World Cup Debrief: Three Weeks to Go
Welcome to World Cup Debrief, our regular digest of all things World Cup-related as we build up to the big kick-off in Russia on Thursday 14th June.
Here’s a few stories you might have missed as the 32 teams make their final preparations ahead of the group stages…
Some big names not on the plane…
Provisional 2018 World Cup squad lists are starting to filter through and it’s going to be a surprisingly leisurely summer for some of the sport’s biggest names.
With England fans worrying whether Gareth Southgate has made a major strategic error in not calling up… well… Jonjo Shelvey, big hitters Argentina, France, Germany, Belgium and Spain have had the luxury of leaving out a whole host of stars.
Mauro Icardi, Karim Benzema, Mario Gotze, Alvaro Morata, Kingsley Coman, Andre Schürrle, Radja Nainggolan and Aymeric Laporte are just some of the names already making alternative holiday plans.
Battle of the pundits as BBC and ITV show their hand
Forget squad selections, one of the most interesting pre-tournament talking points of any World Cup is which pundits have been picked up by the two major broadcasters to inform or infuriate you this summer.
Aside from the usual suspects, the BBC have snapped up Didier Drogba and Jurgen Klinsmann to lend an international flavour to proceedings, whilst England women’s Alex Scott also joins the team. Man City legend, Pablo Zabaleta, is another intriguing addition to the Beeb’s line-up for 2018.
ITV have pulled off a masterstroke in snapping up Gary Neville for the course of the tournament, and their ranks will also be bolstered by Slaven Bilic, Henrik Larsson, Eniola Aluko, Patrice Evra and the always good value Martin O’Neill. Mark Clattenburg will be on hand to run his eye over any controversial refereeing decisions. Which side will you be backing this summer?
Are Spain tempting fate?
With such a deep pool of ridiculously talented players to pick from, Julen Lopetegui’s biggest headache as Spain manager is working out which side to leave at home when it comes to his selection choices for Russia.
However, even with such a surfeit of talent, Spain has shown an uncanny ability to blow up unexpectedly at major tournaments (2014, 2016) and the Spanish FA’s decision to hand Lopetegui a new two-year deal without a ball even being kicked in Russia might just blow up in their faces if things don’t go to plan.
And finally, some fresh music from the Fresh Prince…
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Yes, the official World Cup song.
Who can forget such classics as Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka’ and ‘We Are One (Ola Ola)’ by Pitbull and JLo?
Thankfully, there’s some early promise for the 2018 effort with this week’s news that the legendary Will Smith will be returning to his music career to sprinkle a little stardust ahead of this year’s opening ceremony.
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All image sources from PA Images