Scotland may have missed out on the World Cup party starting on June 14 in Russia, but all is not lost for Scottish football fans as they can cheer some of the brightest stars in the league playing for their various countries.
Perhaps one of the biggest names from the league that will be wearing his national team’s colour as the World Cup is Celtic’s Dedryck Boyata, who has been included in his country’s strong 23-man squad after much speculation.
Belgium captain, Vincent Kompany, who is nursing an injury, has also been included in the team. The 32-year old Manchester City star picked up a knock in Belgium’s goalless draw with Portugal in pre-World Cup friendly match and is expected to undergo a scan to assess the extent of the injury.
Dedryck Boyata’s fate had been left hanging as Belgium manager, Roberto Martinez delayed naming his final 23-player squad from the initial 28-man preliminary list. The chances of the 27-year-old Hoops’ defender featuring for his country at the finals would be boosted of Kompany is ruled out by injury.
Boyata is however optimistic Kompany will recover from his groin and become fits and alright for the World Cup. He admits he was unaware of his team mate’s injury, as he had been preparing to “go on as a sub.”
Expressing satisfaction with his own performance, Boyata says there are aspects of the game he is hoping to improve on.
“Of course it’s true that Vincent’s injury meant I got on the pitch, but I don’t want to be in a position to rely on injuries to get to Russia.
“Thomas Vermaelen has been injured too, but he and Vincent are mainstays of the team and we need them there.
“My goal is to be in the 23. I have fought to be in this squad. This is my first full season without injuries for years. So if I haven’t made it, I will have no regrets. I’ve given my all.”
The names of the 23 players making the trip to Russia was inadvertently revealed on Friday June 2 – three days before the official announcement – when mattresses of the squad members was shown on Belgian TV with the name of the Celtic stopper among them.
Besides Boyata, Celtic fans will also feel a sense of participation in Russia 2018 in Costa Rica’s Cristian Gamboa who has been named in his country’s final 23-man squad by Coach Oscar Ramirez, despite only making just three appearances for Brendan Rodgers’ team this season.
A veteran of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil where Costa Rica impressively topped a group that had Italy, Uruguay and England, the 28-year-old defender has however struggled to break into the Hoops’ squad, which has drawn criticism in some quarters in his country.
Costa Rican legend Walter Centeno said Gamboa had been wandering round Europe for the past four years in daze without actually playing.
“If he doesn’t play in at least half of the games for Celtic until the end of the season, then he should be nowhere near the World Cup.
Despite his club woes, Gamboa remains a big player for his country, helping them qualify for Russia 2018 with two games to spare and dumping USA along the way.
However, exciting Celtic’s French young talent Moussa Dembele missed out of the final 23 member squad of the Le Blues, which incredibly also dropped other notable names like Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, Arsenal’s Alexander Lacazette, Stoke City’s Kurt Zouma (on loan from Chelsea), Tottenham City’s Moussa Sissoko and Crystal Palace’s Mamadou Sisoko.