Could a Chinese Super League player win the World Cup? Nine of them have been called up for Russia 2018

Belgium and Nigeria among seven nations to call on China-based footballers as squads confirmed ahead of tournament kicking off on June 14

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 11:03am

The squads have been submitted for the 2018 Fifa World Cup and nine players from the Chinese Super League have been called up to represent their countries in Russia, with seven nations arming themselves with one of their China-based contingent.

A couple more call-ups were anticipated with players such as Tianjin Quanjian’s Kwon Kyung-won missing out for South Korea but it is largely as expected, with Belgium and Nigeria calling on two players each among the CSL nine.

The first China-based footballer to play will be Dalian Yifang’s Jose Fonte when Portugal open their World Cup with an Iberian peninsula derby against Spain early on Saturday morning June 16.

J avier Mascherano’s Argentina kick off against Iceland the same day in a 9pm game and the Hebei China Fortune man will likely be in the starting line up.

The same is true for most of the players called to Russia from the CSL.

Nigerian duo John Obi Mikel, who captains his country, and Odion Ighalo are expected to line up for the anthems ahead of their clash with Croatia on Sunday morning June 17.

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The Tianjin Teda midfielder and Changchun Yatai striker will be ones to watch even if it’s just to see the Super Eagles’ stunning new kit.

Serbia start against Costa Rica on Sunday evening and there is a CSL player in the squad, although he has yet to play for his Chinese club. Dusko Tosic joined Guangzhou R&F from Turkish side Besiktas, with the 33-year-old set to meet his new teammates after the World Cup.

Tournament favourites Brazil begin their quest for a sixth World Cup with a match against Switzerland early on Monday morning June 18 and Beijing Guoan’s Renato Augusto will be in action in the famous yellow shirt. He is one of coach Tite’s most trusted lieutenants from their Corinthians days and an ever-present for the national team.

South Korea take on Sweden on Monday evening June 18 with Guangzhou Evergrande’s Kim Young-gwon in the party. He played every game for his side at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

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Belgium are the last country with China-based players to kick off their campaign. Tianjin Quanjian’s Axel Witsel and Yannick Carrasco of Dalian Yifang should be in Roberto Martinez’s starting 11 when they play on Monday night (June 18, 11pm).

The Belgian side are much fancied and like Brazil are expected to go deep into the knockout stages.

If one of those teams wins the biggest prize in football it will be the first major international tournament won by an active CSL player since James Chamanga of Henan lifted the Africa Cup of Nations for Zambia in 2012.

Neither league leaders Shanghai SIPG nor second place Shandong Luneng have a player going. Only eight of the 16 teams have sent players to Russia with second bottom Dalian Yifang providing the largest number with two.

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While only nine China-based players have made it to Russia there are as many CSL alumni at the World Cup.

Paulinho is the most high profile with the Barcelona and Brazil midfielder looking to add the World Cup to the La Liga title he secured in his first season since leaving Guangzhou Evergrande.

Australia have called up former Shanghai Shenhua and Hangzhou Greentown ageless aerial threat Tim Cahill alongside Trent Sainsbury once of Jiangsu Suning and Robbie Kruse who used to play for Liaoning Whowin.

Iran central defender Morteza Pouraliganji, who used to play for Tianjin Teda, was in the 23-man squad named by Carlos Queiroz.

South Korea have two former CSL players in the form of ex-Chongqing Lifan man Jung Woo-young and former Guangzhou R&F defender Jang Hyun-soo.

The former players are finished up by Poland’s former Guizhou Renhe midfielder Krzysztof Maczynski and Sweden’s one time R&F player Gustav Svensson.