World Cup – Ones To Watch

It is by now no secret that the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar starts on Sunday with the host nation in action against Ecuador in the first of 64 matches involving 32 of the elite football nations on the planet.

England and Wales will be there, contesting in the same group B alongside USA and Iran, and they’ll be a few familiar faces with Nottingham links to look out for.

Five current members of the Nottingham Forest squad have been called up to action with a further five loaned out Reds players also named in the squads of their nations ahead of the tournament start.

Nottingham born Forest Academy starlet Brennan Johnson is in the Wales squad and has joined up with his Garibaldi team-mates Wayne Hennessey and Neco Williams as they look to rival England for the two qualification spots from the first stage.

Looking to stop them will be Ethan Horvath on loan at Luton Town, called up for the USA, although he’ll most likely be number two behind Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner for his country.

Two more current Reds stars will represent their countries, midfielders Cheikh Kouyate and Remo Freuler will represent Senegal and Switzerland respectively.

Kouyate who’ll be hoping for a starting place against the Dutch in their opening group A encounter on Monday, has 83 caps for the African nation Senegal whilst Freuler, who’s became increasingly popular of late at the City Ground following some tireless displays in the middle of the park, has 48 appearances already for Switzerland who have Brazil, Cameroon and Serbia in their tough looking group G.

Richie Laryea, remember him? Currently on loan from Forest to Toronto in the MLS who they signed him from last year, he has 33 caps for Canada and stars for a nation appearing in their first tournament finals since 1986.

You might have heard less of Brandon Aguilera who signed for Forest in the summer but was immediately loaned out to Guanacasteca in his homeland, the midfielder plays for Costa Rica and will be in a group E that includes Germany, Spain and Japan.

Another player in and out of Forest this summer but an attacking star to look out for of high quality is South Korean Hwang Ui-Jo who is currently at Olympiacos loaned out by the Reds, he originally joined from Bordeaux and has 49 international caps and 16 goals, the Koreans have Ghana, Portugal and Uruguay to face in Group H.

Finally of the loan stars with live links to Nottingham, all be it having never played yet for Forest at least, Mohamed Drager is a 33 capped right back for Tunisia currently on loan in Switzerland at Luzern. Drager’s nation in Group D with Australia, France and Denmark, a tough ask if his country are to progress to the last sixteen.

Speaking of Denmark, they will have a familiar face of Kasper Schmeichel in their goal, these days playing in the South of France for Nice, the former Leicester City Premier League champion and son of the great Dane Peter once notably of Manchester United, he himself has 86 caps and once played a huge part in Notts County’s 2009/10 League Two title win.

Other players to look out for with Nottingham links, of course are with Poland, and ex-Reds academy star Matty Cash who’ll no doubt feature for his adopted nation in their group games, whilst Iran’s Karim Ansarifad who made 12 league appearances for the City Ground club in 2018/19, is likely to face England in the group B opener, who themselves have Jack Grealish, of course playing 39 times as a youngster on loan at Notts County during the 2013/14 season’s great escape under Shaun Derry.

Watch out for Chris Gunter, Aaron Ramsey and Johnny Williams who have all shone over the years for Wales, continuing to do so into their thirties, all featured previously at Nottingham Forest, Gunter the most, playing over 150 matches for the Reds, he also has over 100 for his nation, whilst Scottish born striker Jason Cummings, who actually had two international caps with his birth nation, has been selected to play for Australia, scoring on his debut, and in line for a place in their first match against France, he played 14 league games at Nottingham Forest between 2017 and 2019.

*Main image @kschmeichel1 played 43 times for Notts County in League Two.

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