After 30 past, present and future West Ham United players traveled to Brazil in 2014, less than half that number were called-up for the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals in Russia.
Three of the dozen players with direct links to the Hammers were with the Club at the time – Mexico forward Chicharito, Portugal midfielder João Mário and Senegal captain Cheikhou Kouyaté – while six had previously worn Claret and Blue and the other three have moved to London Stadium since the tournament took place.
João Mário, who was coming to the end of a loan spell from Inter Milan when the finals began, was introduced as a second half substitute with Portugal trailing Spain 3-2 in their Group B opener, and saw Cristiano Ronaldo fire in a late free-kick equaliser. He started the next game against Morocco – for whom former Hammers defender Manuel da Costa also started – which was settled 1-0 in Portugal’s favour by Ronaldo’s early header.
João Mário also started Portugal’s final group game against Iran and saw his nation pegged back to draw 1-1 after he had been withdrawn, and the 1-2 round of 16 defeat by Uruguay in Sochi.
Meanwhile, da Costa, who spent two seasons in east London between 2009-11, also featured as a substitute in Morocco’s 0-1 defeat by Iran and started the 2-2 draw with Spain.
Fresh from winning Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain, Alphonse Areola was part of the France squad which topped Group C ahead of Denmark, Peru and Australia, then defeated former West Ham midfielder Javier Mascherano’s Argentina (4-3), Uruguay (2-0), Belgium (1-0) and Croatia (4-2) to win their second World Cup. However, the goalkeeper did not appear on the pitch, becoming just the fourth player in history to win the tournament before making his full international debut.
Mascherano’s Argentina emerged from Group D as runners-up to Croatia, edging Victor Moses’ Nigeria into third with a vital 2-1 victory, despite the former West Ham winger scoring a second-half penalty in Saint Petersburg.
The 2018 tournament was a happier experience than the 2014 edition for Valon Behrami, who was sent-off on his only appearance in Brazil and became the first Switzerland player to appear at four World Cups.
The former West Ham midfielder started all three Group E matches, draws with Brazil (1-1) and Costa Rica (2-2) either side of a win over Serbia (2-1). He captained his country in the 0-1 round of 16 defeat by Sweden, which was also played in Saint Petersburg.
Future West Ham striker Chicharito, who would join later the same year from Bayer Leverkusen, helped Mexico advance from Group F, scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory over South Korea in Rostov-on-Don – his 50th goal for his country.
Mexico also defeated Germany - who finished bottom - but lost to group winners Sweden, before extending their run of successive round of 16 exits to seven by losing 0-2 to Brazil.
Group G contained England, whose squad included just one player with direct West Ham links – Jesse Lingard. The 2021 loan signing from Manchester United started the 2-1 win over Tunisia, then scored in the 6-1 victory over Panama, but did not feature in the 0-1 defeat by Belgium.
He was back in Gareth Southgate’s side for the penalty shootout win over Carlos Sánchez’s Colombia, set up Dele Alli’s goal in the 2-0 quarter-final victory over Sweden and the 1-2 extra-time defeat by Croatia in the semi-finals. He also appeared as a half-time substitute as Belgium beat England again to finish third.
Defensive midfielder Sánchez had been sent-off just three minutes into Colombia’s Group H defeat by Japan (1-2), while it was a group-stage to forget for Łukasz Fabiański’s Poland and a Senegal squad including then-West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté and his one-time Boleyn Ground teammate Diafra Sakho.
Senegal took four points from a 2-1 win over Poland and 2-2 draw with Japan, with Kouyaté appearing twice as a substitute. He returned to the starting XI as captain but neither he, nor substitute Sakho, could help avert the 0-1 defeat by Colombia that saw them knocked out.
Poland’s defeats by Senegal and Colombia saw them eliminated and Fabiański handed a start in their final tie with Japan, and he performed well, keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 victory.
So, there you have it, our round-up of previous World Cup finals is complete. Enner Valencia has already seen a player with West Ham links make his mark at Qatar 2022 – who will be next?