There are three players who played for Crystal Palace during this past club season that grace the grandest stage in international football as they’re set to appear at the 2018 World Cup finals.
Which Eagles are involved in sport’s biggest event of the year that takes place in Russia from Thursday, 14 June until Sunday, 15 July? We’ll give you a clue. Not Wilfried Zaha or Christian Benteke, who didn’t make the cut for Belgium despite being named in their preliminary squad.
South Korea winger Lee Chung-yong was on the periphery of first-team affairs at Selhurst Park this past season, yet his country remained willing to have him in their ranks. After all, he knows what to expect on this grand stage.
Russia 2018 is the third consecutive global tournament Lee is set to figure in. Football mania swept South Korea when they were World Cup co-hosts back in 2002 and reached the semi-finals under legendary Dutch boss Guus Hiddink, but they’ve never really threatened to go so far again since.
If the betting is any indicator, then bottom spot in Group F beckons as the pool also contains World Cup holders Germany, top CONCACAF country Mexico and Sweden, who dumped four-time winners Italy out in the play-offs. Indeed, South Korea are a big price at 5/1 (Black Type) to qualify from Group F.
A season-long loan spell at the Eagles from Chelsea has resulted in talented midfield youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek getting called up by England boss Gareth Southgate and this is something of a wildcard selection.
YouTube: Ruben Loftus-Cheek 2018 • Season Review – Best Skills & Goals (2017/2018) HD
The Three Lions are somewhat lacking in guile for the middle of the park, especially with Jack Wilshere left out of the World Cup finals squad. Loftus-Cheek was backed by Roy Hodgson, one of Southgate’s forebears as England manager, during his temporary stint with Palace and showed flashes of his immense potential.
Where Loftus-Cheek fits into his parent club’s plans is anyone’s guess, yet he’ll play with no fear if he gets on in Russia in a Three Lions shirt. Nobody expects too much of England (18/1, Bet Victor) as we all get ready to bet on World Cup markets, but you could take a patriotic punt on Southgate’s side beating Belgium in the likely Group G decider on Thursday, 28 June at a best-price 5/2 with the same bookie.
Palace’s top scorer is also going to the World Cup, but it’s not flop Benteke or Eagles Player of the Year award winner Zaha. Serbia defensive midfielder Luka Milivojevic took plenty of responsibility for his club this season, dispatching penalties while Benteke was out of form.
Playing alongside more illustrious anchorman Nemanja Matic, the pair have formed a highly effective midfield shield for Serbia and helped them reach a second World Cup since the union with Montenegro was dissolved. Given the protection he affords defences, Milivojevic and his compatriots may fancy their chances of getting out of Group E.
It’s odds against with several bookmakers at 5/4 that Serbia qualify for the World Cup knockout phase for the first time as an independent nation.