It is the dream of a good number of kids growing up to represent their countries at football’s grandest occasion i.e the World Cup.
For most, that dream is never actualised and for a lucky few the dream comes true, and to the surprise of quite a few people, the dream could come through for these guys:
Fulham’s boy wonder has been arguably the best thing to happen to the club this season so far. His 15 goals and 6 assists in the EFL Championship has propelled him to an unprecedented nomination for the PFA Young player of the year award. Becoming the first player plying his trade in the championship to get the nod. He eventually lost out to Man City’s Leroy Sane, but was still named the Championship Player of the Year and Young player of the year. The PSG and Manchester United target will be hoping England continue the trend of taking a wonderkid to major tournaments. He could follow in the footsteps of players like Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott and Marcus Rashford if included in the final 23 man squad. England’s current lack of options on the wings means the Left Winger (who is also adept at Left Back) could be a real asset to the team. Currently their best options on the left wing are Marcus Rashford- who is actually a Centre Forward and Ashley Young- who hasn’t played there for the better part of 2 years.
One of Spain’s greatest ever players has been convincingly usurped from his number 1 spot by the irrepressible David De Gea after a less than impressive 2014 World Cup, and was second choice for the Euro 2016 championship. He however hasn’t been selected for La Roja since the tournament. He made a bold decree to new Spain Manager Julien Lopetegui after helping Porto to the Portuguese league title for the first time in 5 seasons. He reminded the Spain manager and indeed the world that he was still available for selection for Spain saying “I haven’t retired from the national team, nor did I announce that I was leaving,”.Athletic Bilbao‘s budding shot stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga might still have a thing or two to say about who gets the final goalkeeping spot after De Gea and Napoli’s Pele Reina who are almost certain to be on the plane to Russia, but Lopetegui has certainly taken notice of Casillas’ willingness to represent the National team saying the Porto goalkeeper was in fact ”right” in his assessment of his chances of making the World Cup.
It’s not so surprising that a stalwart of CSKA’s formidable team who narrowly lost out to local rivals, Locomotiv Moscow, in the Russian league could be called up to play at the World Cup, the main reason Mario Fernandez is on this list is because he will be lining up at the World Cup with players whose names sound nothing like his. The likes of Igor Akinfeev, Alexandr Golovin and Fyodor Smolov rather than Doulas Costa or Thiago Silva will be Mario Fernandez’ teammates at the World Cup as he has chosen to represent his adopted Russia ahead of his place of birth Brazil. Despite playing in a friendly for Brazil, he is eligible to play for the host nation after gaining citizenship in 2016 and becoming eligible to represent them in international competition in 2017.
When Debuchy moved back to his native France after a largely unsuccessful spell at Arsenal, it was seen as possibly his last hurrah and a possible path to retirement and the land of the forgotten. But Debuchy has had a remarkanle resurgence and at 32 won his first ever Ligue 1 Footballer of the month award in February, just one month after joining St. Etienne on loan from Arsenal. His form has sparked talk of a possible national team return with France having only one recognized right back in Monaco’s Djibril Sidibé in their ranks. Their other options include Bacary Sagna who spent the tail end of the 2017/2018 season with now relegated Benevento whom he joined in January after leaving Manchester City as a free agent in July 2017. Debuchy also has competition from 22 year old Stuttgart defender Benjamin Pavard who was included in France’s squad for friendlies agaiinst Russia and Colombia. One player who will definitely not be challenging for a place in the team to Russia is Christophe Jallet whose knee injury has kept him out since February thus ruling him out of the World Cup.
Belgium’s first choice striker is obviously Romelu Lukaku and he put away 27 goals in 50 games to finish as Manchester United’s top scorer for the 2017/2018 season. His huge physique and aerial prowess have also aided his teammates as Lukaku amassed 9 assists this season. Belgium’s starting striker is pretty much sorted out, but with the injury to Michy Batshuayi, they now have a problem in the back up striker department. Benteke who has scored a ridiculous 3 goals in 31 games for Crystal Palace this season now finds himself in contention to make the World Cup squad. Benteke‘s main competition for the spot is Wolfsburg’s Divock Origi who has netted 6 times in 35 games this season. Benteke has an edge because his style of play is not so dfferent from Lukaku’s his strength and aerial expertise are his main attributes. He has 6 assists in addition to his 3 goals while Origi who is more of a speedster than a than the typical Belgian hulks. Benteke on his day can be a handful for defenders on his day and if he can rediscover his scoring boots, he would be a great addition to the Belgium team and a good back up to Lukaku.
The least popular player on this list, but Lokosa has a genuine chance of going to the World Cup with the Super Eagles. The Kano Pillars‘ striker has been on fire in the NPFL in the 2018 season netting 14 times in 15 games. Nigeria’s search for a back up to Odion Ighalo has seen them try out a number of Centre Forwards but so far they have not been able to find a suitable front man to take the reigns in case Ighalo needs a rest it has an off day And with the best candidate so far Henry Onyekuru still not fully fit following an ACL injury he suffered in December, they could turn to the NPFL’s top scorer. Junior Lokosa is having a superb season and could be the one to finally solve that problem for the Super Eagles. A call up to the National team for a player currently playing his trade for in the NPFL will surely be a positive for the millions of football ‘pundits’ in Nigeria who have been clamoring for more home based players representation in the Super Eagles. The World Cup could be a huge propeller in Lokosa’s career and he would do anything within his power to make the final 23 man squad for Russia 2018.