There will be no let-up in the football action this summer as the eyes of the world turn their attention to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It's the first time that the Russians have hosted the world's greatest football competition, and there is a lot of pressure on them to produce a safe and enjoyable spectacle, following the behaviour of a small minority of Russian supporters in France at Euro 2016.
Nevertheless, there will be plenty of talent on show, from all four corners of the footballing world. There will be no shortage of players from the English Football League heading for the departure gates to Russia either. It just goes to show that playing outside the Premier League doesn't have to be a barrier to selection for national squads. Let's take a look at five of the likely contenders for 2018 World Cup squads.
Abel Hernandez, Hull City - The 27-year-old Uruguayan striker has endured a turbulent time with The Tigers. He is on the verge of a return to the senior side after a six-month injury lay-off, which should nicely put him in contention for a call-up to the Uruguayan national side and give him a chance to compete for a place in the starting XI alongside the likes of Suarez and Cavani. With 11 goals in 27 competitive appearances for Uruguay, he's certainly got the talent to make an impact in Russia.
Bartosz Bialkowski, Ipswich Town - Former Southampton and Notts County stopper, Bartosz Bialkowski has been in sparkling form for the Tractor Boys in the last two seasons-so much so that the Ipswich faithful named him their Player of the Season last year. That form hasn't gone unnoticed by Poland boss, Adam Nawalka, who visited Portman Road to watch Bialkowski put in a Man of the Match display against Burton Albion. Bialkowski has yet to be called up to the senior Polish squad, but he is many people's favourite to be called up as third-choice keeper to Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski. With Senegal, Japan and Colombia for company in their group, Poland's World Cup odds for victory certainly make it look favourable for them to at least reach the knock-out stages of the competition, at a juicy price of 50/1.
Massimo Luongo, Queens Park Rangers - Former Tottenham Hotspur academy graduate, Massimo Luongo looks certain to be named in the Australian squad for the trip to Russia. The 25-year-old has 32 caps for his country already and is now a firm fixture in the heart of the Australian side, alongside Huddersfield Town ace, Aaron Mooy. With almost a century of league appearances with the Queens Park Rangers, he's a battle-hardened competitor who's perfect for the World Cup finals.
Hordur Bjorgvin Magnusson, Bristol City - Towering Icelandic centre half Hordur Magnusson has made quite an impression at playoff-chasing Bristol City. The 6'3" stopper has enjoyed an excellent football upbringing, having spent five years with Series A giants Juventus before joining the Robins in 2016. Iceland have qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time in the island nation's history, and Magnusson will certainly be one to watch at both ends of the pitch, given his aerial threat at attacking set plays.
Kamil Grosicki, Hull City - Experienced Polish winger Kamil Grosicki is another player who's almost certain to feature at this summer's World Cup finals. His electric pace and direct style has seen him earn 55 caps as a full international, scoring 11 goals in the process. His time with Championship strugglers, Hull City, has been somewhat disappointing, having been part of the Tigers' relegation last term, and given the subsequent struggles of this term in the second tier. Nevertheless, Grosicki represented his country at both Euro 2012 and Euro 2016 and will certainly be a focal point of Adam Nawalka's forward line in Russia.
We look forward to seeing how this quintet of players represents its respective countries-and the English Football League in general-at the 2018 World Cup. Whether their performances earn them big-money moves elsewhere for the 2018/19 campaign remains to be seen. One thing's for certain: The Football League is now a genuine platform that can be used to impress on the global stage.