This Summer sees the return of the FIFA World Cup. This year, the quadrennial event is being held in Russia and will play host to some of the biggest stars in world football. As excitement for the festival of football begins, The Anfield Talk’s Sam (@sammillnelfc) takes a look at the Liverpool players that will be representing their nations at the tournament…
Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (England)
Jordan Henderson is likely to start, as a senior player in the squad, although will face competition from Eric Dier to secure his starting position in midfield. Unfortunately for our captain, Henderson won’t be going into the World Cup captaining his country as Steven Gerrard did four years ago. Nevertheless, he will have a big influence on the least internationally experienced side in Russia. One of those youngsters that he will lead is very own Trent Alexander-Arnold. Following an extremely impressive second half of the domestic season, Gareth Southgate has decided to include Trent in his 23 man squad. The 19-year-old Scouser has a fighting chance of starting for England, due to Kyle Walker likely starting in a back three. This leaves just Kieran Trippier for Trent to battle it out with, in order to gain a starting spot for England’s opener against Tunisia.
Roberto Firmino (Brazil)
The Brazil manager, Tite, doesn’t quite appreciate Bobby Firmino quite as much as us reds do, probably because of our love for his hard work off the ball as well as on it. Despite his incredible talent when in possession of a football, the industrious side of his game doesn’t quite fit with the Ginga soul of Brazilian football, that has been passed on by the likes of Pele and Jairzinho. Having said this, the reason that Roberto Firmino doesn’t start every game for Brazil is probably just Tite’s preferredness of Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus. Despite Firmino’s stiff competition for Brazil’s striker role, he is more than likely to get enough game time to make a big impact on Brazil’s fortunes.
Dejan Lovren (Croatia)
Fallings out and arguments seem to have now been put aside in Dejan Lovren’s international career. Dejan Lovren was left out of Croatia’s squad for Euro 2016 following a falling out with the coach, Ante Čačić. The row was reportedly over Lovren wanting assurances that he would start for his country. He is back now and ready to play in his second World Cup.
Sadio Mané (Senegal)
Both Mané and Salah go into the Summer as their country’s talisman, however thankfully for Sadio, he will have more quality around him than Salah will for Egypt. A talented Senegal will hope to get out of the group stages, having been given a favourable draw in group H. Their group-stage opponents will be Poland, Colombia and Japan. If ‘Les Lions de la Téranga’ are to make it far in the competition, Sadio Mané will be key to their success. His world-class performances in the Champions League for Liverpool should give him and his team great confidence going to Russia.
Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
Egyptian hearts were close to shattering when Salah went off injured in the Champions League final. Salah is the figurehead of the Arabic footballing world, not just Egypt’s. It would be a travesty for him not to be fit to play. His shoulder ligament injury means his place in Egypt’s starting lineup, for their group A opener against Uruguay, is in doubt. However, positive reports from Egypt’s doctor have stated that he should be available for at least one or two matches in the group. Salah has also said he should be ready for the first game. On Salah’s fitness, Egypt’s manager has said ‘we hope he will be with us before Uruguay. We are optimists and we are waiting for him’. To be very honest, Egypt depend on Salah. He is their one player with any true quality and for him to miss out would be a travesty. The whole of Egypt went crazy when he scored a last-minute penalty to send Egypt to their first World Cup finals since 1990. As well as being a fantastic player, he is an ambassador for football and the World Cup would be a worse place without him.
Simon Mignolet (Belgium)
Simon Mignolet is the least likely, of all the Liverpool players going to the World Cup, to get any minutes on the pitch. Thibaut Courtois is undoubtedly Belgium’s no.1 and with Mignolet being benched for the second half of the season Belgium’s other goalkeeper, Koen Casteels of Wolfsburg is potentially also ahead of him in the pecking order. Mignolet’s best chance of getting on the pitch is either an injury to Courtois or Belgium reaching a penalty shootout and Roberto Martínez doing a ‘Van Gaal in 2014’ and bringing on Mignolet to be the hero.
Marko Grujić (Serbia)
Perhaps a surprise name for many Liverpool supporters, Grujić is likely to a part in Serbia’s matches. A successful loan spell at Cardiff City has ensured that Grujić made the squad. He recently started Serbia’s World Cup warm-up match against Chile, indicating furthermore that the youngster could be given the chance to shine on the biggest stage. Grujić is by no means guaranteed a place in Serbia’s starting eleven. Players such as Nemanja Matić and the emerging Milinković-Savić will also expect to be starting.
Those who missed out:
Had it not been for injury Clyne, Gomez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana and possibly even Sturridge would have been expected to be in Gareth Southgate’s final squad. Nathaniel Clyne and Lallana simply haven’t played enough football this season to merit a place for England, although, luckily Adam Lallana is on the reserve list and is likely to be the first player called up if an outfield player gets injured.
Joe Gomez kept Neymar quiet in a friendly against Brazil last November, earning praise from Southgate. He would have been ideally suited to England’s three at the back. Oxlade-Chamberlain would have been potentially starting, had it not been for his injury sustained in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final, against Roma.
James Milner isn’t in the England squad, because he has retired from international football.
Emre Can’s injury has also prevented him from playing enough football of late to get a place in Joachim Löw’s Germany squad. He will be disappointed, however, Can should have plenty of opportunities to play in major tournaments in the future.
Divock Origi’s largely poor season, on loan at Wolfsburg, hasn’t been enough to earn him a spot in the Belgium squad along with former Liverpool striker Christian Benteke.
Liverpool’s new Summer signing, Fabinho, won’t figure for Brazil.
Ones to watch:
The Brazilian shot-stopper is likely to be his country’s no.1, ahead of Ederson, and it will be a chance for Liverpool fans to see what they could be getting if we were to sign him.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)
The stocky attacker has recently been linked with the reds, so it might be worth watching him playing for Switzerland. He has just been relegated with Stoke City, but we may see an upturn of form at the World Cup.
Nabil Fekir (France)
Although this transfer now looks unlikely to happen, it’s believed that the player still wants the move. Therefore, it might be worth watching France’s matches to see if he can come on and make an impact in games. Fekir isn’t nailed on to start every game, due to France’s incredible squad depth, however, he has played well in recent friendlies, potentially giving the manager more confidence in him ahead of the finals. If he is to make a difference, it will most likely be through a curling finesse shot into the top right-hand corner.