World Cup 2018: Which players from Scottish clubs are in Russia?
The Tartan Army will once again sink sullenly into their armchairs instead of swinging their kilts in far-flung stands as a major finals gets into party mode.
But there is some solace in an increased number of players from Scottish top-flight clubs who can still dream of World Cup glory.
Indeed, there is just enough to pick a full fantasy league team if you add the six who previously played in Scotland to the seven who finished the season in the Premiership.
Celtic quartet Mikael Lustig, Tom Rogic, Dedryck Boyata and Cristian Gamboa are joined in Russia by Rangers defender Bruno Alves, Kari Arnason, the central defender who is departing Aberdeen, and Jamie Maclaren, who was on loan to Hibernian from Darmstadt 98.
It could have been more had Carlos Pena and Eduardo Herrera not lost their places in the Mexico squad after miserable first seasons with Rangers – and Erik Sviatchenko not suffered injury and loss of form that led to the centre-half moving from Celtic back to Midtjylland in his Danish homeland.
Despite that, there are still almost twice as many players from Scottish clubs included in the 32 squads in Russia than graced the world stage in Brazil four years ago.
But any suggestions it is an indication of an improvement in the standing or quality of the domestic game has to be tempered by the fact that it is still less than the number that made it to South Africa in 2010.
|World Cup finals||Currently with a Scottish club||Previously with a Scottish club||Signed immediately after finals||Signed later in career|
|*Total once players in Scotland squad are added|
|2010 South Africa||8||5||3||2|
|2002 Japan/South Korea||7||3||1||9|
|1998 France||3 (15*)||1 (7*)||4||10|
That 2014 blip appears to have been more down to Rangers’ financial collapse two years earlier than anything else.
Even so, the transfer market has dramatically changed since Scotland last sent a squad to a major tournament finals.
No less than 14 non-Scottish players who played at the 1998 World Cup in France went on to play for Scottish clubs at some point in their careers.
Ten who played four years later in Japan and South Korea did likewise.
However, those who went to the 2014 finals in Brazil have been conspicuous by their absence from future transfer dealings with Scottish clubs.
It is perhaps a reflection of the changing market in which Scottish clubs now operate that more players now make their World Cup debuts after leaving Scotland’s top flight than those heading here after making their names at international football’s top table.
As football agent Raymond Sparkes told BBC Scotland: “The English Premier League has grown and blossomed into the principal football competition in the world.
“It is regarded as the holy grail and Scotland’s proximity meant we were able to offer players a platform where they could come and perform somewhere that was a hop, skip and a jump from England’s top league.”
‘A Grand Canyon between the two leagues’
It wasn’t too long ago that Celtic and Rangers could match the wages being offered by clubs in the likes of France and Netherlands.
Netherlands duo Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Arthur Numan, France goalkeeper Lionel Charbonnier and team-mate Stephane Guivarc’h, after the striker’s brief stop at Newcastle United, joined Rangers within months of the 1998 finals.
Sweden goalkeeper Magnus Hedman, after the 2002 World Cup, and Netherlands striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink – four years later – both joined Celtic.
Celtic also snapped up Honduras left-back Emilio Izaguirre and Mexican midfielder Efrain Juarez, while Slovakia winger Vladimir Weiss headed to Rangers on loan from Manchester City, after the 2010 finals.
|Nationality of players at World Cup finals from Scottish clubs|
|2018 Russia||Australia (2), Belgium, Costa Rica, Iceland, Portugal, Sweden|
|2014 Brazil||England, Greece, Honduras, Nigeria|
|2010 South Africa||United States (2), Algeria, Cameroon, Greece, Ivory Coast, New Zealand, South Korea|
|2006 Germany||Trinidad & Tobago (6), Poland (2)|
|2002 Japan/South Korea||Denmark (3), Argentina, China, Ecuador, Sweden|
|1998 France||Denmark (3), Scotland (12)|
However, with Rangers yet to fully recover financially, Champions League money gravitating towards Europe’s major nations and leagues and the explosion in television rights money available to English clubs, their counterparts north of the border are finding it harder to attract such talent.
“The difference between the Premiership and Premier League is absolutely vast,” Sparkes pointed out. “There’s a Grand Canyon between the two leagues in terms of what clubs can afford to pay players.”
Even Celtic and Rangers are struggling to compete with England’s second-tier Championship clubs.
Sparkes, who tapped into Poland’s membership of the European Union to bring goalkeeper Arthur Boruc and striker Maciej Zurawski to Celtic in 2005, points out, however, that Premiership clubs will still view some of the World Cup’s less fancied sides as worth scouting in Russia.
Especially those in their squads who are yet to drink from the money well of Europe’s top leagues.
So don’t be surprised if, even in the absence of the Tartan Army, you see a few well-kent faces in the stand keeping an eye on the progress of the likes of Panama, Costa Rica, Iceland, Tunisia, Egypt and Iran.
2018 World Cup, Russia
Players with Scottish clubs
Bruno Alves (Rangers), defender, Portugal. Group B opponents: Spain, Morocco and Iran.
Kari Arnason (Aberdeen), defender, Iceland. Group D opponents: Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria.
Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), defender, Belgium. Group G opponents: Panama, Tunisia and England.
Cristian Gamboa (Celtic), defender, Costa Rica. Group E opponents: Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia.
Mikael Lustig (Celtic), defender, Sweden. Group F opponents: Germany, Mexico and South Korea.
Jamie Maclaren (Hibernian, on loan from Darmstadt 98),forward, Australia. Group C opponents: France, Peru and Denmark.
Tom Rogic (Celtic), midfielder, Australia. Group C opponents: France, Peru and Denmark.
Players previously with Scottish clubs
Alfred Finnbogason (Augsberg, previously of Hutchison Vale Boys Club), forward, Iceland. Group D opponents: Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria.
John Guidetti (Alaves, previously on loan to Celtic), forward, Sweden. Group F opponents: Germany, Mexico and South Korea.
Jackson Irvine (Hull City, previously of Ross County), midfielder, Australia. Group C opponents: France, Peru and Denmark.
Aaron Mooy, (Huddersfield Town, previously of St Mirren), midfielder, Australia. Group C opponents: France, Peru and Denmark.
Kasper Schmeichel, (Leicester City, previously on loan to Falkirk), goalkeeper, Denmark. Group C opponents: France, Peru and Australia.
Ki Sung-yueng (Swansea City, previously of Celtic), midfielder, South Korea. Group F opponents: Germany, Mexico and Sweden.