Unfortunately, for the first time since 1990, there won’t be a player who finished the previous season at Bolton representing Wanderers at a World Cup Finals. From Jason McAteer in 1994 through to Lee Chung-yong in Brazil four years ago, there was one of ours to watch. But not this time.
However, after all the squads were officially confirmed today, there are five former Wanderers who are set for Russia this summer. Two of them even have a great shout of winning it.
Rodrigo – Spain
The loanee from the 2010-11 season has done alright for himself since his brief spell with us. After establishing himself in the Benfica side, he then moved over the border to Spain and Valencia, and this season was a key part of a side which qualified for the Champions League. He hasn’t played for Spain often but has made the Seleccion this summer. It’s likely he’ll have to battle Iago Aspas for a place alongside Diego Costa, or wide in a front three with the ex-Chelsea man and David Silva. Spain should do well on paper but have been disappointing at the last two major tournaments.
Aaron Mooy – Australia
Leaving us eight years ago without playing a first team game, Mooy has done well for himself eventually. After going back to Australia, he was eventually taken from Manchester City-owned Melbourne City, who then sold him to Huddersfield to pretty much recoup the money to buy the club. He has five goals in 33 games for the Socceroos, but this will be his first major tournament. With France and Denmark in their group, it may be a tough ask to progress further.
Blerim Dzemaili – Switzerland
Yes, he’s 32. Yes, he’s still playing international football for Switzerland. Injury meant Dzemaili never got going for Bolton, but he made a name for himself in Italy, most notably with Napoli. He is now with Bologna and still playing for the ‘Nati’ – starting last night’s friendly in Spain also indicates he’ll be a first choice player for them again, having been a regular in squads for over a decade now. It looks likely the Swiss will be battling with Serbia for the right to lose to Germany in the second round.
Dedryck Boyata – Belgium
Dedryck Boyata. World Cup winner? His loan spell with us didn’t go well and he never realised the potential many spoke about, but somehow Roberto Martinez has called him up to a strong Belgian squad. It’s likely he’ll be back-up, Jan Vertonghen, Vincent Kompany and Toby Alderweireld the probable back three. I reckon they’ll go far, as long as Boyata stays off the pitch.
Gary Cahill – England
You all knew the last one. Cahill eventually got his England debut while with Wanderers in 2011 and has been a regular ever since. After a season where he played fewer games for a Chelsea side who failed to make the top four, he may have failed to make the cut, but it’s the right call for Gareth Southgate to take him. He knows how to play in a back three as he does it in club football, and played very well in the FA Cup final.