Wigan Athletic: A tenuous guide to the World Cup!
With the World Cup kicking off this weekend, there's obviously a HUGE Latics link with every single nation...giving you reason to watch all of the games with added interest!
Qatar - Al Ahli SC are the oldest sports club in Qatar. It's also where Momo Diame spent 2019-21 after leaving Newcastle, before his current Spanish club Fuenlabrada.
Ecuador - The country's greatest ever player, Antonio Valencia, remains Latics' record sale - £16milion to Manchester United in 2009 - which will probably never be beaten.
Senegal - Among the Latics contingent to represent the 'Lions of Teranga' are the aforementioned Diame and Henri Camara, who rejected the chance to join boss Aliou Cisse's coaching staff in 2019.
Holland - Home of the world's greatest detective, Arjan de Zeeuw, as well as Mario Melchiot, who became the first Latics player to play in a major finals at the 2008 Euros. Included in this year's squad is the brilliantly named Kenneth Taylor, from Ajax. Not to be confused with Ken Taylor who, according to LinkedIn, runs a rope access spraying business in Wigan.
England - Former Latics loanee Reece James' dream was wrecked by injury, but Harry Maguire will be flying the flag along with Graeme Jones, part of Gareth Southgate's backroom staff. Goalkeeper Nick Pope almost joined Latics on loan from Charlton a decade ago, while Conor Coady is from St Helens. Kyle Walker, John Stones and Phil Foden were three of the 10 Manchester City players at the World Cup that lost 1-0 to League One Latics at the DW in 2018.
Iran - Ali Daei scored an incredible 109 goals for Iran during his distinguished career, from 149 caps. Which is 13 caps more than our own Ali Al Habsi won for Oman. During which he scored exactly 109 fewer goals.
USA - Jet-heeled Antonee Robinson gives Latics a solid presence in England's group, while team-mate Cameron Carter-Vickers almost joined Latics three years ago on loan from Spurs. Will be cheered on raucously by the burgeoning Latics Supporters Club in New York City - once home of Markus Holgersson - who watch all the games at the 'Banter Brooklyn' bar.
Wales - Kieffer Moore is another departure in the summer of 2020 to keep an eye on. On-loan Nathan Broadhead will be cheering his countrymen on from home. Talisman Gareth Bale scored the easiest goal of his career against Latics at the DW in 2013, when he diverted an attempted clearance from Joel Robles home from a couple of yards.
Argentina - Produced arguably the biggest pound-for-pound flop in Latics history, as well as the scorer of the goal that led to the club's greatest day...Mauro Boselli. That FA Cup third-round replay strike at Bournemouth allowed Franco di Santo to pick up a winners' medal at Wembley four months later.
Saudi Arabia - Last season's King Cup winners - for the first time - were Al-Fayha, whose goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic still sends shudders up the spine of any Latics fan who saw him during a loan spell in 2009-10. When Amr Zaki was banging in the goals for Latics two years earlier, prompting interest from Real Madrid, his Egyptian team-mate Emad Moteab - then at Saudi Arabian giants Al-Ittihad - was mooted as a replacement. Neither deal happened.
Mexico - Boselli is one of three prominent Latics strikers to have played in Mexico, with Hugo Rodallega arriving in England from Necaxa in 2009, and Andy Delort moving to Tigres to kickstart his career after flopping at the DW. Sadly there's no place in the squad for Gio dos Santos, who was linked with Latics in every single transfer window between 2009-13.
Poland - Homeland of Dariusz Adamczuk, Tomasz Cywka and Tomasz Kupisz. Long-time goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, scourge of Latics in the FA Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of Arsenal, has not made the cut this time.
France - Pascal Chimbonda's outstanding form in his only season with Latics saw him receive a late call-up to 'Les Bleus' squad for the 2006 World Cup - although he never made it onto the field. Good thing he spent the summer in Germany, with Paul Jewell still fuming about THAT transfer request... Aymeric Laporte was also one of those 10 City players beaten at the DW.
Australia - Former Latics loanee Callum Elder missed the cut, but on the plane was Sunderland defender Bailey Wright, who came close to joining Latics in the summer of 2021.
Denmark - Jakob Haugaard's performance for Latics at Brighton in 2017 will never be forgotten. After conceding, in the view of Graham Barrow, two 'Sunday league goals', the caretaker boss admitted he was having to field the Stoke goalkeeper due to the terms of his loan move. Days later Haugaard returned to Stoke with a 'shoulder injury'. How very convenient. William Kvist has previously played for the Danes at the World Cup.
