For a while, it looked as though Reading had hit the jackpot when they signed Orlando Sa from Legia Warsaw in the summer of 2015. The striker netted four goals in his opening six games for the Royals, including an impressive hat-trick in the 5-1 demolition of Ipswich, and along with an inspired Nick Blackman he looked as though he may be to able to lead the club back to the Premier League. Yet only four days after the rout against the Tractor Boys, Sa was sent off against Derby, and could never recapture his early season form upon his return from suspension.
In January of that season, he made a swift exit to Maccabi Tel Aviv amidst rumours of his wife feeling unsettled in England. Sa has since also played for Standard Liege and currently Chinese side Henan Jianye.
Born in Braga, the 29-year-old has been capped once by the Portuguese national team - a 30 minute cameo in a 1-0 friendly win over Finland in 2009. The manager back then was Carlos Queiroz, who is now in charge of Portugal’s Group B opponents Iran.
Rarely has there been a player so well liked by Reading fans despite playing so little than Alex Fernandez. The Spanish midfielder featured just 10 times on loan for the Royals from Espanyol in 2015/16, scoring once against Huddersfield in the FA Cup, but was (and still is) lauded by the Madejski Stadium faithful for his heartfelt social media posts.
After his spell in Berkshire, Fernandez signed permanently for Elche, but suffered relegation to the Spanish third tier with the Alicante-based side so moved to Cadiz last summer. The 25-year-old scored four goals in 42 appearances in 2017/18 as the club finished 9th, just one point below the Segunda play-offs.
Whilst Alex may not have a Spanish senior cap to his name (he did appear at youth level for La Roja), his older brother Nacho, a centre-back for Real Madrid, has 16 caps for his country and is indeed set to feature at the World Cup.
Apologies in advance, as I have been left with little choice but to pick Marouane Chamakh for our Morocco link, meaning we are going to have to briefly relive Reading’s 7-5 defeat to Arsenal in the League Cup in 2012/13.
The striker netted twice in that staggering comeback at the Madejski Stadium - a low shot through the legs of Kaspars Gorkss that gave the Gunners the lead for the first time on the night in the 103rd minute, and a chip over Adam Federici that was their seventh and final goal in the 123rd minute. They were Chamakh’s only goals that season and last for Arsenal before he joined Crystal Palace in the summer of 2013. He would spend three years at Selhurst Park before being released, and has been without a club since being let go by Cardiff City 18 months ago.
Capped 65 times by Morocco (but not since 2014), the 34-year-old scored 18 goals for his nation and played in the final of the African Cup of Nations for them in 2004, losing to Tunisia.
Born in Utah but largely raised in Iran’s capital Tehran, Omid Namazi was a defender who played for Reading very briefly in the 1992/93 season. Well, apparently. Every source on the internet says that Namazi featured in Berkshire during the winter of that campaign, but no one appears to have any recollection of him, suggesting that perhaps he was part of the reserve team or was only on trial. I mean we haven’t got any other Iranian link, so we’re going to have to go with it!
The Royals were the only club outside of the USA that Namazi played for in his career, even featuring for few futsal teams in the States as well. After retiring he took up coaching, again in America, but in 2011 he was named as the Iran national team’s assistant coach to Carlos Queiroz. Namazi spent three years in that role, helping the country qualify for the 2014 World Cup. The 52-year-old is currently the manager of the USA Under 18 team.