Jupiler Pro League’s World Cup players in Brazil
We’re all looking forward to the World Cup in Brazil, as well as cheering on the Red Devils (or Oranje!), we will also keep on eye on the thirteen players representing their various nations at the event who currently play in the Jupiler Pro League.
Mathew Ryan – Goalkeeper (Club Brugge – Australia)
Mathew Ryan will wear number 1 at the World Cup – a sign that he’ll almost certainly be Ange Postecoglou’s first choice in Brazil. Ryan certainly deserves this after his brilliant season in the Jupiler Pro League with Club Brugge. While his club may only finished third behind Anderlecht and Standard Liège but he’s certainly not the one to blame after missing the title, having put in some great performances to keep the side in the race all season long.
Ervin Zukanovic – Central Defender (KAA Gent – Bosnia and Herzegovina)
The central defender has had some problems with injuries this season and KAA Gent definitely missed him during his absence. Zukanovic is not only an excellent defender but also a free-kick specialist and someone who is dangerous in the opponent’s 18-yard box due to his size. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a team who could surprise us all at the World Cup if they can link their somewhat shaky defensive line with the potent attack force.
Reuben Gabriel – Midfielder (Waasland-Beveren – Nigeria)
You probably haven’t heard a lot of him, yet. Even the experts of the Jupiler Pro League can’t tell you a lot about this Nigerian midfielder. He hasn’t played a lot for Waasland-Beveren having moved in January from Kilmarnock. In his third start of the season, against KAA Gent in Play Off 2, he took a red card after a nasty tackle against Hannes Van Der Bruggen. That red card meant the end of the season for the strong midfielder.
Eiji Kawashima – Goalkeeper (Standard Liège)
The Japanese goalkeeper had a brilliant start this season with Standard Liège starting furious, but the play-offs were a bit too much for them. Guy Luzon couldn’t bring the fire anymore in his team and despite losing the title in the last matches of the season Kawashima can look back at a good season for Les Rouches.
Fabrice Olinga – Striker (Zulte Waregem *loan* – Cameroon)
One of the new sensations at the Gaverbeek. Fabrice Olinga impressed me this season. He still has a lot to learn to but you can see that he’s gifted with a lot of talent. The young striker is also the youngest player to score in the Primera Division. Malaga loaned Olinga to Zulte Waregem hoping that their youngster would excel like Thorgan Hazard did.
Barry Boubacar Copa – Goalkeeper (Sporting Lokeren – Ivory Coast)
Boubacar Copa will play his third World Cup of his career in Brazil, and probably his last. Sporting Lokeren should be honoured to have a talented goalkeeper like Copa. Without his overacting and extravagance he would always have played for a bigger club in a bigger competition. Sporting Lokeren love Copa and Copa loves Lokeren. A story we don’t see that much in European football nowadays.
Andy Najar – Winger/Midfielder (RSC Anderlecht – Honduras)
One of the revelations of this season, Andy Najar was very important for Andelecht in the regular season. A bit less impressive in the Play Offs but still very important in clinching the title for his club. We hope for Honduras that Najar hasn’t gave too much for Anderlecht this season given his penchant to keep on running and dribbling even in the 90th minute of the game.
Oscar Duarte – Central Defender (Club Brugge – Costa Rica)
Oscar Duarte didn’t have a fabulous season with Club Brugge. After making a good early impression in his first few months, he found himself competing with youngsters Björn Engels and Brandon Mechele for a spot in the defence. Costa Rica shouldn’t be that worried as Duarte featured prominently in the play-offs. Duarte is a typical hard working central defender. No more, no less.
Michael Uchebo – Striker (Cercle Brugge – Nigeria)
Michael Uchebo was one of the key players who helped Cercle Brugge have a good start of the season. After last season the most important thing for his club to avoid Play Off 3. They succeeded after winning most of their points in the first half of the season. They couldn’t win any single match in Play Off 2 though and we’re curious to see if Uchebo will get a lot of playing time in Brazil.
Daniel Opare – Wing Back (Standard Liège – Ghana)
Daniel Opare would likely have been playing for a big club if he wasn’t that injury prone. The former Real Madrid player had a good season with Standard Liège and the predominantly left sided defender will probably sign a contract with FC Porto this summer. He deserves a move to a bigger club but this smells a bit like Luciano D’Onofrio.
Anthony Vanden Borre, Sammy Bossut and Laurent Ciman we’ll profile together with the Belgian squad.