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Five Renowned Players Playing Their First World Cup: Number One will surprise you

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Playing for your country is a dream for every player, but playing in the World Cup for your country is something that not many can achieve. The tournament has seen a lot of great players in the past, such as the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr, Manuel Neuer, Luka Modric, etc., all of whom will play their last World Cup this year. However, there have also been many players who haven’t had the chance to represent their country in this event for various reasons. Today, we take a look at 5 of such players, who will be playing their first World Cup this year:

5) Thomas Partey – Ghana, Arsenal F.C.

We start off with the current Arsenal no. 5, and it seems pretty strange as to why he hasn’t played in the World Cup considering Ghana is very much regular in the tournament. However, the African giants did miss out on the last World Cup in 2018, and this year they will be hoping to make a statement return with Partey in their ranks.

A star player for the Black Stars, the Ghanian has been in red-hot form for Mikel Arteta’s side this season and also has two spectacular goals to his name. He has arguably been the best defensive midfielder in the EPL this season, and he will be looking forward to carrying on that form on the big stage in Qatar. With him on the side, the African nation can undoubtedly make an impact in the tournament.

Thomas Partey
Thomas plays for Arsenal FC as of 2022.

This will only be his third international tournament with the Black Stars, having represented them previously in the 2019 and 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

4) Lautaro Martínez – Argentina, Inter Milan

It feels like the Inter Milan star has been around for years, but this is the first-ever World tournament that he will take part in. Having been omitted from Jorge Sampaoli’s final squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the 25-year-old has managed to book his spot for Qatar and will most likely be preferred by manager Lionel Scaloni to spearhead the Argentina attack alongside Lionel Messi.

Lautaro Martínez Argentina
Lautaro is a star forward for Argentina.

Martínez is known for his pace, strength, and finishing and has been the go-to striker for Inter Milan since he joined them in 2018. He has also racked up 40 international caps and scored 21 goals for the Albiceleste. Qatar 2022 will be the perfect stage for him to prove that he can be the star man for his country and take the baton off Lionel Messi. As one of the favorites, he and his teammates will be hoping to lift the trophy in Lusail.

This will be his third international tournament having represented the Albiceleste in the Copa America triumph in 2021. He was also a part of the side that finished third in the tournament in 2019.

3) Aymeric Laporte – Spain, Manchester City FC

It still remains a mystery as to why Didier Deschamps never leaned into Aymeric Laporte as a center-back option for the French national team. Regardless, the France-born Man City star has finally found a place he can call home, as he aims to add to his 16 caps for the Spain national team.

Aymeric Laporte Spain
Laporte is a defender of his country.

Luis Enrique’s surprise exclusion of Spain’s most capped player Sergio Ramos has opened the door for other center-halves to show their worth and Laporte will be hoping to take full advantage of it. Despite having only four appearances in the league this season, Laporte is a near-certain starter for the Iberian nation and he could be key to their title chances.

Having represented France at various youth levels, Laporte never played for the senior side, prompting him to switch allegiances to Spain in May 2021. He represented them in the UEFA Euro 2020 a month later, and this World Cup is only his second-ever international tournament.

2) Gareth Bale – Wales, Los Angeles FC

Bale has been one of the most successful British players of late, and the only thing missing from his wonderful CV is the FIFA World Cup. Although Wales are predicted to be bowing out from the tournament earlier than they would prefer, getting to play on the world’s biggest stage would be a dream come true to all their players and most importantly, their 33-year-old captain Bale.

Gareth Bale Wales
Bale will play his first and maybe even his last world cup for Wales.

Although one could argue that the MLS star is past his prime and far from producing exciting moments, the Welsh still see him as a very important player and they have good reason to show for it. Bale was crucial in their run to the tournament, scoring two goals against Austria in the semi-finals of the World Cup qualifying playoffs and it was his free kick that led Wales to a 1-0 victory in the final. These moments show that the former Real Madrid star still has a lot to offer, and he can certainly take the world’s grandest stage. 

Euro 2016 and Euro 2020 were his only previous tournaments with the dragons. He will be hoping to make his third one memorable.

1) Virgil van Dijk – Netherlands, Liverpool FC

It seems bizarre as to why a player who has been touted as “the world’s best defender” in recent years has never played in the World Cup, but in the case of Liverpool’s van Dijk, the reasons are fair and obvious. The Dutchman only made his full international debut in 2015, missing out on his country’s stellar run in the World Cup just a year ago. The Oranje didn’t qualify for the Euros in 2016 and missed out on the World Cup held in Russia two years later. He has had to be patient, but at 31 years of age, van Dijk has finally gotten the opportunity to play in the 2022 World Cup, leading his country as captain into the tournament.

Virgil van Dijk Netherland
Virgil is the captain of the Dutch football team.

There are few who have not heard of Virgil van Dijk, having finished runner-up ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in the Balon d’Or awards in 2019 following an excellent run of form for club and country. Tall, athletic, and blessed with pace and control on the ball, van Dijk has been described as the ‘perfect’ defender by his former coaches and teammates. He is undoubtedly an important piece of the puzzle for an angry Netherlands side, who are well-motivated to put their past setbacks aside and make this tournament a memorable one. 

Quite astonishingly, this World Cup is van Dijk’s first-ever international tournament, having missed last year’s Euros as a result of injury. He hopes to make this one memorable, as he and his teammates eye the ultimate prize.

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