Evertonians on World Cup Qualifiers Duty

Will Barkley make his Three Lions debut at Wembley today? - Laurence Griffiths

It's going to be a busy weekend of international football as the World Cup qualifiers are heating up. Here's a brief look at the Everton players suiting up for their national teams.

Unusually enough, England boss Roy Hodgson revealed his starting lineup for Friday's game against Moldova well ahead of the game. While Everton club captain Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley have all received call-ups, only Jagielka is in the starting lineup for this game. England are in Group H, two points behind Montenegro with a game in hand though, and one expects if the English are well ahead by halftime, Barkley might make his debut at Wembley.
England then play again on Tuesday, this time at Ukraine in what should be a tougher fixture. Baines should start that game after playing second fiddle to Ashley Cole today.

Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy will both feature for the Republic of Ireland, who face a make or break weekend. The Irish are tied in second place with Sweden and Austria in Group C, five points adrift of leaders Germany. Guess who the boys in green play twice in the space of five days? Sweden and Austria. These two games will go a long way in determining who occupies the runners up spot in the group and manager Giovanni Trapattoni has some work to do after some lacklustre displays by his side, including a 6-1 thrashing by the Germans and a dour 0-0 with Wales.
Trap sensationally revealed last month that Everton pivot Darron Gibson has been ignoring his texts and calls, presumably as retribution for the Italian not selecting Gibson in the Euro 2012 squad. Should Ireland remain in the World Cup picture, it will be interesting to see how long this impasse continues.

Evertonians have maintained their healthy presence in the Belgium squad, with Romelu Lukaku replacing Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas. All three are expected to feature this weekend against Scotland. The Red Devils will be missing Eden Hazard through injuries, and this might open the door for Mirallas to start. Super Kev hasn't been afforded the best opportunities for his national side, what with the glut of talent the Belgians have, but he has been pretty quiet for Everton too so far this season so this is his opportunity to make his mark. Lukaku should line up alongside another Premier League forward, Christian Benteke for a formidable strike partnership. Belgium is three points clear of Croatia in Group A.

Scotland will host the Belgians today with their World Cup dreams already over. The Scots are mired in fifth place in the group, eleven points behind Croatia and for manager Gordon Strachan, it's a time to try out new players. Steven Naismith had a decent game in the friendly against England last month, and should be in the lineup.

Striker Nikica Jelavic is in the squad for what is effectively a derby game against Serbia. The Croats were neck and neck with the Belgians until a shock defeat in Scotland in the last round of games pegged them three points behind. Jelavic is still firing blanks for Everton and hopefully he'll receive some playing time either today or else in a friendly on Tuesday against South Korea.

Arouna Kone has been a peripheral figure on the Ivory Coast national team, and might not get the chance to break his slump either with the team attempting to pacify the locals after being spanked 4-1 by Mexico recently. The Ivorians are already through to the knockout stage of the CAF qualifiers that begins next month.

Across the pond, some of the defensive core of Everton will be in action this weekend. Goalie Tim Howard will be between the sticks for the United States as the Yanks attempt to seal qualification. They hold a healthy lead of two points over Costa Rica and five points over Mexico in the CONCACAF region, and they play both teams this weekend. The game at Costa Rica promises to be a grudge game after the home round for the Americans was not called off despite there being snowstorm on the pitch (aka the Blizzard Bowl), and the Ticos ramping up the trash talk ahead of the game.

Bryan Oviedo (Baby!) is in the Costa Rica squad and should start in both their games this weekend. After the home game against the Yanks they travel to Jamaica on Tuesday. Oviedo will line up at left back, but is expected to bomb forward at every given opportunity in the Ticos' 4-2-3-1 formation, not unlike what he sees at Everton.

Antolin Alcaraz remains out of Paraguay's qualification picture with his long term injury. The Paraguayans have struggled and are at the bottom of the CONMEBOL qualifying group. They take on Bolivia who are second last in the group, two points ahead of them. Paraguay are still mathematically in the picture, but with eight points between them and fifth-placed Uruguay they are highly unlikely to cover the game with just four games remaining.

Finally, a number of younger Everton players will be involved in Under-21 internationals. John Stones is in the England setup while Gerard Deulofeu will play for Spain. Shane Duffy is in the Republic of Ireland squad and Apostolos Vellios is in the Greece side. All four are featuring in the U-21 Euro 2015 qualifiers.

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