A Look at Aston Villa Players at the World Cup

Yes, yes, there’s still the small matter of the Championship play-off final to go, but shortly afterwards the World Cup 2018 kicks off in Russia in June. I’ve got to admit that FIFA’s actions and fondness for brown paper envelopes has put MOMS off the once mecca of football a little bit. Still, there’s Villans off to Russia, so as well as looking at them, we look at previous players that have participated in past World Cup tournaments.

Aston Villa Players in World Cup 2018

After Villa’s play-off final this coming weekend, all eyes will turn to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, and Villa interests will be represented by players from an unlikely trio of countries in Iceland, Egypt and Australia.

Birkir Bjarnason

Birkir Bjarnason is in the strange position of being a squad player for Villa, yet a starter and major part of the Icelandic international team. The team went on from it’s England-beating success in the Euros to top their qualifying group on route to Russia 2018.

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They have the distinction of being are the smallest nation to ever qualify. They won seven of their 10 games including all of their home games, so they will be confident despite being in one of the toughest groups, Group D alongside Argentina, Croatia, and Nigeria.

Their first group match will be against Argentina on the 16th of June. They play Nigeria on the 22nd of June, and their last group game is against Croatia on the 26th of June.

Mile Jedinak

Mile Jedinak, also faces a tough World Cup group in Group C’s offering of France, Denmark and Peru. But no team is perhaps as battle harden than the Aussies, who played more games than any other country to qualify.

The Socceroos played 22 games to qualify for Russia 2018. They only lost twice in all their games but because of draws them missed automatic qualification and had four tight play-off games.

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They will play their first match against France on the 16th of June. They play Denmark on the 21st and Peru on the 26th of June.

Ahmed Elmohamady

Having more Twitter followers than his club side Aston Villa shows you what a big deal Elmohamady is in his homeland of Egypt. Last year’s Africa Cup of Nations runners-up will quietly fancy their chances in Group A, which containing hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay is one of the weaker groups on paper. 

It’s Egypt’s first World Cup since 1990, but this time they have the talent of Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah to call upon.

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Egypt open their campaign against Uruguay on June 15, then play the hosts on the 19th and finish up against Saudi Arabia on the 25th.

Underdogs

Iceland, Australia and Egypt are perhaps not expected to get out of the group stages by most pundits, but they are the type of well-organised and determined underdogs that attract seasoned bettors, especially in the World Cup.

Australia for example, will take heart from how France folded in the 2010 World Cup, finishing bottom of their group with one point. While Iceland will fear no one, after their recent impressive European Championship campaign both in qualifying and the tournament itself.

Egypt are probably the best bet of the three and could even win their group if they avoid defeat against Uruguay in their opening game.

All are attractive underdogs in terms of causing potential upsets and Sportsbooks such as the ones found on this site have the latest betting odds to help punters make educated, informed picks on outright winners, the top goal scorer, amount of corners, etc.

Aston Villa Players in Past World Cup Tournaments

There have been quite a few Aston Villa players in the World Cup over the years, but
perhaps the most controversial debate around England squad selection and Villa players dates back to 1982’s England squad.

Ron Greenwood’s squad was it has to be said a tad on the conservative side and the team’s two 0-0 draws against Spain and West Germany in the second round stage reflected that.

It had been great year for Aston Villa who won the European Cup that year, but not so great for their players in terms of the World Cup.

Despite being domestic champions the previous season and then conquering Europe, while Peter Withe got the nod, there was no place for either Tony Morley or Dennis Mortimer. Younger players like Gary Shaw and Gordon Cowans, who would have both walked into the present day England World Cup squad for Russia, were also left on the sidelines.

Leaving controversy behind, let’s look at the Aston Villa players who did take part in previous World Cup tournaments.

Ray Houghton (Republic of Ireland, USA 1994): More than twenty years ago Ray
Houghton scored one of the best goals in the 1994 World Cup stunning the Italians. Fellow Aston Villa players Paul McGrath, Steve Staunton, and Andy Townsend were also on the pitch for that game, but the most replayed memory is the joy expressed by Houghton as he celebrated beating Gianluca Pagliuca (who later outed himself as a bit of a Villa fan).

Peter Withe (England, Spain 1982)

In 1982, Withe became the first Villa player to be selected for an England World Cup squad. He didn’t play in the tournament though.

Steve Hodge (England, Mexico 1986)

A 23-year-old Hodge played as a substitute for the first couple of England’s matches. When he was promoted to the starting line-up for the game against Poland, he set up one of Gary Lineker’s goals. England went on to win 3-0. Hodge was also the driving force in the second-round win over Paraguay and was also on the pitch for the quarter-final defeat to Argentina. It was Hodge who sliced the ball in the air which allowed Maradona’s “hand of God” goal. He was soon sold to Spurs.

Alpay Ozalan (Turkey, Japan/South Korea 2002)

Before being hated by Villa fans, Ozalan became the second Aston Villa player to make it to a World Cup semi-final. His 2002 appearance started badly with a red card in the opening game against Brazil. He returned in the knock-out stages and played well up to the semi-finals when Ronaldo scored and sent Brazil to the finals.

Paul McGrath (Republic of Ireland, Italy 1990)

Paul McGrath was one of the great players when the Republic of Ireland reached the quarter-finals in Italy 1990. Along with fellow player Tony Cascarino who scored in the penalty shoot-out the put Ireland through to the semi-finals. Ireland conceded just three goals in five games and McGrath proved an immovable object in the games against England, Egypt, Romania, Italy, and the Netherlands.

Peter McParland (Northern Ireland, Sweden 1958)

A year after winning the FA Cup for Aston Villa, McParland’s goals got Northern Ireland to the last eight of the World Cup in 1958. He scored five times including a brace in a 2-2 draw with West Germany. He scored another two in a play-off that sent Northern Ireland into the knockout phase. He couldn’t get past the French Defence, but McParland finished joint fourth in the top scorers’ list just one goal behind Pele who was 17 at the time.

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David Platt (England, Italy 1990)

Platt was in the middle of three successful years with Aston Villa when helped England make it to the semi-finals with his spectacular finish in the last minute of extra-time against Belgium. His goal earned him a starting spot for the quarter-finals against Cameroon where he scored the first goal. He was unlucky when his goal in the semi-final with West Germany was ruled as offside. He scored in the shoot-out and he scored his third goal of the tournament in the third place playoff with Italy.

Notable Others

There have been a number of other Aston Villa players to take part in the World Cup over the years and we’re hoping that the players in Russia 2018 will make a name for themselves too. Here’s a brief overview of some of the Villa players over the years who’ve taken to the field in a World Cup tournament:

  • Milan Baros – Czech Republic 2006
  • Tony Cascarino – Ireland 1990
  • Ulises De La Cruz – Ecuador 2006
  • Allan Evans – Scotland 1982
  • Emile Heskey – England 2010
  • Olof Mellberg – Sweden 2002 and 2006
  • James Milner – England 2010
  • Savo Milosevic – Yugoslavia 1998
  • Garett Southgate – England 1998
  • Steve Staunton – Republic of Ireland 1994 and 2002
  • Andy Townsend – Ireland 1994
  • Darius Vassell – England 2002

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