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Opinion

Aleksandar Mitrovic is last man standing at Newcastle United

2 years ago
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Aleksandar Mitrovic has played just 30 minutes of Premier League football this season.

Yet the striker is arguably the most talked about member of the Newcastle United squad.

He also now holds the distinction of the only Newcastle player who has definitely booked a place in the Russia 2018 World Cup finals next summer…

Serbia qualified top of European Group D and Aleksandar Mitrovic made nine starts, scoring a very respectable six goals.

Whilst Mitro was rested against South Korea this week, he did start in the 2-0 friendly win over China, making it nine goals in his last 11 starts for Serbia.

As for the rest of the Newcastle squad, it is a case of broken dreams all round, as the following countries (and players) won’t be going to Russia:

Ciaran Clark (Republic of Ireland end up second in European Group D, lose in play-offs to Denmark)

Rob Elliot (Republic of Ireland end up second in European Group D, lose in play-offs to Denmark)

Matt Ritchie (Scotland finish third in European Group F)

Paul Dummett (Wales finish third in European Group D)

DeAndre Yedlin (USMNT end up fifth of six in final CONCACAF final group)

Chancel Mbemba (DR Congo finish second in African Group A)

Christian Atsu (Ghana end third in African Group E)

The Newcastle players above range from key for their country and first eleven (Ciaran Clark etc), right through to Paul Dummett who never got off the bench as Wales failed to qualify.

However, other players in the Newcastle first team squad do still technically have a chance of making it to the finals, though it might take a leap of faith…

Countries that have qualified for Russia 2018 and the Newcastle players who could play for them…

Australia (Won play-off v Honduras) – Curtis Good

Belgium (Won Euro Group H)  – Matz Sels

England (Won Euro Group F) – Jack Colback, Isaac Hayden, Rolando Aarons, Jamaal Lascelles, Jonjo Shelvey, Jacob Murphy, Dwight Gayle, Freddie Woodman, Karl Darlow

France (Won Euro Group A) – Florian Lejeune, Massadio Haidara

Morocco (Won Africa Group C) – Achraf Lazaar

Senegal (Won Africa Group D) – Mohamed Diame, Henri Saivet

Spain (Won Euro Group G) – Ayoze Perez, Javier Manquillo, Joselu, Mikel Merino, Jesus Gamez

Ironically, maybe Henri Saivet stands the best chance of those above of making it into their national squads for next summer. He has featured in friendlies this calendar year and also was selected for and played in the African Cup of Nations in early 2017. He hasn’t played a single minute for Newcastle in the Premier League but it wouldn’t take much to get him back in he squad.

Matz Sels has been a regular non-playing member of the Belgium squad but struggling for form at Anderlecht he is now looking doubtful.

Newcastle fans will also ponder I guess, whether Mikel Merino can come back from injury, pick up where he left off and just maybe force himself into the Spanish squad as a young rapidly developing player.

Despite not being selected this time for England, Jonjo Shelvey and especially Jamaal Lascelles, could be longshots if they have good seasons – especially if injury strikes.

Not the main priority for Newcastle fans this season but it is maybe also another reminder of the limitations on quality overall in this Newcastle squad, that only one player is certain to go to Russia…and irony of ironies, he is the one who Rafa Benitez appears to rate the least.

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