If you were to draw up a list of players who deserve to be going to the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, Jan Oblak would be near the top.
The Atletico Madrid and Slovenia number one, who finished third in FIFA’s The Best Goalkeeper awards for 2020, has been in fantastic form this season for both club and country.
His club side Atletico Madrid are sitting pretty at the top of LaLiga Santander and have challenged for titles throughout his time in the Spanish capital.
With his country, though, Oblak is yet to go to a major tournament. Slovenia haven’t qualified for such a competition since making it to the 2010 World Cup, before the 28-year-old’s international career began.
Slovenia’s bright start to World Cup qualifying
This could all be about to change, though. Slovenia have just won their opening World Cup qualifier against Croatia 1-0, bringing Oblak to six clean sheets in a row with the national side.
A goalkeeper of Oblak‘s ilk would naturally have aspirations of playing in football’s greatest stage – the World Cup – and his recent form would suggest that he has a great chance of qualification this campaign.
Slovenia got off to the perfect start in their qualifying group and, when we look at the other sides in there with them, you’d fancy their chances of booking their place in Qatar next year.
The Slovenians will feel they can progress from a group where the other teams are Croatia, Malta, Cyprus, Slovakia and Russia.
The inclusion of a world-class player can make the difference when bidding to play in major tournaments and the added confidence of having a player of Oblak‘s quality between the sticks will set Matjaz Kek‘s Slovenian side in good stead.
We’ve seen in the past how one top player can make the difference in a national side’s fortunes, with two recent examples being Gareth Bale with Wales and Cristiano Ronaldo with Portugal.
An impossible dream?
Very few would disagree that Oblak deserves to feature in the most prestigious tournament in football.
Unfortunately for Oblak, Slovenia fell to a 2-1 defeat against Russia, providing a timely reminder that qualification will be a long and enduring effort.
Let’s see if he and Slovenia can make it.