Tunisia - Included in the squad is Hannibal Mejbri, who was Manchester United's star man in their 2-1 victory over Latics in the FA Youth Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford in February 2020 - the week before the first lockdown. If only Latics hadn't been robbed of the services of the injured Joe Gelhardt…
Spain - Nation with a special place in the hearts of Wiganers ever since the 'Three Amigos' came over in 1995. FA Cup-winning duo Joel Robles and Jordi Gomez continued that success story, although Antonio Amaya - jailed in 2020 for match-fixing - won't be remembered as fondly. David de Gea still wishes he'd joined when he had the chance, during Roberto Martinez's tenure.
Costa Rica - National hero Bryan Ruiz scored twice for Fulham - including a last-minute leveller - in the 3-3 draw at the DW in November 2014. It proved to be the last home in charge for…
Germany - ...Uwe Rosler, who was sacked after less than a year in charge at the DW. The East German had turned things around during the previous campaign, taking Latics to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the play-offs, before it all went badly wrong, very quickly. Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan were also two of those 10 City players beaten at the DW.
Japan - Press box applications went through the roof when Ryo Miyaichi joined Laics on a season-long loan from Arsenal in 2012. Injury wrecked his time here, but the profile of the club in the Far East rocketed. Now back in his homeland with Yokohama, Ryo was recalled to the national squad earlier this year after a 10-year absence, but didn't make the cut for Qatar.
Belgium - Roberto Martinez will once again try to guide the country's Golden Generation to a first ever international trophy, with Anthony Barry - after Graeme Jones and Shaun Maloney - continuing in the tradition of Wigan influence on his coaching staff. Latics played their first ever European game in Bruges in 2013 against Zulte Waregem, with most Wiganers only realising months or even years later that the beer they were drinking inside the stadium was alcohol free... Kevin de Bruyne was one of those 10 City players beaten at the DW.
Canada - Jason De Vos played a big part in Latics' ascent through the divisions, while Kevin Sharp - agent of several of Latics' young guns - was also born in Ontario. And no, we still haven't forgotten the penalty he should have been awarded in the 1999 play-off semi-final against Manchester City…
Morocco - Then-Moroccan champions Raja Casablanca signed Amr Zaki in 2013-14. Before playing a game, the player broke his foot which required surgery, which he apparently neglected to tell the club about. Cue contract termination.
Croatia - Once again led by the ageless Luka Modric, who missed Spurs' infamous 9-1 victory over Latics through injury. Imagine how bad it might have been…
Brazil - Emerson Thome - nicknamed 'The Wall' - made 20 appearances for Latics between 2004-06, and is now a scout for Everton in Portugal. Latics Academy product Leighton Baines represented England at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil. Danilo and Edersen were two of those 10 City players beaten at the DW.
Serbia - No Vladimir Stojkovic but Latics fans have another reason for hoping Serbia fail. Branislav Ivanovic somehow escaped a red card after he punched Shaun Maloney in the chest at Stamford Bridge in 2012, before he copped a retrospective three-match ban from the FA. His appeal was rightly thrown out. Because he punched Shaun Maloney in the chest.
Switzerland - Stephane Henchoz and Reto Ziegler both spent time with Latics, while superstar Xherdan Shaqiri was likened to Joe Gelhardt - or vice versa - by Chey Dunkley last year. Latics were sponsored by Swiss-based sportswear brand Intersport between 2014 and 2018.
Cameroon - 'My name is Gaetan Bong'. Five words that have become immersed in Latics legend as THE greatest signing unveiling in club history. The social media format - 'Vine' - has long since disappeared, but the clip lives on. Salomon Olembe also made nine appearances for Latics in 2007-08.
Portugal - Much was expected of Portuguese 'wonderkid' Leo Da Silva Lopes when Paul Cook signed him from Peterborough in 2018. Two starts later, he left for Hull, and is now playing in Belgium for Cercie Brugge. Bernardo Silva was one of those 10 City players beaten at the DW.
Ghana - Former Latics goalkeeper Richard Kingson hit the headlines in 2012 when his wife confessed she had used spirits to destroy his career and render him impotent. Kingson defended his wife, insisting it was not she who spoke but a spirit that spoke through her. As you do.
Uruguay - Will be once again led by Luis Suarez, whose face was emblazoned on t-shirts worn by his then-Liverpool colleagues at the DW Stadium in 2011, following his well-documented run-in with Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
South Korea - Won-Hee Cho appeared as a late sub to 'shore things up' with Latics 6-1 down at Spurs in November 2009. In the four minutes he was on the field, Latics conceded another three times. Only start was in the 5-0 defeat at Manchester United the following month.