THE BLOG

World Cup Window of Opportunity

23/12/2013 12:42 GMT | Updated 19/02/2014 10:59 GMT

In the average career of a top-flight footballer, the opportunity to appear at a World Cup will only come around three or four times. Therefore in a World Cup year, warming the bench or turning out for the stiffs is not an option.

Thankfully for those struggling to make an impact, this time of year throws up a few potential opportunities to make a push for Brazil.

Firstly, the busy Christmas period creates the opportunity for fringe players to get some game time. If this doesn't become a reality though, we are also on the cusp of the transfer window silly season. A move to pastures new for the following players in January would do their chances no harm at all.

Joleon Lescott - Manchester City/England

Former Everton defender Lescott has had a difficult time of it this season, clocking up just 585 minutes of top-flight football so far. With the appearances made coming largely as a result of injury to captain Kompany, it would seem that City manager Manuel Pellegrini views Lescott firmly as a backup option.

On a national level too, England manager Roy Hodgson seems set with the pairing of Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill - both of whom are playing regular first team football - so it is difficult to see how Lescott can break his way into the side.

Rumours of a return to Goodison Park persist, and with Sylvain Distin now 36, the time may be right for a return to Everton, in the hope that a partnership with Jagielka could develop and turn Hodgson's head. Mark Hughes' Stoke side are also rumoured to be interested.

With the tough nature of England's World Cup Group D well publicised, you'd think that there'd be room in the squad for a player with the big game experience of Lescott.

Kevin De Bruyne - Chelsea/Belgium

Babyfaced Kevin De Bruyne has had a number of well-publicised fallouts with Jose Mourinho, and at the time of writing has not appeared in the Premier League for the Stamford Bridge side since September 21st, and has only mustered 132 minutes in total.

With Belgium's quality plain to see, De Bruyne desperately needs things to change if he is to gain a starting berth in Brazil. This is a fact not lost on either De Bruyne or his agent, with reports surfacing in recent days that the midfielder is going to formally ask for a transfer. After his success for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga last year, it is no surprise that sides such as Bayer Leverkusen are monitoring the situation keenly.

Although he is undoubtedly a talented - if raw - player, reports suggest that Mourinho is happy to see the back of De Bruyne, with a permanent deal worth around £12 million or an 18-month loan deal mooted.

Either way, it is clear De Bruyne is going to struggle to get into any side that can afford to leave out Juan Mata, so a move is a necessity for his World Cup chances.

Wilfried Zaha - Manchester United/England

Ah, the Curious Case of Wilfried Zaha. Purchased during last January's window by Manchester United, then immediately loaned back to Crystal Palace to help them in their promotion quest, Zaha has struggled for game time under new boss David Moyes.

When you take into account the Red Devils' below-par form so far, and the fact that Zaha is still something of an unknown quantity to most Premier League defences, it is surprising that he has only managed 30 minutes game time thus far.

After making his international debut in November as a substitute in a friendly against Sweden, Zaha will no doubt have hoped for more minutes to try and force him way into England's World Cup squad. In fact, Zaha has been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons this season - fighting off accusations that he is dating Moyes' daughter on Twitter and being pulled apart from former-United man Ravel Morrison during an England U21 game will do his reputation no good at all.

Obviously Zaha needs to "let his football do the talking", and a loan move to another Premier League side would do the job nicely. While Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has moved to quash reports that Zaha will be moving north in January, Tony Pulis has expressed an interest in bringing him back to Selhurst Park to aid Palace once more.