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5 great Arab footballers who never played in a World Cup

All have had stellar careers at club and international level, but have sadly failed to make it to the game’s biggest stage. Still time for some…

(This feature was first published in March 2018)

1. Mohamed Aboutrika (Egypt)

Arguably Egypt’s, and Arab football’s, greatest ever player, Aboutrika has won all there is to win at club level with Al Ahy, as well as twice (2006, 2008) leading his country to the Africa Cup of Nations title. He was also named Africa’s Player of the Year in 2008. What he did not achieve, however, was reaching the World Cup, his career landing between Egypt’s last qualification in 1990 and this summer tournament in Russia.

 

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2. Younis Mahmoud (Iraq)

On its own, his famous header against Saudi to win the 2007 AFC Asian Cup is enough to assure Younis Mahmoud of hero status in Iraq.

But there was so much more to his international career, having scored 57 goals in 148 matches, reached the semi-finals at the 2004 Olympics and captained an Iraq team at a time of turmoil and devastation for the nation.

The World Cup proved a bridge too far.

 

3. Ali Al Habsi (Oman)

One of the Gulf’s most famous footballers having spent the majority of his career in Europe, with memorable spells at Bolton, Wigan and Reading.

Won the 2009 Gulf Cup with Oman but despite a valiant effort under Paul Le Guen to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, never made it to football’s biggest stage.

 

4. Omar Abdulrahman (UAE)

His performances at the 2012 Olympics in London marked him out as once in a generation talent. Since then he has won several titles with Al Ain, as well as being the leading light in the UAE teams that won the 2013 Gulf Cup in Bahrain and finished third in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia.

Named Asia’s Player of the Year in 2016, there were high hopes that he could lead his country’s second golden generation to the 2018 World Cup, but it was not to be.

 

5. Omar Al Somah (Syria)

Came within inches of taking Syria to a barely believably World Cup play-off against Honduras. Al Somah – top scorer in the Saudi league for three consecutive seasons with Al Ahli – had already scored his country’s goal in the 1-1 draw in the first leg against Australia, and then opened the scoring in Sydney. But his 120th minute free-kick cruelly struck the post to give the home team a 2-1 win and kill off Syria’s World Cup dream.

 

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