By Lee Dover | international football
The focus switches to the 2014 World Cup qualifiers and the Paddy Power Blog focuses of four sharp-shooters who’ll be putting their country ahead of their clubs for the next two games. These acquisitions have proved some of the best football transfers of the summer.
Lukas Podolski (Koln to Arsenal, £10.9m)
Arsenal looked sunk when they lost Robin Van Persie to Manchester United and the pundits were quick to predict that the Gunners would be firing blanks.
However, German hitman Lukas Podolski soon showed that there is life after Van Persie. Podolski has two goals to his name already in the Premier League, on top of another two successful strikes in the Champions League, to give Arsenal a confident start in all campaigns this term.
Paddy Power has a tasty bet of 9/2 that Podolski will carry on his electric form for his country on Friday and bag the first goal in Germany’s qualifier on the Road to Rio away to Ireland.
Pavel Pogrebnyak (Free Agent to Reading)
It’s said the best things in life are free – though the ”doormen’ at Stingfellows will disagree – but Pavel Pogrebnyak may be an exception as his impressive start in a Reading strip proves.
The Royals may be languishing at the bottom of the Premier League but Pogrebnyak has given Reading fans hope that they – just like Gloria Gaynor – will survive. Two goals so far this season – including netting against league leaders Chelsea in only his second game with the team.
The Russian is only getting started though, telling Sports.ru:
My dream has always been to play in the Premier League. At the end of the 90s I liked watching English football very much so I wanted to sign in England but I didn’t think it would happen so late. But now I’m here and I’m happy about it.
Russia entertain Portugal on Friday evening and f the Reading striker keeps up the momentum, the 6/4 about a Russian win won’t last long.
Steven Fletcher (Wolves to Sunderland, £12m)
The laughter could be heard on the continent when it was announced the Black Cats had signed Steven Fletcher from Wolves for a whopping £12 million in August.
But it soon subsided when the Scot began to dance his way around the Stadium of Light and cause major headaches for experienced defenders.
Five goals in seven games have earned Sunderland draws against Swansea, Liverpool and West Ham, as well as victory over Wigan Athletic.
His majestic displays in front of goal has even helped to rebuild the burnt bridges between the player and Scotland manager Craig Levein, so much so that Fletcher is now back in the fold for his country.
I am a proud Scot and it is a privilege to play for my country. Everyone knows it has been too long since we last qualified for a major finals and I want to do my bit to help us reach Brazil.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan to PSG, £16.1m)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is all about making headlines and the Swedish international needed just three minutes to net his first goal in a PSG strip in a friendly against DC United during the summer.
Ibrahimovic has barely stopped since the first whistle of the 2012/13 Ligue One campaign, with his nine goals in eight games making PSG one of the top contenders to nab the league title this season.
A win for Sweden against the Faroe Islands, with or without Ibrahimovic, is 1/12 with Paddy Power but PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti still feels Zlatan can improve his game. He scored twice in Sunday’s 2-2 Ligue 1 draw with Marseille but Ancelotti said…
I was not impressed by his performance, because I know Zlatan very well. He’s a great goalscorer and a very complete player… People say he’s tired? Maybe. I think that at even 80 per cent he is good enough to play.