There have been enough column inches, bemused blogs and apoplectic forum posts written about Gli Azzurri’s failure to reach the World Cup. Therefore, there is no need to touch upon it here.
However, fans of the Rossoneri should still have a lot to cheer about come June, as they are represented in several of those teams looking to go all the way in Russia.
With Spain currently at 6 to 1 to win the World Cup, it would appear that of all the players playing their trade at the San Siro, Suso has the best chance among his brethren to lift the trophy. That assumes, of course, that the right winger — who has had a hand in 20 goals this season (8 goals and 12 assists) — gets included in the squad.
Capped only once, he is only on the edge of the squad and is certainly not guaranteed a spot on the plane to Russia. However, he does have certain factors in his favour.
Suso played for Lopetegui’s Under 20 and Under 21 sides, captaining the under 20’s at the 2013 World Cup. He made his full international debut in their last match (a friendly against Russia), where Spain shared 6 goals with the World Cup hosts. The only concern for him would be that the Spaniards are hardly lacking in options when it comes to creative midfielders/wingers.
After a far-from-convincing, but dramatic, qualification campaign (one that poses loads more questions than it answers), Argentina limped to secure their place in Russia. After Messi announced his playing days for Argentina were over following a defeat by Chile in the final of the Copa America last year, Lucas Biglia was one of those who was contemplating retiring from international football.
He has carried on, however, and although his future following the tournament is unsure, he is likely to be a prominent member of the first eleven for the 5th favourites. The chances of his former teammate Mateo Musacchio are less certain, and it seems unlikely that he will add to his 6 caps barring injuries.
André Silva has the next most realistic probability of making an impact. Although his Portuguese team is pitted in the same Group B as neighbours (and bitter rivals) Spain, the draw has not been unkind to them, and they should progress without too many problems. Whether they have enough depth in the squad to get any further remains to be seen. Andre Silva, along with Ronaldo, will certainly be a key player for Portugal.
Colombia are not the force they once were, and it is hard to see them troubling the last eight in what will almost certainly be Cristián Zapata’s final World Cup. Nikola Kalinic is going to have to have his scoring boots on if Croatia are going to get out of their group.
Though there is no obvious candidate for the “group of death” this time around, Group D comes the closest. In addition to Argentina, Kalinic and Co. will face an ailing (but unpredictable) Nigeria, as well as an Iceland side that finished above them in qualification.
The final Milan player whose season will extend past May is fullback Ricardo Rodríguez. His Swiss side may be unspectacular, but they have been hard to break down. They will hope to finish above Costa Rica and Serbia to end up in second place behind likely Group E winners Brazil.