Footballers Held Back by Their Country

Footballers Held Back by Their Country: The best football players on the planet oftentimes come from a select few nations that are powerhouses of the world game. These countries have invested in football and therefore tend to produce some of the best talents in the world. Think Brazil, Argentina, England, and Spain, just to name a few. 

Players in all different positions of the field are developed in these countries and it’s not an accident that they also win most international trophies. Sometimes though, players that break the mold rise up and become the best even though they don’t come from these powerhouse countries. Their club football may be great but when it comes to international football they struggle as those around them tend to be nowhere near as good.

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Here are 9 such Footballers Held Back by Their Country

1. Erling Haaland

Footballers Held Back by Their Country

Despite arguably being the best player on the planet, Haaland has struggled when it comes to international football because he plays for Norway who have never been considered a powerhouse. As such, he has failed to qualify and compete in the last 3 major international tournaments, recently missing out on Euro 2024 as well. This must be a bitter pill for him to swallow given he played such a massive role in the unprecedented treble with Manchester City last season, being the top scorer of both the Premier League and Champions League. 

Alongside his fellow countryman Odegaard, he is quickly learning that two great talents cannot make a great team. This may be a major blow to his ballon d’or chances and given that he could have played for England, he might very much be regretting his decision.

2. Martin Odegaard

Despite being rivals in the league, Odegaard and Haaland team up for Norway and many people believed that they alone would be enough to catapult them to greater heights. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, leaving the Norwegian fanbase and players massively frustrated. Having recently missed out on a third international tournament in a row, it may be time to go back to the drawing board for the country’s football team as a whole.

Being the captain of both club and country, Odegaard has a lot of work to do to ensure they make it to the World Cup in 2026.

3. Jamal Musiala

Jamal Musiala still gets messages about his decision to play for Germany instead of England and takes it as a compliment that fans are frustrated he is not representing their country. The 20-year-old is considered one of the best prospects in world football, having flourished for European giants Bayern Munich since breaking through in 2020. 

Germany also happens to be one of the powerhouse teams so it should all be okay right? Wrong. Germany’s men’s football team – the winner of four World Cups and three European Championships – has been in steep decline in recent years. With consecutive group-stage exits at the FIFA World Cup and ranking outside the top 10 for the last four years, the once-feared German machine appears to be broken. A big blow for many great players but given how young and talented Musiala is, it has to be a frustrating time.

4. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

Georgian football player Khvicha Kvaratskhelia claimed 17th place among Ballon d’Or nominees. Nobody needs to be told that Georgia, having failed to qualify for either a European Championship or World Cup finals since gaining their independence from the Soviet Union, does not produce great footballers. Khvicha is a dime a dozen in that aspect. There have been some notable names from there such as Shota Arveladze and Temuri Ketsbaia but Khvicha is already held in higher regard than all of them.

He now holds the hope of his nation on his shoulders and Georgia is off to a great start as in 2018, they were the first team to earn promotion in the new UEFA Nations League back then. Suffice to say, this is a small victory and it’s going to be a struggle to get Georgia anywhere near bigger international tournaments.

5. Mohammed Salah

The Egyptian is undoubtedly one of the greatest players the Premier League has ever seen and that type of praise transfers harshly onto the international scene. Egypt were once an African powerhouse, winning the Africa Cup of Nations almost every year it was on offer but has fallen off in subsequent years despite having Salah in their ranks. They most recently lost the final of the African Cup of Nations on penalties and failed to qualify for the last World Cup. Not a great look for Salah and his team.

The truth is, whenever anything good happens for Egypt, it is mostly Salah who has a large part to play but is often let down by subpar teammates and team play. He often cuts a lonely and frustrated figure when playing for his national team given he has the whole weight of a country on his shoulders. Hopefully, he can take home some much-needed silverware in the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.

6. Alphonso Davies

A left-back for the club but a winger for his country, Davies often looks like the only hope Canada has at winning games because of his high pedigree. He scored their first-ever goal at a World Cup in the recent edition though they failed to win a game. And Now the Canadians are out of the CONCACAF tournament. They need to be consistent and you’d expect Davies to be front and centre if that happens. He happily takes on the weight of his country and will look to progress Canadian football as much as he can.

With some developing talents such as Jonathan David and Ismael Kone, hopefully, he can get some help in the coming years.

7. Robert Lewandowski

Do we need to say anymore? Lewandowski’s struggle with being Poland’s only star player has been something that has been widely documented. The second-best player on the team is the goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny while almost everyone else is subpar. He was the best player in the world for a few years but when he would play for his country, you couldn’t tell given how woeful the team’s performance was.

This lack of depth shows why Poland is not on the same level as France, Spain, Germany, Brazil, and Argentina. This kind of depth is required when you play against top-tier teams, not just one or two-star players.

8. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang

Aubameyang is one of two Gabon internationals to have played in the Premier League, the other being another man who knows West London well, Mario Lemina. 

He captained the African nation, just like his father Willy did but he was born and brought up in France. In another life, France could have used him and Mbappe up top. 

He may now regret not going a more glamorous route as he had a pick of Spain, France, and Italy to pick from but decided to play for Gabon. Safe to say his decision was a disaster as with the lack of talent around him, even Aubameyang couldn’t carry them to anything.

9. Kevin De Bruyne

There are plenty of star players you could put on this list when it comes to Belgium. Their golden generation is just now coming to an end with nothing significant to show for it outside of a World Cup semi-final loss. It wasn’t for a lack of star players as Belgium consistently had one of the best squads in any tournament they were in but more so a lack of proper coaching. The likes of Hazard and Lukaku were also affected but De Bruyne is undoubtedly the biggest name that you have to feel for.

Despite being heralded as one of the best playmakers of all time, the Belgian could never realize success with his national team, always coming steps too short.

There you have it, those were 9 players who are being held back by their national team.

Who do you think has suffered worst?

Let us know in the comments.

Keep reading: Why Is Football Flopping In Saudi Arabia?

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