By Stephen Byrne
The Fifa World Cup begins in Brazil on 12th June and we will be looking at Rovers’ connections with all participating countries. Provisional squads have been announced and we can expect a few players with Rovers connections to be participating.
Two former Rovers players are included in the squads for the 2014 World Cup, both playing for England. Rickie Lambert scored 51 goals in 128 League matches for Rovers between 2006 and 2009, whilst Fraser Forster played four times in goal for Rovers in the autumn of 2009.
Four of England’s squad have played against Rovers in the Football League. Fraser Forster was in the Norwich side which won 3-0 at The Mem in May 2010. Rickie Lambert has scored four goals in four League games for Southampton against Rovers, as well as scoring for both Macclesfield Town and Rochdale against Rovers prior to his arrival at The Mem; he also played in the Saints’ 3-2 FA Cup victory over Rovers in November 2009.
Joe Hart was in goal for both Shrewsbury Town’s League matches against Rovers in the 2005-06 season, Rovers winning 2-1 at home on Boxing Day and losing 1-0 in Shropshire the following March.
Adam Lallana scored once in each of his three League games for Southampton against Rovers between 2009 and 2011; he also played in the FA Cup clash between the sides in November 2009 and for Bournemouth in a Johnstone’s Paint trophy game at The Mem in October 2007.
Six further players involved in the 2014 World Cup have also played in competitive matches against Rovers.
Brad Guzan, in the USA squad, was in the Aston Villa side which defeated Rovers 3-1 in the FA Cup in January 2012.
His compatriot Clint Dempsey played against Rovers in both Fulham’s FA Cup clashes with the Gas in January 2008, Rovers winning a penalty shoot-out after two draws.
Asmir Begovič, a goal-scoring goalkeeper with Stoke City in 2013-14 and in the Bosnia and Herzegovina squad, made his Yeovil Town début against Rovers in March 2008 and was also in their side for the September 2008 fixture.
Two members of the Australian squad for the 2014 World Cup have played against Rovers: Massimo Luongo and Tim Cahill. Luongo was in the Ipswich Town side which played Rovers in a League Cup-tie in August 2012.
With Millwall, Cahill played in six League games against The Gas between 1998 and 2001, scoring and then being sent off when Rovers lost a League One fixture 3-0 in February 2001.
One member of the Ivorian squad has played against Rovers in the Football League. Max Gradel, who has scored twice in 23 full internationals and was in the side which played in the final of the 2012 African Cup of Nations, has in fact represented three teams against Rovers.
He was in the Bournemouth side which defeated Rovers 2-1 at Dean Court in April 2008. The following season, he played in the Leicester City team which won 2-1 at home to Rovers in November 2008. During 2009-10 he played in both Leeds United’s fixtures against Rovers, being sent off when Rovers visited Elland Road in May 2010.
In addition to these six players, France have named one player as a standby for their provisional squad, who has played against Rovers in the League.
Morgan Schneiderlin, born in Obernai in November 1989, scored his first Southampton goal when they won 5-1 at The Mem in April 2010. This was the second of three Football League appearances against The Gas between 2009 and 2011.
Arguably the most famous Argentinian to face Rovers was Alejandro Sabella. Born in Buenos Aires in November 1954, Sabella won four full caps for his country and played for River Plate, Estudiantes and Ferro Carril Oeste, as well as appearing in both Sheffield United’s fixtures against Rovers in the 1978-79 campaign. He is the manager of the Argentinian squad for the 2014 World Cup Finals.
Russian-born Pavel Pogrebnyak played in a pre-season friendly at The Mem for Reading in July 2013; he won 33 full caps for Russia, scoring eight goals and is in the Russian squad for the 2014 World Cup Finals.
We will be previewing all the teams in the World Cup and looking at their connections to Rovers in the run up to the competition.