Scotland may not be one of the 32 nations heading for Russia to see who’s the best in the world but Celtic fans will certainly have something to cheer about with at least four of the squad taking part in the tournament. The club will also have plenty to celebrate as their players’ inclusion will mean an estimated £600,000 payment from FIFA, negotiated by the European Club Association, and even more if all four of the possibles do get to play.
So who’s going, and what are the chances of their nation’s success?
First up is Cristian Gamboa who’ll be turning out for Costa Rica. The pacey right back is famous for both his defensive and attacking skills – he has three international goals to his name. He also played in all of Costa Rica’s five games in the 2014 World Cup, reaching the quarter finals, only to be knocked out by the Netherlands. This time they’re in a tough group with both Brazil and Switzerland to be overcome if they’ve any chance of making it through to the knockout stages. However their game against the Netherlands four years ago went all the way to penalties, so you never know.
Next it’s Dedryk Boyata of Belgium. After a couple of months of speculation, Boyata was delighted to get the call-up to be part of the 23 man squad. To date he has just two international caps but the injury to Vincent Kompany in the warm-up match against Portugal leaves a hole in the Belgian’s defensive line-up that he’d be more than ready and willing to fill. The team are in Group G alongside Panama, Tunisia and England. Coach Roberto Martinez will be hoping to harness the undoubted talent in the team that includes Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard – and if he can then Belgium will be among the favourites to win the World Cup.
The third Celtic player destined to be involved in World Cup action is Sweden’s Mikael Lustig. The 31 year-old is a veteran of international tournaments with 64 appearances to his name as well as attendance at both the 2012 and 2016 European Championships. He’s also scored six goals over his international career so he’s definitely more than just a reliable defender. However he may well need all of his defensive skills, and more, when Sweden come up against Germany in the group stage. The other teams in Group F, Mexico and South Korea, pose less of a problem so progress to the next round is likely. After that, who knows?
Finally, there’s the Socceroos’ Tom Rogic. The Australian International is certainly capable of scoring stunning goals as his incredible goal against Saudi Arabia proved. He’s also performed exceptionally well in a number of other qualifiers for the tournament. However the team find themselves up against some very tough opposition in Group C with France, Peru and Denmark who could all pose serious problems for the young team. The fact that they are also coach-less after the surprise resignation of Ange Postecoglou shortly after qualification for the finals won’t help either.
But, however any of the players and their teams do in the finals, it will be good to see how Celtic players perform outside of Scotland and on the world stage. It could also be that the team’s scouts spot a star of tomorrow and sign him up while the transfer window’s still open. It might not be the same as bringing home the trophy, but it would certainly be a great boost in time for next season.