The World Cup is always a celebration of football where players battle to bring honour and glory to the countries they are from. However, for one reason or another, players often change allegiances while they still can and end up representing a nation that isn’t technically their birthplace.
In the 2022 Qatar World Cup, a staggering 137 players will be representing a different country than their own – making up 16 per cent of the player pool. Express Sport names eight of the world’s biggest stars who could end up facing their own birth country this winter.
Kalidou Koulibaly – Representing: Senegal – Born: France
Koulibaly was born in Saint-Die-des-Vosges, France, but raised by Senegalese parents, therefore eligible to play for either country. The Chelsea centre-back represented France at the 2011 U20 World Cup in Colombia but snubbed Didier Deschamps to play for Senegal from September 2015.
Pepe – Representing: Portugal – Born: Brazil
Pepe has been a staple of the Portuguese national team since 2007, but he could’ve enjoyed the same success with Brazil after being born in Marceio. According to his father, the 39-year-old declined a call-up from Brazil manager Dunga in 2006 in favour of Portugal once he had secured citizenship. It will likely be his World Cup swansong in Qatar.
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Alphonso Davies – Representing: Canada – Born: Ghana
Alphonso Davies is Canada’s main man, and the nation quickly snapped him up at U15 level amid the risk of him choosing Ghana. The left-back, who plays a more attacking role for his nation, was born in Buduburam and was a Liberian citizen by birth.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – Representing: Serbia – Born: Spain
In perhaps the most surprising entry, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was born in Lleida, Spain, whilst his father, Nikola Milinkovic, played for the Catalan side. But he represented Serbia at U19, U20 and U21 level before becoming an integral part of the senior set-up.
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Giovanni Reyna – Representing: USA – Born: England
Scratch the first sentence of that last entry… this is the most surprising. Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund academy graduate with 45 caps for the United States in all age levels, was born in the English port city of Sunderland. The 20-year-old’s father, Claudio Reyna, played for Sunderland at the time before the family moved back to the USA when he was five.
Raheem Sterling – Representing: England – Born: Jamaica
Raheem Sterling is an established name in English football and, like he was at Euro 2020, will be relied upon to provide goals for Gareth Southgate’s side at the World Cup. But Sterling wasn’t born on British soil. In fact, from Kingston, Jamaica, he moved to London when he was five.
Eric Choupo-Moting – Representing: Cameroon – Born: Germany
Eric Choupo-Moting has spent the vast majority of his football career, barring a bizarre loan spell at Stoke City in the 2017/18 season, in his homeland Germany. But despite being born in Hamburg and representing the nation at U21 level, he chose to play for Cameroon at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and hasn’t looked back since.
Luuk de Jong – Representing: Netherlands – Born: Switzerland
Luuk de Jong has the most Dutch name imaginable… but he’s not actually from the land of the tulips. The 32-year-old striker was born in Aigle, Switzerland, but represented the Netherlands at youth level and earned his first senior call-up in 2011. He scored the first of eight international goals shortly after.
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