By David Gates
When the 23-man squads were announced ahead of the World Cup, four Hammers were called up by their national teams: Javier Hernandez for Mexico, Manuel Lanzini for Argentina, Joao Mario for Portugal and Cheikhou Kouyate for Senegal.
Unfortunately, Manu Lanzini has sustained a knee injury, so he is out of the tournament. As revealed by Claret & Hugh, we should add Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski to the list of West Ham players to watch, as he is in final negotiations to join the club.
Hammers’ National Teams
Hernandez’s Mexico is in a difficult group, with Sweden keen on grabbing the number two slot after the expected group winners Germany.
However, mentally, Hernandez is already through to the knock-out stages and even sees Mexico as a real contender for the ultimate prize, as he told ESPN’s David Faitelson last month, especially after beating Germany in their opening group game.
(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
With Joao Mario, Portugal has neighbour Spain as well as Iran and Morocco in their group. After a beautiful goal in the recent friendly against Tunisia, Mario has made his mark, grabbing some of the limelight from a certain megastar striker.
Mario has also confirmed that he is not looking to return to Inter Milan; his future in West Ham is still to be confirmed, so a deal may well depend on a successful World Cup tour for him.
Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyate was back in the national team in their final friendly against South Korea after having rested his knee in the game against Croatia a few days earlier.
Kouyate is joined in the national team by former Hammers striker Diafra Sakho. Taking part in their second World Cup ever, Senegal will find the group games challenging, but as Kouyate said, they are taking part to make their people proud and “write our story”, getting a much needed three points in their opener which they achieved against Poland.
So, who do you think will be the World Cup outright winner? Across the board, the various oddsmakers are predicting either of Brazil, Germany, Spain or France to grab the trophy.
Germany, of course, ares the reigning champions and they have always been a strong team, consistently reaching at least the quarter-finals since 1982. Their team is getting on a bit though and they’ll find it tougher to progress after their opening defeat.
Looking at Brazil, they have won the World Cup five times before, but the last time was in 2002. On the other hand, they had a strong campaign leading up to the tournament, with 12 won and 5 drawn games and will look to improve after an opening draw against Switzerland.
Spain and France are both strong contenders to the title and on similar odds. France has a strong team and will do their utmost to better their quarter-final achievement from 2014. Spain has a difficult group with European champions Portugal holding them to a draw in their first game before scraping past Iran.
Even if there are no Hammers in the England team, we are hoping for a successful tournament for Southgate and the Three Lions. Belgium, in the final group match, will pose the biggest challenge, but assuming we can beat Panama after getting three points late against Tunisia, we should go through to the knock-out stages. Watch this space!