The football never ends - not even with the final whistle blew on the 17/18 Championship season. We’re in a World Cup year friends, the 2018 FIFA World Cup hits Russia over the next month and we are one game into it. You already knew that though, didn’t you. However, with only 31 spots up for grabs in the 32 team tournament, some big footballing powers, and some well supported teams have missed out; Ghana, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the United States of America, the Netherlands, Italy, Chile. That means, for more than a few, there are some huge gaps to fill.
Now, one of the best ways to enjoy football is to be a neutral, but sometimes, something can be lost if you’re not attached to a team. There are more than few of you who probably have no horse in this race. With that in mind, if you’re an Aston Villa fan with no team to support, here are a number of teams with an Aston Villa connection taking part in the 2018 Fifa World Cup.
Villa connection: England have a heavy thread of Aston Villa running through the side. The team are managed by former Villan, Gareth Southgate - while Fabian Delph, Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill and Ashley Young will turn out for the Three Lions this summer.
England head to Russia with expectation faintly stirring once more in the hearts of the nation. After the disappointment of 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010 and 2014, this might be England’s time once more - especially since they’ve probably only ever had two really good World Cup performances since claiming the Jules Rimet trophy. 1990 saw England finish fourth and inspire a new-wave of footballing culture in England, while 2002 saw a promising English side fall, but only to a legendary Brazil team.
England, under Gareth Southgate, genuinely feel like a nice team to back. Players from all-walks of life line up for this team that does want to play progressive and neat football. It might be a changing point.
Support them because: Hurt can only last so long, and England, for once, are one of the feelgood sides of the tournament. Anyway, take advantage of this as they’ll be lumping the ball again come the Euros.
Villa connection: AVFC fan-favourite Nolberto Solano is on the coaching staff of the Peruvian national team.
Peru head to their first World Cup in a lifetime looking to do some serious damage. Everyone is sleeping on them, some barely notice their presence. Escaping Group C, which contains France, Denmark and Australia is going to be a big ask, but there are two results there for the taking if Peru can step up to the plate. These guys have one big gun in the form of Paolo Guerrero, who was reinstated to the team recently after a footballing ban was postponed by FIFA until after the World Cup. The 34 year-old looks to make the most of his last dance in the sun.
Support them because: Well, look at those kits? Honestly, it’s such a damn clean shirt. What about the football? Peru love to play beyond their means, and that makes for great spectacle. There’s a lot to love here. Also, Villa fan Luis Miguel Echegaray and his love for his La Blanquirroja is totally infectious.
Villa connection: Current Villa wide-midfielder/defender Ahmed Elmohamady is on the Egyptian squad for this World Cup.
Much like Peru, it’s been a while since Egypt qualified for the World Cup, but this time around they’ve got the toast of the footballing world leading the way. Mohamed Salah fresh off a fantastic season in English football will look to set the world alight on the international stage. Villa fans will have interest in the performances of Ahmed Elmohamady in his first World Cup campaign.
Support them because: Why wouldn’t you back the Villan in Group A, Elmohamady? Also - it’s good to back a team with Mo Salah because they could quite possibly be entertaining.
Villa connection: Mile Jedinak, of course!
The Socceroos are ageing, the Socceroos are creaking. The Socceroos are capable of a damn surprise. They had to rely on Tim Cahill to get past Syria, before Villa’s Mile Jedinak somehow managed to score a hat-trick to beat Honduras.
It’s been a hard path to the final tournament, but it’s far from over yet. Barring a France collapse, there’s only really one spot up for grabs in Group C and Australia will need to fight Peru and Denmark for that place. It’s going to be fun, folks.
Support them because: This is the last chance for some serious Australian football talent to make an impact before retiring. Plus, Jedinak’s beard should stay in the tournament for as long as possible.
Villa connection: Former Villan Carlos Sanchez will be holding together the midfield for Colombia. While he’s not with the Colombia team, who could ever forget Juan Pablo Angel either?
Colombia found themselves cut adrift of the main international stage after a stylish team helped them arrive on the scene in the 1990’s. After 1998, Colombia had to wait until 2014 to burst back into the World Cup, and thanks to James Rodriguez, they did it in some style. A repeat of their showing in 2014 would be nice, especially if they can go a little bit further. They’ve got a strange group in group H, which could be anyone’s. Why not theirs?
Support them because: Colombia tend to be entertaining, and they’ve been kind to Aston Villa in the past, right Juan Pablo Angel?
Villa connection: Wing wizard, Mustafa Hadji once played for Aston Villa and will be Morocco’s assistant manager for the World Cup.
Morocco haven’t been to the World Cup since 1998 (do you see a theme here?) and they will truly be up against it. Portugal, Spain, Iran - and them. It’s going to be a tough ask for the Irzem n Atlasi to even win a single game or gain a point. Still, there’s no pressure on them. As long as they don’t collapse, anything is possible in a 0-0 game when the clock is running down. Morocco did well in qualifying, but this isn’t the preliminary stages anymore - and there are certainly two teams in Group B that will surely be too much for Morocco.
Support them because: They’ve got the coolest nickname in world football - ‘The Lions of the Atlas’. That’s absolutely stunning. Also, many consider them a foregone conclusion, so it’d be great to see them pull the rug from underneath Spain or Portugal.
Villa connection: Beautiful Birkir Bjarnason is one of Iceland’s key players.
You’ll hear a lot of words when people discuss the Icelandic football team. Minnows. Small time. Underdogs. None of these reflect the reality that Iceland pour money and serious graft into their football coaching at all levels to ensure that the nation harbours a militia of gifted footballers. It’s a small country, it’s got a philosophy behind what it does. There’s no reason they shouldn’t slap about other nations. They take this seriously, more seriously than say England took it between 1994 and 2014. More seriously than the United States take it. Iceland are in this to win it, and even if that doesn’t seem possible to us, you can bet that these lads believe that. This is thier first ever cup, and I truly believe that this team will be gutted if they don’t
Then, the flipside. They could get torn a new one against Argentina and sink without trace, validating the thoughts and opinions of everyone who hasn’t bothered to read into Icelandic football. Did I say that they take this seriously?
Support them because: HOO
Anyone but Russia
Villa connection: Alan Dzagoev, Igor Akinfeev, Yury Zhirkov. They were all there to send Villa out of the UEFA Cup in 2009. Screw them.