South London Press focus on players at the World Cup with Charlton, Crystal Palace and Millwall connections

The 2018 World Cup finals kick off in Russia on Thursday – and there are a number of South London connections involved in football’s biggest tournament.

Here RICHARD CAWLEY takes a look at the players who will be in action for their countries who either have current or past links to our clubs.

England’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek speaks during the media day at St George’s Park, Burton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

 

Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Country: England

The Lewisham man is exactly the kind of player who could flourish at the World Cup – finishing the club season in excellent form at Crystal Palace and also not weighed down with the weight of expectation to deliver like some of the Three Lions squad. Can do both sides of the game in midfield and that versatility means it is surely a question of when, not if, he gets a taste of Group G action.

Hit or miss? Hit.

Millwall’s James Meredith

 

James Meredith

Country: Australia

Coming off an excellent first season at Millwall – his steady form for the South Londoners undoubtedly helping his international cause, along with the Socceroos’ spotlight falling on SE16 due to Tim Cahill’s arrival in January. The question is whether he will get much game time with Bursaspor’s Aziz Behich the first choice for Bert van Marwijk’s side. Would be great to see Meredith get his opportunity and reward his gritty passage from playing non-league football in England to going to world football’s greatest stage.

Hit or miss? Miss.

 

Millwall’s Tim Cahill

Tim Cahill

Country: Australia

What can you say about a player who Millwall fans simply call Timmy? At 38-years-old you can’t dispute his powers are on the wane and he did not secure bundles of minutes following his dream return to the Den in January. Will be employed exactly the same way in these finals but his CV shows he is a man for the grand occasion. This will be his fourth World Cup – he has scored in the other three – and can join Pele, Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose in the record books if he can make that four. Even one goal would make it a fairytale finish on the international stage for one of Australia’s greatest players.

Hit or miss? Hit. 

Crystal Palace’s Luka Milivojevic (left) and Watford’s Will Hughes (right) battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Vicarage Road, Watford. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

 

Luka Milivojevic

Country: Serbia

Coming off a stonking season for Crystal Palace where he would have been one of the first names on Roy Hodgson’s team sheet. Was deeply unimpressed with Frank de Boer’s dabbling with playing him as a centre-back in pre-season. Topped the scoring charts for the Eagles – that achievement slightly flattering due to being on penalty duties – but also takes a mean free-kick. Serbia are fancied to having a good World Cup and Milivojevic has the understated quality to be a key cog.

Hit or miss? Hit.

 

 

FORMER PLAYERS IN SOUTH LONDON

 

France’s Anthony Martial (left) and Portugal’s Jose Fonte battle for the ball.

Jose Fonte

Country: Portugal

The former Crystal Palace man, now 34, is plying his trade at Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang and it is questionable how many minutes he will get for the Group B side, who enjoy a FIFA rank of fourth. The defence is seen as a weakness for the 2016 European champions and the 34-year-old centre-back was shipped out of West Ham United after struggling to impress.

Hit or miss? Miss.

Reza Ghoochannejhad

Country: Iran

Struggled to make a big impression at Charlton Athletic and typified the early transfer dealings conducted by Roland Duchatelet – the Addicks owner bringing in overseas players who were either too lightweight or not suited to English football. Reza – as he was popularly known during his SE7 days – is likely to serve as back-up in Carlos Queiroz’s squad, who have qualified for the last two World Cups.

Hit or miss? Miss.

France’s goalkeeper Steve Mandanda

 

Steve Mandanda

Country: France

Brought to Crystal Palace to no little fanfare during Alan Pardew’s spell in charge but in truth was given little time to adapt to the Premier League. Selhurst Park insiders reckon that the 33-year-old struggled with life in England – and I can still remember his high-powered sports car still having French plates months after his move. Went back to Marseille, where he had enjoyed so much success, and had a fine 2017-18 campaign. Will serve as cover for Hugo Lloris.

Hit or miss? Miss.

Colombia’s Andres Mateus Uribe and Australia’s Mile Jedinak battle for the ball

 

Mile Jedinak

Country: Australia

The former Crystal Palace captain has lost none of his popularity with Eagles fans since his departure to Aston Villa and they will be rooted for the bearded  midfielder – who possesses a confident aura – to make his mark in Russia. Could very well be on the scoresheet for Australia as he takes their penalties.  Undoubtedly will be a key man as he skippers his country. Likely to play more advanced than he did at Villa last season, where he was used at centre-back.

Hit or miss? Hit.

Iceland’s Johann Berg Gudmundsson (centre) celebrates after the final whistle

 

Johann Berg Gudmundsson

Country: Iceland

The left-footer was a class act for Charlton and has underlined what a useful footballer he is since jumping into the Premier League with Burnley. At 27, he has collected 66 caps for Iceland, who followed up great success at the European Championships by making it to their first World Cup finals. Possesses excellent set-piece quality.

Hit or miss? Hit.

 

Victor Moses, Nigeria

Victor Moses

Country: Nigeria

Has to rival Wilfried Zaha as Crystal Palace’s most successful academy product – although his highs have come after leaving SE25. After landing a Premier League move to Wigan he then moved on to Chelsea and won the title playing in a wing-back role for Antonio Conte’s side. Used more offensively and centrally by the Super Eagles, a throwback to when he was an out-and-out attacker for Palace.

Hit or miss? Hit.

England goalkeeper Nick Pope (centre) during the training session at St George’s Park, Burton.

 

Nick Pope

Country: England

From humble beginnings to big things – arriving at Charlton from non-league Bury Town. His first-team chances were a mixed bag initially but good form at the end of the club’s Championship relegation campaign saw him hike his wages with a switch to Burnley. Took advantage of Tom Heaton’s shoulder injury as he got a run in the side, proving to be a highly consistent performer. Unlikely to play in Russia.

Hit or miss? Miss.

England’s Harry Kane during the training session at the Spartak Zelenogorsk Stadium, Repino.

 

Harry Kane

Country: England

Only had a short loan spell at Millwall in the Championship in 2012 but even then he showed signs of a big future as he bagged nine goals in 27 outings for Kenny Jackett’s side. Kane said: “It was big part of my development.

“I had a great time at Millwall, I enjoyed my loan spell there. I was 18, playing in the Championship, we were in a relegation battle and it really turned me into a man.”

His scoring record at Tottenham has been nothing short of sensational in the past four seasons. Will captain England at the World Cup.

Hit or miss? Hit.