sitting 16th in the Premier League.

    Rice was part of the England set-up that were runners-up in the European Championships last year, and has started all three of England’s matches so far in Qatar.

    The Three Lions are currently working ahead of their first knockout fixture, when they face Senegal at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday evening.

    More to follow…

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  • 8 часов, 16 минут назад 01.12.2022Sport
    Cricket fans go wild as Harry Brook scores an incredible SIX fours in an over in Pakistan Test

    Harry Brook put Pakistan’s attack to the sword in the first Test in Rawalpindi as the England batter hit a remarkable six fours in a single over.

    The No 5 had already started to up his strike rate prior to the 68th over, but when Saud Shakeel came on for his second over, Brook decided to put his foot down on the accelerator.

    As Shakeel struggled to find his length, Brook took full advantage, stroking him through the covers when he over-pitched, and then rocking onto the back foot and pulling him away when the ball was too short.

    The final ball of the over was dragged down, and Brook blasted it through mid wicket to the boundary to make it 24 runs from the over.

    As he ran down the pitch, a huge grin came across his face, before the camera cut to captain Ben Stokes on the balcony who could not contain his disbelief at Brook’s brutal hitting as he burst out laughing. Fans were equally impressed.

    ‘No way did Harry Brook just hit six 4’s in an over! Brutal,’ one fan wrote on Twitter.

    ‘That was so much fun, thank you Harry Brook,’ another supporter added.

    Brook was also part of England’s T20 World Cup-winning squad, and impressed during England’s T20 series in Pakistan prior to that tournament.

    He is still in the infancy of his international career, but fans are already convinced he is the real deal.

    ‘Harry Brook is a special player,’ one wrote on social media.

    ‘We’ve been saying it a long time over this side of t’hills, Harry Brook is a born superstar,’ another agreed.

    Another supporter also saw the funny side to Brook’s assault on Shakeel’s bowling, using the famous Peep Show meme alongside the caption: ‘Six fours Harry? Six? That’s insane.’

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Sport World Cup: 10 players who DON'T play in Europe who can steal the show