31 of 32 countries have now qualified for next year’s World Cup in Brazil. Not so long ago it wouldn’t have meant much for City, but the takeover led to a influx of footballing superstars, several of whom will be there in 2014. So who made it, who missed out, and what about those who haven’t been playing for their country but may have a chance?
Joe Hart (England) – England’s number one showed yesterday, despite one rush of blood to the head, that he is still comfortably England’s best goalkeeper. It is that lack of a challenge for club and country that may actually be hurting Joe, but he will be on the plane. One can speculate about whether he will still be a City player by the time the World Cup rolls around, but yesterday’s performance surely did his chances of winning over Pellegrini no harm.
James Milner (England) – A popular scapegoat when things are going wrong for England (taking that role from Gareth Barry), Milner’s contributions to the national team are underappreciated by a nation that prefers speed merchants who run with their heads down. Milner provides crucial defensive contributions in tougher games while at the same time being a decent threat going forward. He may not be as dangerous as a Walcott or Townsend, but does the dirty work like helping out full-backs, and this is why many top managers value him more than fans seem to.
Samir Nasri (France) – Speaking of scapegoats, Nasri was public enemy number one after France’s first leg loss to Ukraine and was dropped yesterday. He is only just back in favour with France boss Didier Deschamps and it may be a little bold to put him in the “Definitely” category, but his form for City has been so good that it’s unlikely he’ll miss out.
Gael Clichy (France) – Clichy is another who has had his struggles for the French national team, often behind Patrice Evra in the pecking order, but he will certainly be on the plane as every squad needs depth and he is always in the France squad, even if not a regular starter. There have been times when he has started over Evra, but his club form must improve if he’s to be France’s first choice left-back.
David Silva (Spain) – City’s little magician could walk into any of the world’s national teams besides Spain, but it’s a constant battle for his place in his national team with so many creative maestros available. Silva has the likes of Mata and Cazorla to compete with, but coach Vicente del Bosque regularly uses him in the big games and trusts him to perform. Only an injury or serious loss of form could jeopardise Silva’s place at the World Cup.
Jesus Navas (Spain) – Say what you will about his City form, with fans sort of split on his performances so far, but as Spain’s only old fashioned winger Navas is always in del Bosque’s plans and often used as an impact sub. The speedy winger has 34 caps for Spain, but that total would be much higher had he overcome chronic homesickness issues earlier. This is a player that Chelsea had a big money deal in place to sign when he was just 21, only for said homesickness to ruin the deal. Navas is still finding his feet in England, but will almost certainly be off to Brazil.
Vincent Kompany (Belgium) – A major no-brainer, the captain of Manchester City and Belgium will lead his country to their first World Cup since 2002, with this incredibly gifted set of players a dark horse to go far in the tournament. Kompany’s greatest threat isn’t a defender nipping at his heels, but his own injury problems that continue to sideline him regularly.
Edin Dzeko (Bosnia-Herzegovina) – Another obvious one, Dzeko is a national hero to Bosnians and if you’ve ever read his thread on the Bluemoon message board, you’ll see that even the idea of dropping Dzeko would probably lead to the government being overthrown there. Not that he has to worry about being dropped, having scored 10 goals in qualifying. This will be Bosnia’s first World Cup since gaining independence, having last been there in any form as part of the old Yugoslavia at Italia 90, and the Bosnian Diamond will undoubtedly be there.
Sergio Aguero (Argentina) – If there was even an inkling of doubt about Aguero’s involvement in next year’s World Cup, it has disappeared faster than United’s joy of winning the title before his legendary goal in May 2012. Aguero has been in incredible form for club and country, scoring a brace the other day against Bosnia. It may be a controversial opinion, but Aguero has been outperforming his close friend Lionel Messi so far this season, though the two can play together in the same team. Aguero could well be one of the stars of Brazil 2014.
Pablo Zabaleta (Argentina) – Overlooked by previous Argentina boss Diego Maradona, Zabaleta wasn’t even in the squad for the 2010 World Cup, but with Alejandro Sabella now in charge, Zabaleta is a regular at right-back for his national team. He now plays most of Argentina’s big games, with only Inter’s Hugo Campagnaro and Catania’s inexperienced Gino Peruzzi (a player City looked at last summer) offering any real competition.
Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast) – This will be Yaya’s third World Cup and considering he will be 31 by the time Brazil 2014 rolls around, may well be his last. A talisman of the Ivory Coast national team for years along with brother Kolo, Yaya will hope to get Ivory Coast out of the group stage for the first time. There have been rumours of Yaya quitting international football for a while now, with the African Cup of Nations tearing him away from City at important times, so there is a real chance this could be his international bow with the next AFCON not until 2015.
Joleon Lescott (England) – Lescott has fallen out of favour with the national team, his peripheral role at City often given as a reason for this (despite the fact he has played more Premier League minutes than Chris Smalling this season). Whenever called upon by England, Lescott has performed solidly and in some cases really impressed, such as when he and Jagielka kept out Spain in England’s 1-0 friendly win over the world champions in late 2011. He has been linked with a move away from City in January and were that to happen, weekly starts might improve his chances.
