World Cup surprise call-ups: Paolo Guerrero, Benjamin Mendy and more
The World Cup squads of all 32 nations taking part were confirmed on Monday. There were a few shock omissions, but which players are the most surprising additions to be travelling to Russia?
Paolo Guerrero -- Peru
The feelgood story of the World Cup before it has even started. Paulo Guerrero looked to have absolutely no chance of travelling to Russia after a 14-month doping suspension was imposed on him following a positive test for cocaine metabolites which he said was accidentally consumed in tea. His last chance was the Swiss courts, under whose jurisdiction the Court of Arbitration for Sport falls, and rather unexpectedly they granted him a reprieve, allowing him to captain his country this summer.
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Manuel Neuer -- Germany
He hasn't played club football since September and only made his first appearance for Germany in their friendly defeat to Austria on Saturday. But this is Manuel Neuer, captain and colossus of the German goal, so the chances are that if he could walk, then he would be in the team. "I am convinced that I will cope with every test," said Neuer, before hastily adding: "And play as many games as possible."
Nacer Chadli -- Belgium
Here's something that you might not know off the top of your head: Chadli is still a West Brom player. You may have forgotten because he played just five times for the relegated club last season, only returning from injury right at the end. Even when fully fit, he would seem a curious selection for a Belgium side brimming with talent, but it seems Roberto Martinez needs men who can do a job as a wing-back, which is where Chadli comes in.
Julian Brandt -- Germany
Perhaps it's harsh to pick Julian Brandt in this list: he's a fine player who's enjoyed a good season for Bayer Leverkusen, but he merits a mention purely because of the man he was selected ahead of. Joachim Loew said it was a "photo finish" between Brandt and Leroy Sane, but it was still a surprise that he opted for the Leverkusen man, given Sane's talent and his terrific season for Manchester City.
Fabian Delph -- England
This is not necessarily a slight on Delph's form for Manchester City, which has been excellent, more that his selection was curious because the circumstances in which he might actually play are tricky to imagine. Delph impressed at left-back last season, a position that probably won't exist if all goes to plan given England are playing with a three-man defence. Delph hasn't played as a wing-back, and it's difficult to justify his selection as a midfielder given he hasn't played there all season.
Jamie MacLaren -- Australia
MacLaren was having breakfast in a Dubai hotel when he got the call to report for Australia's pre-World Cup camp. Having been cut from the squad a few weeks earlier, MacLaren was preparing for a disappointing but relaxing summer, only for Tomi Juric's knee injury to set alarm bells ringing. When Juric recovered, MacLaren probably expected to be sent on his way again, but he was in Bert van Marwijk's final 23 named on Monday.
Essam El-Hadary -- Egypt
Perhaps not a surprise that he was picked, more a surprise that he's still playing professional football at all. At 45-years-old, El-Hadary will become the World Cup's oldest ever player if he plays for Egypt, breaking the record set by Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon (a spritely 43) in 2014. He might have to survive a few awkward dressing room moments though: winger Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim (also known as Kahraba, which means "electricity") was engaged to El-Hadary's daughter Shadwa last year, until it was discovered he was also engaged to someone else.
Trent Alexander-Arnold -- England
At 19, Alexander-Arnold won't be the youngest Englishman to ever appear at a World Cup, but he won't be far off. It's perhaps a testament to Gareth Southgate's firm conviction to make his own decisions that Alexander-Arnold, before this season merely one of many promising youngsters on the fringe of the Liverpool team, was selected ahead of more experienced campaigners at right-back.
Benjamin Mendy -- France
Another player who doesn't have a lot of football under his belt, Mendy only returned to the Manchester City team in the closing weeks of the season. So it would have been understandable had Didier Deschamps decided he wasn't worth the risk. But the regard with which Mendy is held clearly makes him a likely selection for the starting XI, not just the squad. Can he make France the new "Shark Team?"
Ricardo Pereira -- Portugal
While he is probably Portugal's best right-back, before their squad was announced it looked like Leicester City's new signing would be their third or fourth choice. Inter's Joao Cancelo and Barcelona's Nelson Semedo were more high-profile candidates for the final 23, but at the last minute Fernando Santos went for Pereira along with Cedric Soares.
Sergei Ignashevich -- Russia
The creaking Ignashevich's international career looked to be well over, put out to pasture (or rather, as he retired, put himself out to pasture) at 39-years-old. But Rubin Kazan's Ruslan Kambolov suffered a calf injury in the last game of the season, leaving a hole in central defence, and Stanislav Cherchesov gave Ignashevich the call for one last job on home soil.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.