Bluebirds’ Trio Aiming For Summer Trip Away In Russia

Armand Traore has plans to go away with Cardiff City team-mates Aaron Gunnarsson (Iceland) and Marko Grujic (Serbia) this summer.

Their national teams have all qualified for the World Cup finals in Russia and the trio are focused on earning a call-up. They are making outstanding progress in their quests for success.

Trader, Gunnarsson and Grujic have all played for their national teams during this international break – and remain on international duty.

Traore is back in the Senegal squad after four years absence and won his sixth senior cap during their 1-1 draw against Uzbekistan in Casablanca.

The left-sided full-back or midfield player has made only four appearances for the Bluebirds his loan move from Nottingham Forest, but manager Neil Warnock’s team have won all of them.

Armand Traore. Pic: Getty Images.

Senegal are in a group alongside Poland, Colombia and Japan in the World Cup and Traore knows that he needs to earn a regular starting place in Cardiff’s remaining nine Championship fixtures to boost his chances of going to Russia.

“I did not have too much trouble integrating into this new group,” he said after joining the Senegal squad. “I’ve known players like Moussa Sow and Lamine Gassama for a long time. The guys have made me feel part of the group.

“Training sessions have been intense and we have some great players in this squad.”

The Senegal squad are now in France preparing for their second game of this international break, against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Le Havre, France.

Trader has also settled into life at Cardiff City and loves working under Warnock.

“I worked with him at QPR and he tried to sign me at Crystal Palace, but for some reason it didn’t happen,” he says.

“I always wanted to work with him again and I’m really happy.

“He brings the best out in me. My first year at QPR was my right up there one in terms of playing. When a manager like Neil Warnock wants to work with you, you can potentially play your best football again. For me it was really exciting.”

Traore is following the path of his father in playing for Senegal, saying: “My dad is a role model for me.

“He played for Racing Club in Paris when they were rivals to PSG. He was also a Senegalese international and he knows what he’s talking about.”

Traore junior spent time with Racing Club and Monaco in France before making the move to Arsenal in 2006.

Former PSG player Ronaldinho. Pic: Getty Images.

The French-born player grew up supporting Paris St Germain and says: “I went to games all the time and stood with the Auteuil (an ultra style group) behind the goal.

“They are mainly working class people from the suburbs. We made a lot of noise and my favourite song was ‘Paris Magic.’

“My favourite player was Ronaldinho – he was the man. I was sad when he left for Barcelona.”

Traore was 17-years-old when he left France and signed for Arsenal, saying: “I was homesick when I arrived in England and missed my family.

“I didn’t speak English, but I settled in London. It’s like Paris in many ways – huge and cosmopolitan.”

Now Traore – nicknamed Tré by team-mates – has come to Wales and Warnock says: “I signed Traoré from Arsenal while I was at QPR and I’ve kept an eye on him ever since.

“He gives us a lot of versatility down the left with his natural left foot.”

Armand Traore in Cardiff City action. Pic: Getty Images.

The 28-year-old Traore has played Premier League football for Arsenal, Portsmouth and Queens Park Rangers, while he has Champions League experience and played for Juventus in Serie A.

He played for Arsenal in their 2-1 defeat against Chelsea in the 2007 Carling Cup final at the Millennium Stadium.

Traore is a deep thinking, thoughtful and reflective character who has matured over more than two decades since he started playing junior football in France.

He knows all about derby matches – and how he would love to be part of a Cardiff City team taking on Swansea City in the Premier League next season.

“Coming from France, I used to go to PSG versus Marseille – and the fans there would batter each other,” he says.

Traore has played in Arsenal v Spurs North London derbies, while he experienced Nottingham Forest v Derby County.

“I made my debut for Juventus against Roma and remember having the feeling that it was a massive derby-like game,” he says. “But it was not the only game like that. There were some incredible rivalries out there in Italy.

“Napoli was the worst one. We arrived there the day before the game and there were about 300 Napoli fans waiting for us outside the hotel. When we left to go to the stadium, they were following us on mopeds and crashing into parked cars. It was madness.

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“I did not feel under threat exactly, no. But it did make you think ‘this is proper passion’.

“I have played in Arsenal against Tottenham games as well and had a taste of the Derby v Forest atmosphere from the bench last season, at Pride Park.

“It was an incredible atmosphere. I remember thinking that I wish I was out there playing.”

Cardiff City have a number of players away on international duty . . . . . . 

Armand Traore (Senegal)

Went on for Crystal Palace defence Pape Souare after 74 minutes of Senegal’s 1-1 draw against Uzbekistan.

Traore earned his sixth senior international cap by going on and first since 2013.

Senegal play Bosnia and Herzegovina in France on Tuesday. That match is at Le Havre’s Stade Océane.

Callum Paterson (Scotland)

Played 90 minutes for Scotland during a 1-0 defeat against Costa Rica at Hamden Park.

Paterson, who has scored eight goals for Cardiff this season, was named in the starting line-up by newly re-appointed manager Alex McLeish.

The Scots now play Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday.

Aaron Gunnarsson. Pic: Getty Images.

Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland)

‘Gunnar’ proved his fitness by returning to action for Iceland in their crushing 3-0 defeat against Mexico at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California. The match was played in front of a sell-out 68,917 attendance.

He has been a notable injury absentee for the Bluebirds because of injury, but came through 45 minutes for his country. His substitution at half-time was planned.

Gunnarsson will undoubtedly be in Cardiff’s squad for Friday’s Championship home clash with Burton Albion.

Iceland are playing Peru in New Jersey today (Monday).

Iceland are in a group with Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria at the World Cup finals.

Marko Grujic (Serbia)

Cardiff City’s young midfield player took over from Manchester United star Nemanja Matic after 67 minutes of a 2-1 defeat against Morocco at Stadio Olympico Grande, Torino.

Serbia now play Nigeria at the Hive Stadium, Barnet on Tuesday.

The Serbians are in a group with Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rice at the World Cup finals.

Bruno Manga (Gabon)

The cultured centre-back has in Gabon’s squad at the King’s Cup, but did not play in either of their two matches.

Gabon fought out a goalless draw against Thailand in their semi-final at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok before losing the penalty shootout 4-2. Almost 26,000 spectators were at the stadium.

Manga’s Gabon then won 1-0 against United Arab Emirates in the third/fourth place play-off on Sunday.

Slovakia won the tournament, beating Thailand 2-1 in the final.

Neil Warnock. Pic: Getty Images.

Jamie Ward (Northern Ireland)

Proved his fitness by starting for Northern Ireland and playing for an hour in their 3-2 win against South Korea at Windsor Park.

That is the only fixture for Northern Ireland during this international break.

Defender Cameron Coxe and striker Mark Harris both started for Wales under-21s in their 1-0 defeat against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Zenica. A third Bluebirds player, Rhys Abbruzzese, was among the substitutes.

Wales will face Liechtenstein and Portugal at home in their next two Uefa Championship qualifying matches.

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