Fans of the English Premier League will see plenty of familiar faces when the World Cup tournament kicks in this weekend. The England squad is, of course, filled with the shining lights of English football but the rosters of many national sides are packed with Premiership talent.
While the initial reports were grim, it looks as if Didier Drogba and his broken arm will be taking the pitch for Ivory Coast, although he’ll be on the sidelines for the Elephants’ opening fixture against Portugal. The Ivory Coast side boasts some other big names: Kolo Toure of Manchester City, Emmanuel Eboue of Arsenal and Drogba’s Chelsea teammate Solomon Kalou.
Arsenal will be well represented; in addition to Eboue, Raymond Domenech’s French national side includes Gunners’defender Gael Clichy, defender Bacary Sagna, and the mercurial William Gallas.
Pompey’s Kanu is with Nigeria, Carlos Tevez, Argentina and Ryan Babel (Liverpool), Nigel De Jong (Manchester City), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool) and Robin Van Persie (Arsenal) will all be wearing the oranje of the Dutch national team.
As a spectator it can be disorienting to see Premiership combatants teamed up. Watching Wayne Rooney and John Terry flash thumbs up signs after a well placed though ball will be an odd sight given their usual level of animus. Stranger still is watching club mates engage in challenges fueled by adrenalin and nationalism.
It’s certain Rooney will have a few things to say to Serbia’s Nemanja Vidic the first time the Manchester United defender flashes some of his usual hard nosed, physical style of play. But come Friday it’s all business as country trumps club for the ultimate football prize.