Monsieur Salut writes: a family holiday looms so this is being prepared between Black Monday, perhaps the defining moment of a wretched season when even a half-decent performance was undone by the usual defensive frailties, and whatever happens at Leeds. I leave it to Salut! Sunderland colleagues to update this introduction as they see fit after Elland Road. For now, I shall combine the usual prize Guess the Score competition for the next home game, Norwich City and a rare chance to record a double, with some thoughts from elsewhere on a competition that seems to have little or nothing to do with the preoccupations of a club heading for League One (or not, according to results) …
As Sunderland face a shameful return to the third tier, visited only once during our long and proud history, it is strange to consider that one of our players will soon be featuring in a football competition light years away from League One.
It is fair to say the World Cup is among the most popular sporting tournaments known to man, woman or child. People from all countries, irrespective whether their country is competing, pay attention and follow the games hoping to see football at its best. Why, even the United States have what they call a soccer team, though their absence from Russia 2018 means most Americans will be unconcerned about what happens there.
What about betting on World Cup 2018? It may be hard to predict who will win out of the 32 strongest national teams that have reached the finals. Most people probably assume Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France or England (maybe fanciful but Dele Alli could get his dives right) are among the likeliest winners.
England will also have a younger team this time, perhaps making them more unpredictable. But plenty of other top players, currently earning handsome livings in the UK, will be playing for their own countries, and lot of betting sites online are giving options for the favourites.
For those who warm to international football, the World Cup will carry bags of interest and, perhaps, lots of surprises, so the advice is to think twice before placing a bet.
Sunderland will have just one current player representing his country in Russia.
Bryan Oviedo, 28, is a relatively recent addition to the squad, has had ups and downs like most of his colleagues and has chipped in with a couple of goals and four assists this season. He previously played for Saprissa, FC Copenhagen, Nordsjælland and Everton.
Oviedo – unlikely to be at the Stadium of Light if next season starts in League One – is a cultured player, if prone to errors, and will be part of his national Costa Rica team. His attacking abilities suggest he may be one to keep an eye on.
Costa Rica play Serbia in their first match in the World Cup. Our writer expects a back and forth battle but feels Costa Rica have the stronger team and should win 2-1.
But will Oviedo be alone in being a SAFC player playing in Russia for his country? Maybe not: Wahbi Khazri, ludicrously excluded from a bad Sunderland team by David Moyes and then loaned to Rennes, has done well in France and will surely represent Tunisia.
Ireland’s Aiden McGeady and John O’Shea and Wales’s Adam Mathews won’t be there, of course, as their countries aren’t.
But back to the more mundane environment of Championship football. It is probably too late to ask that Sunderland’s internationally recognised players somehow produce the performances that could lift their club side from its trough.
It looks distinctly undo-able. But have a go at the Norwich scoreline anyway. A mug awaits the winner of this edition of Guess the Score and Norwich fans are very welcome to join in. Be first to be right – before kickoff – and please have a UK delivery address.
Ha’way the Lads. Can we deliver a home win for once?
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