Chelsea Football Club have thirteen representatives at the imminent FIFA World Cup in South Africa, this despite having another three miss the showpiece through injury and the fourth under an injury cloud.
It is England, appropriately, who has the highest number of Chelsea representatives. They are Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Chelsea captain John Terry and Joe Cole, who will be released at the end of June.
England is in Group C, where they will come up against the United States of America, Algeria and Slovenia. Ashley Cole, Lampard and Terry are vital to England’s chances, whilst Joe Cole will be eager to impress, in the shop window that he has now found himself in.
Portugal has three Chelsea players amongst their number. Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho and Deco are all key players for Portugal, the former as either right back or left back, Carvalho as centre half and the latter as a midfield playmaker. Chelsea’s reserve goalkeeper Hilario missed out, having one his first and only cap a few months ago. Portugal is in Group G, where they will come across North Korea, Brazil and the Ivory Coast.
This means that they will clash with fellow Chelsea representatives Didier Drogba (injury pending) and Salomon Kalou, both very popular and hugely important figures in the African side. Drogba is the national team captain and it is his goals that the Ivory Coast will rely on, if they are to qualify for the second round from what is a very tricky group.
France also has two Chelsea players in their ranks, Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka. Malouda was one of the form players in the English Premier League in the season just concluded and he will hope to make his mark, having won a penalty in the 2006 World Cup final.
Anelka meanwhile, has usurped captain Thierry Henry as France’s first choice forward, though this has led to supposed player revolts and split loyalties within the playing group. The French should have no trouble with Group A, containing South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay, though with Domenech in charge and player power taking over, they’re not a safe bet.
Unheralded Slovakia will have Chelsea representation in Miroslav Stoch. The young winger spent the season on loan at Dutch champions FC Twente, where he greatly impressed under the guidance of former England coach Steve McLaren. Impressive performances in Group F against Italy, Paraguay and New Zealand could secure him a spot in Chelsea’s first team squad for 2010/2011.
Finally, Serbia will include Branislav Ivanovic in their side. Fresh from being named in the PFA Team of the Season, Ivanovic will need to be at his best if the Serbians are to negotiate Group D, containing Germany, Ghana and Australia.
Unfortunately, he will not be clashing with Michael Ballack or Michael Essien, who are both out with injury. German captain Ballack, who will also be released at the end of June, suffered his injury in a challenge by Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng in the FA Cup Final, whilst Essien missed most of the season with a knee problem. Spare a thought also for John Obi Mikel, who will be missing from the Nigerian squad when the tournament kicks off.
The Chelsea representation is strong though and with a bit of luck, Terry, Lampard and the two Coles can bring football home!