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Euro 2024 Won’t Feature Europe’s Top Striker. Who Else is Missing?

Goalkeepers and defenders: Exhale.

The most feared striker in Europe won’t be playing at the European Championship.

That’s because Erling Haaland’s Norway didn’t qualify.

Haaland’s goal-scoring statistics with both club and country are staggering: 90 goals in 98 matches across all competitions in two seasons with Manchester City, and 30 in 32 matches for Norway since his national team debut in 2019.

But Halaand produced “only” five goals in six qualifying matches for Norway, which finished third in Group A behind Spain and Scotland and didn’t even reach the playoffs.

Norway’s absence also means that Arsenal and Norway captain Martin Odegaard won’t be at the tournament in Germany.

Norway won only three of eight qualifiers and finished six points behind group runner-up Scotland.

FILE – Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema sits on the pitch during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Almeria at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, April 29, 2023. The most feared striker in Europe won’t be playing at the European Championship. That’s because Erling Haaland’s Norway didn’t qualify. Other big names missing from the Euros include Karim Benzema, Marcus Rashford, Mats Hummels and Sandro Tonali. (AP Photo/Pablo Garcia, File)

A look at some other top players who won’t be at Euro 2024, which starts Friday:

THIBAUT COURTOIS
Thibaut Courtois was healthy enough to make two key saves during the first half of the Champions League final and help Real Madrid to another title.

But the Belgium goalkeeper announced in December that he would miss the Euros and has not backpedaled on his decision despite returning to full fitness for Madrid after a long-term knee injury.

There’s also this: There are ongoing tensions between Courtois and Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco.

Courtois questioned Tedesco’s “reality” after the coach accused him of abandoning his teammates and faking an injury before a qualifier last year.

Without the Madrid ’keeper, Tedesco’s choices in goal are: Matz Sels (Nottingham Forest), Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg) and Thomas Kaminski (Luton).

KARIM BENZEMA
Benzema retired from France’s national team the day after “Les Bleus” lost the 2022 World Cup final without the striker.

Then last year he left Real Madrid for Saudi Arabian club Al-Ittihad and now, at age 36, his days at the top seem finished.

FILE – Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford gestures during the FA Cup quarterfinal soccer match between Manchester United and Liverpool at the Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England, Sunday, March 17, 2024. The most feared striker in Europe won’t be playing at the European Championship. That’s because Erling Haaland’s Norway didn’t qualify. Other big names missing from the Euros include Karim Benzema, Marcus Rashford, Mats Hummels and Sandro Tonali. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson, File)

Benzema was awarded the Ballon d’Or as the world’s top player in 2022 but then missed the World Cup in Qatar that year after tearing a left thigh muscle in pre-tournament training.

He also didn’t play in France’s victorious 2018 World Cup campaign because he was still exiled from the national team for his alleged role in a sex-tape scandal with teammate Mathieu Valbuena.

France coach Didier Deschamps has plenty of options up front without Benzema, led by captain Kylian Mbappé. France’s other forwards include Bradley Barcola, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembélé, Olivier Giroud, Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram.

Two more former France starters missing are midfielder Paul Pogba, who is serving a doping ban, and defender Lucas Hernandez, who recently underwent surgery after rupturing his left ACL.

MARCUS RASHFORD
The Manchester United striker paid the price for a disappointing season at the club level and failed to make the cut for England coach Gareth Southgate’s initial 33-man selection.

Rashford managed just eight goals for a United team that suffered its lowest-ever Premier League finish — eighth.

The omission comes only two seasons after Rashford had a career-best campaign, scoring 34 goals for club and country.

Jack Grealish, Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson — who all played in the final when England lost to Italy in a penalty shootout in 2021 — were also left out by Southgate.

“These are difficult calls, you are talking about players who are very good players, who have been an important part of what we have done,” Southgate said. “With Marcus, I feel players in the same area of the pitch have had better seasons, it’s as simple as that.”

MATS HUMMELS
Reaching the Champions League final wasn’t enough for Mats Hummels to make the squad for host Germany.

Hummels made a strong case for inclusion with his inspirational performances in Borussia Dortmund’s run in Europe. But Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann said there were “1,000 components” to the decision not to include the veteran defender. Nagelsmann sees Real Madrid’s Antonio Rüdiger and Bayer Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah as his preferred central defensive pairing — and anyone else would need to be content with a backup role.

Dortmund defender Nico Schlotterbeck is evidently content to take the reserve role and did make the squad.

Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka was also left out, despite a strong finish to the Bundesliga season.

SANDRO TONALI
Newcastle midfielder Sandro Tonali is serving a 10-month ban for betting on teams he played for — ruling him out of consideration for defending champion Italy.

It leaves coach Luciano Spalletti without his top choice at playmaker but opens space for the likes of Jorginho and Lorenzo Pellegrini.

Tonali had seemed poised to inherit the role that once belonged to Andrea Pirlo by setting the pace and directing the attack for Italy’s squad.

Several other Italy players are out injured: Domenico Berardi, Nicolò Zaniolo, Francesco Acerbi and Giorgio Scalvini.


By ANDREW DAMPF AP Sports Writer

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