CELTIC players will switch their focus from success at club level to the international stage as they head for the World Cup Finals in Russia in the summer.
While Dembele didn’t make the French squad due to the powerful names that predominate in France, many did. Here we analyze four potentially important players for each of their countries during the soccer extravaganza and who can make an impact in the 2018 Fifa World Cup.
MIKAEL LUSTIG: Sweden
The 31-year-old defender has just helped the Hoops to their seventh successive Premiership title while becoming a key man in Brendan Rodgers’ history-making team.
Lustig’s versatility has been exceptional as he has stepped into central defence on occasion to help out in emergencies.
He is still a dangerous addition to the attack when he comes forward and he was instrumental in Celtic’s opening goal in the Scottish Cup Final on Saturday when his low cross was headed out straight to Callum McGregor who half-volleyed an unstoppable 18-yarder beyond Motherwell keeper Trevor Carson as the champions went on to win 2-0.
Lustig is a reliable performer for the Swedes and was in the line-up that shocked Italy in the qualifiers.
He made 47 appearances during the campaign and scored three goals.
CHRISTIAN GAMBOA: Costa Rica
Gamboa is a 28-year-old right-back whose pace going forward is important to his country. Brendan Rodgers, however, used him sparingly during the season and, in fact, the former West Brom defender, bought for £1.2million in August 2016, made only three starts, two in the Premiership and one in Europe.
He has hired a physical trainer to improve his condition before reaching the World Cup. The Costa Rican team boss met with Brendan Rodgers to ask for more game time for the player, but the champions’ manager relied on Lustig when he played four at the back and also utilised Kristoffer Ajer and Jack Hendry wide on the right when he reverted to a back three.
Ironically, one of Gamboa’s last appearances in Scotland was at Hampden for his country in March when they won 1-0 in Alex McLeish’s first match since his return.
His performances with Celtic are not very interesting, but with the team of Costa Rica he has had better luck. Thanks to his talent as defender, the Ticos have defended well, lost against Tunisia 1-0 but won against Honduras 1-0.
There is also a player who can steal his place in the World Cup: Ian Smith. He plays in the same position as Gamboa and Costa Rican coach has recently announced that he was considering both options.
The fate of Gamboa will depend on what the manager decides.
DEDRYCK BOYATA: Belgium
Dedryck Boyata is another one of the rising stars of Belgium. He is one of the young players who has proved to be special for the national team. Boyata, as a Celtic player, has excelled.
He scored three goals from 39 games and proved to be the anchorman in the middle of the rearguard with players such as Kristoffer Ajer, Nir Bitton and Jozo Simunovic.
For now, Boyata is as secondary in most of the predictions for Belgium according to excelsior.be, a Belgian specialised website. However, it does not mean that Boyata will miss the World Cup. To the contrary, Boyata is considered secondary for the reserve team that will go hand in hand with the 11 starters of Belgium. Manager Roberto Martinez will announce his travelling squad on June 2.
Belgium still has three friendlies against Portugal, Egypt and Costa Rica. Those friendlies will serve to make the final tests. Surely Boyata will play in one of the friendlies and the decision on whether or not he will play in the World Cup will depend on his performance in the friendlies. The odds for Boyata could increase if Vermaelen suffered an injury, since he is a player who is almost always injured.
TOM ROGIC: Australia
Tom Rogic is one of the most important hopes that Socceroos have in the World Cup. The Celtic playmaker is considered one of the stars who will make up the national team of Australia in Russia. He has had a perfect season at Celtic with important goals to win matches that led him to obtain the Premiership’s title.
Forty-two games and eight important goals with Celtic, that definitely shows that Tom Rogic is a complete player, highly capable of offering Australia a goal-making weapon, especially if they know they are in a group where they need to win to reach the next round, they cannot wait just for draws.
2017/2018 was a season with four matches for Tom with Australia, the first against Honduras 3-0, then 0-0, Syria was draw the first game and they won the second game at home 2-1. Australia at home has always been impermeable.
The Australian football legend Paul Wade has all his confidence in this young man and Tom will use the World Cup to demonstrate he he is well worth the new five-year deal he has just signed for Brendan Rodgers’ team.
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