With the biggest football tournament in the world about to kick off, it’s time to take a look at some of the Scottish based players who will be turning out in Russia. Scotland may not have made the finals, but there will be at least six Scottish Premiership players vying for the Jules Rimet Trophy. And with nations as diverse as Iceland and Belgium, Australia and Costa Rica all featuring players from north of the border, there’s a small chance at least one of them could come home with something.
The Scottish team haven’t qualified for the World Cup Finals since 1998 and have missed out on nine finals compared to the eight they’ve made it to since they joined the competition in 1954. The fact that their official song for the 1998 finals was Del Amitri’s ‘Don’t Come Home Too Soon’ probably says it all.
So who is heading east this week and what are the odds of a World Cup win for Celtic’s stars and the other SPL players? For some players, the odds are certainly better than they are for others.
Celtic will be sending no less than four players to the World Cup. Of these, Dedryck Boyata has perhaps the best chance, with his native Belgium sixth favourites at 10-1. They have a tricky game against England in their group, but should still easily progress to the knockout stages. As for the other three, progression is much less likely, with Costa Rica, featuring Christian Gamboa, and Australia, featuring Tom Rogic, both rank outsiders at 500-1 to win the tournament and Sweden, featuring Mikael Lustig, only slightly better at 150-1.
Rangers star, Bruno Alves has a reasonable chance with Portugal kicking off at 22-1, although Aberdeen player, Karl Arnason, will have to hope that Iceland continue their giant-killing ways if they are to make any progress at 250-1.
Of course, anything can, and often does happen in a knock out tournament, as Brazil 2014 proved. Not only were England given a shock exit at the group stage, but hosts, and favourites, Brazil were also given a shock in the semi final, with eventual winners, Germany, thrashing them 7-1. And who can forget Iceland’s unexpected win over England in Euro 2016?
While Celtic are no doubt proud to be so well represented on the world stage, it does give them a selection headache when it comes to the Champions League qualifiers. Their first of their eight qualifying games in the tournament is scheduled for the same night as the World Cup semi finals, and while it is unlikely that any of their payers will be representing their country there, they will not have been back long enough to fully recover from their bruising Russian adventures.
Celtic may get £800,000 in compensation for their four players attending the tournament, but that is small change compared to the riches that await them if they progress in the Champions League. All of which will leave Hoops’ fans torn between hopes of World Cup success for their players, and the relief and rest of an early exit. With kick off for the tournament now just days away, we’ll soon see which way the world’s biggest game goes.