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Ex-Rovers set for World Cup participation

Six former Rovers players will all play a part for their country in the World Cup

14 June 2018

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A half-dozen of former Rovers will all be in action for their countries in the next month, with the FIFA World Cup set to begin in Russia.

Academy graduate Phil Jones is in the England squad and could well feature for Gareth Southgate's side, with the national team chief set to opt for a back three for the tournament.

Jones and England will be in Group G, where they will play Tunisia, Panama and Belgium.

Another ex-youth team player in Jamie MacLaren will be in Russia with Australia. Although the striker failed to breakthrough to the first team at Ewood Park, he forged a playing career back in his homeland before moving to Germany with Darmstadt. Eight goals in 15 games on loan at Hibernian at the back end of last season saw him included in the Socceroos squad.

Australia face a real battle in Group C, joined by France, Peru and Denmark in the bid to qualify for the last 16 stage.

Joining MacLaren in Group C is France midfielder Steven N'Zonzi. Currently with La Liga side Sevilla, N'Zonzi enjoyed three years at Ewood Park, appearing more than 100 times for the club before moving on to Stoke City in 2012.

The 29-year-old will be aiming to play a major part for the French, who many believe could be in with a strong chance of triumphing in the tournament.

Group F will see Sweden and Martin Olsson battle it out with big hitters Germany, Mexico and South Korea. A team-mate of N'Zonzi's at Ewood, Olsson linked up with the Rovers youth system in 2006 before turning professional a year later. 

The full back, whose twin brother Marcus also represented Rovers, would go on to appear more than 100 times in the blue and white before moving onto Norwich City and then Swansea.

Over in Group D, Nikola Kalinic is likely to go head to head with superstar Lionel Messi, with Argentina joining Croatia. Iceland and Nigeria join the two countries in a group which looks to be the trickiest of the eight.

Kalinic was in East Lancashire for two years, appearing more than 50 times before departing for Dnipro in 2011. After four years playing for the Ukrainian side, he joined Fiorentina and spent the 2017-18 campaign on loan at European giants AC Milan.

Last but by no means least, former Rovers loanee Mame Biram Diouf will make it six of our ex-players over in Russia when the striker runs out for Senegal.

The African nation are joined in Group H by Poland, Colombia and Japan. Diouf spent a season on loan at Ewood from Manchester United back in the 2010-11 campaign, scoring six times in 29 games in all competitions. 

Good luck to all our former Rovers in Russia!

Don't forget, the Blackburn Rovers Community Trust are having a World Cup Family Fun Day at Ewood Park on Sunday 24th June, the same day England face Panama.

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