Super League to have representation at World Cup
The Greek national team didn’t qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but the Super League still has representation at the competition.
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On June 14, the long-awaited FIFA World Cup begins with a match between Russia and Saudi Arabia, a tournament which football lovers all over the world will enjoy both at the stadiums and at home. Greece came within two matches of qualifying, but the Ethniki Omada slipped up in the playoff stage, falling to Croatia 1:4 in a disappointing manner.
Still, Super League fans have five players to keep tabs on during the World Cup. Let’s find out who they are:
Egypt: Amr Warda (Atromitos Athens)
On loan from PAOK Thessaloniki, the 24-year old playmaker enjoyed a superb Super League season at Atromitos Athens, being named the championship’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) by Nova Sports. In scoring eight goals and dishing out seven assists, Warda captured the headlines with plenty of dazzling displays, showing fantastic technical ability to fire Atromitos to an impressive fourth placed finish. As a result, Warda was included by Egyptian head coach Hector Cuper in the World Cup squad and will be hoping to make an impression in Russia.
Egypt World Cup group stage schedule:
Egypt-Uruguay, June 15
Russia-Egypt, June 19
Saudi Arabia-Egypt, June 25
Iran: Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiacos)
In the winter transfer window, Ehsan Hajsafi joined Olympiacos from Panionios for a mere 600,000 euros, but he barely received a chance to display his capabilities in Piraeus. Since January, Hajsafi only competed in six Super League matches with the Thrylos at left-back, but he still managed to convince Iranian boss Carlos Queiroz to take him to Russia for the World Cup.
Iran World Cup group stage schedule:
Morocco-Iran, June 15
Iran-Spain, June 20
Iran-Portugal, June 25
Iran: Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos)
The imposing Iranian forward was a rare bright spark for Olympiacos in a dismal campaign, hitting the target on 17 occasions to finish as second top scorer behind PAOK’s Aleksandar Prijovic. Boasting a lethal touch in front of goal, Ansarifard is generally effective when presented with a scoring chance, finding space inside the penalty box and creating problems for the opposing defence. He will be expected to take his scoring form to the World Cup with Iran.
Iran: Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens)
To be honest, Masoud had a mixed season, flattering to deceive with AEK after departing Panionios in the winter. While he started plenty of AEK’s matches in the Enosis’ championship charge, he will most be remembered for his horror miss against Dynamo Kyiv in the UEFA Europa League, when he blazed over from point blank range. Nevertheless, Masoud is capable of picking out clever passes when in possession and is technically strong.
Serbia: Aleksandar Prijovic (PAOK)
Grabbing a huge 19 goals in just 27 appearances, the potent Prijovic earned the title of Super League top scorer, rewarded with a place on Serbia’s World Cup roster. Prijovic netted the goal which sent the Serbians to Russia too, scoring the winner against Georgia at home in the qualifying stage. Taking into account he’s only recently joined the international stage, he may have to be content with a place on the bench, but Prijovic has enough tricks up his sleeve to hurt opposing teams.
Serbia World Cup group stage schedule:
Costa Rica-Serbia, June 17
Serbia-Switzerland, June 22
Serbia-Brazil, June 27
Interestingly, the Super League will have managerial representation at the World Cup. In his first season in Greece, Xanthi head coach Milan Rastavac did a solid job with his team, narrowly missing out on a Europa League berth. Pleased with his management skills, supremo of the Serbian national team Mladen Krstajic introduced Rastavac to the coaching staff as one of his assistants.
Elsewhere, midfielder Oscar Hiljemark, who spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Panathinaikos before returning to Genoa, is present in the Swedish roster. Former Panathinaikos scoring hero Marcus Berg will keep Hiljemark company in the team.
Olympiacos loanee Kevin Mirallas made the move to Piraeus from Everton in January in order to receive playing time, but after flopping in Greece, Belgium manager Roberto Martinez left him at home. On the other hand, ex-Olympiacos midfielder Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez’s name was printed on the Moroccan player list. Gonzalez began the season with Olympiacos, however he didn’t make a name for himself, leaving for Standard Liege in the winter and doing enough to receive a ticket to Russia.
Arnor Ingvi Traustason was signed by AEK last summer, but the Icelandic international went through a torrid spell in Athens, regularly kept on the sidelines by Manolo Jimenez. Eager to keep his place on Iceland’s national team, Traustason transferred to Malmo in Sweden, playing well and booking his seat on the plane.