Micah Richards (England) – It may even be stretching it to call his chances a “Maybe” as even when he was in peak form during the title-winning season, Micah was overlooked by the national team. Only his former City manager Stuart Pearce, during his very brief stint as caretaker boss, has shown much interest in Micah, playing him against the Netherlands in a friendly last year. Micah’s injury record doesn’t help, and now that he is fit looks far from the level he was at in the 2011/12 season. However, an improvement in form and a regular run in the team could give him an outside chance of boarding the flight to Rio.
Alvaro Negredo (Spain) – It seems almost inconceivable that a player in Negredo’s form could miss out, but it’s a possibility. Negredo has scored goals for club and country this season, but Diego Costa’s decision to choose Spain over Brazil suddenly casts some doubt on Negredo’s chances of making Spain’s World Cup squad. As impressive as Negredo has been for City, Costa has been even better for Atletico Madrid, though has to replicate that form for Spain. It is possible that both will be included, but there are others such as Fernando Torres and Roberto Soldado in contention, so Negredo has to keep working hard.
Jack Rodwell (England) – In terms of natural ability, Rodwell is one of the most talented of his generation in England. Unfortunately, Rodwell just can’t stop getting injured which prevents him from making an impression for club or country. City could use another good midfield option with Garcia still struggling to impress, but Rodwell is often unavailable when the chance would be there. If he can overcome the injury problems quickly, there is a chance he could be a late candidate for the England squad, especially when players like Tom Cleverley are getting their chance in England’s midfield.
Karim Rekik (Netherlands) – Rekik will only be 19 by the time the World Cup takes place and though unlikely he’ll be there, it’s not impossible. Rekik has been in fantastic form on loan at PSV in the Eredivisie (read more about that), and was surprisingly called up to the senior national team in August, despite not even playing for the U21s yet. An injury and subsequent surgery ruined his chances of a first cap, but the recognition was there and though it might take an injury or two for him to be on the plane, don’t rule it out completely.
Fernandinho (Brazil) – Fernandinho has been terrific for City for a while now, an all-action midfielder with good defensive skills but also capable of passing through the lines and contributing to attacks. So it’s of puzzlement to many, including the player himself and several of his team-mates, that Luiz Felipe Scolari continues to overlook a player who performed well during his only run of games for the Selecao under the previous coach. Scolari’s preference for stocking up on old fashioned holding midfielders doesn’t seem to help, but Fernandinho’s ability to play either a holding or box-to-box role should make him a candidate for selection. It may take a series of injuries for him to achieve his World Cup dream, but his own comments suggest he hasn’t given up hope.
Martin Demichelis (Argentina) – The recent arrival has won 37 caps for Argentina and played every game at the last World Cup, so is no stranger to the national team. It’s been just over two years, though, since he last turned out for Argentina, against Bolivia, and coupled with his age (32) doesn’t seem to have much of a chance. Even after winning a place in La Liga’s team of the season last year, he wasn’t selected. But he is now playing for a top club in the world’s most watched league, so while unlikely, it isn’t impossible that he could win a late recall before Argentina head to the home of their greatest enemy.
Javi Garcia (Spain) – Is it presumptuous to completely rule Garcia out? Probably not. He does have two recent caps for Spain, but both were in friendlies and when the big guns were unavailable or rested. Garcia’s last appearance for Spain was against Chile in September, a match in which he was poor in his preferred holding midfield role and was later taken off. For Garcia to be selected, it would take a miraculous series of injuries to midfielders.
Aleksandar Kolarov & Matija Nastasic (Serbia) – Serbia missed out on reaching a World Cup playoff by just 3 points, meaning City’s defensive duo of Kolarov and Nastasic will be absent. A shame for Nastasic, for whom a World Cup at the age of 21 would have been a fantastic experience. This would have been Kolarov’s second World Cup, having appeared at the 2010 edition just before joining City.
Stevan Jovetic (Montenegro) – Jovetic is one of those unlucky players who may go his entire career without playing in the World Cup. You know the sort… Giggs, Best, Bale, outstanding players who happen to come from a small country with a less than impressive national team. He was only 16 or 17 when Montenegro and Serbia split in 2006, and that may have ended his chances of ever playing in a World Cup. Jovetic outshone Rooney in the “number 10” role when Montenegreo played England recently, but it was all in vain as Montenegro finished 6 points shy of even making a playoff.
Costel Pantilimon (Romania) – City’s current number one earned a recall to the Romanian side after a withdrawal, but was on the bench for both playoff games against Greece. Romania lost anyway and won’t be going to the World Cup. It’s a strange situation when Romania’s number two (sometimes number three) starts for his club over England’s number one, isn’t it?
John Guidetti (Sweden) – It isn’t an exaggeration to say Guidetti might have played in the 2014 World Cup had
Ibrahimovic Sweden qualified for the World Cup last night. Guidetti was just breaking into the national team before the horror illness that sidelined him for a year, and yesterday scored two for Sweden’s U21s. The unimpressive Johan Elmander is getting games for Sweden, so the City forward would have had a real shot had Sweden made it.