Not every sportsperson dreams of representing the country of their birth.
This is certainly true at the World Cup, where nations will utilise the best players available to them – no matter where they are from.
Here is our select side for this summer’s edition who are drawn from the relevant diaspora and immigrant populations across the globe.
ADOPTED NATIONS XI (3-4-3)
Yassine Bounou (Morocco via Canada)
The giant goalkeeper swapped the temperate Canada of his birth for the searing deserts of Morocco as a small child.
This switch to a football-obsessed country worked wonders. After appearing for Moroccan powerhouse Wydad Casablanca, he was swiftly picked up by Atletico Madrid B in 2012.
Regular first-team football would be earned at Girona where his 341 saves in 2017/18’s La Liga was the ninth most in the competition.
Pepe (Portugal via Brazil)
One of European football’s great hatchet men was born more than 7,000 kilometres away in Brazil.
Pepe would move across the Atlantic as a teenager in 2001. From there, his athleticism and determination would take him from Maritimo, to Porto and a decade at Real Madrid from 2007-17.
The centre-back has not looked back since being naturalised 11 years ago, Euro 2016’s triumph the obvious highlight.
Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal via France)
This is a real case of someone slipping the net for France.
The imposing centre-back’s early promise saw him pick-up 11 caps for France Under-20s from 2011-12. Perhaps his subsequent move to Belgium’s Genk took him off the radar, with Senegal taking advantage of his parental links to play him from 2015 after starring for Napoli.
Embarrassingly, France scouted him for Euro 2016 duty despite his lack of availability.
Mehdi Benatia (Morocco via France)
Benatia had the option to play for three nations – France of his birth, Algeria of his mother and Morocco of his father.
This conflict for the refined centre-back’s services saw him represent both France and Morocco at youth level, before selecting the latter a decade ago.
This choice would have real pertinence for the Atlas Lions – the Juventus star’s goal last November helped end a 20-year wait for a World Cup spot.
Mario Fernandes (Russia via Brazil)
The right-back’s record reads like a relic from a bygone era when international commitments changed with the wind.
A cap was earned for his native Brazil in 2014, three years after he’d rejected an initial call-up because of “personal problems”.
He’d already moved to CSKA Moscow by this stage. Forgotten by the Canarinha, naturalisation from Russia would lead to him adopting new national colours after 2017.
Ivan Rakitic (Croatia via Switzerland)
How Switzerland must rue the loss of one of the world’s best midfielders.
Rakitic was born in Mohlin to a Croatian family. Caps followed for the phenomenally talented starlet for the Swiss at Under-21 level, but by 2007 he would be handed a full debut by the nation of his parents.
The subsequent sight of Barcelona’s Rakitic and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric twinned together has been beautiful to behold.
Thiago (Spain via Italy)
Born in Italy to a World Cup 1994 winner with Brazil, but forged in Spain – this is the story of the joyously talented Bayern Munich centre midfielder.
Thiago would flit between nation and club in his youth, two stints at Rio de Janeiro-giants Flamengo ultimately ending with a move to Barcelona.
But his international commitments have never wavered, representing Spain with distinction from the U-17s to the seniors.
Raphael Guerreiro (Portugal via France)
Talent was never the issue when the rampaging left-back was first called up by Portugal’s U-21s in 2013.
A significant language barrier meant the Le Blanc-Mensil native barely spoke a word of his adopted nation’s language after being raised using the French of his mother.
This did not hold him back. Guerreiro was exceptional as Euro 2016 was claimed, earning a move to Borussia Dortmund.
Raheem Sterling (England via Jamaica)
Just like the electric John Barnes 30 years ago, Sterling has gone from Jamaica to the England side via an explosive stint at Liverpool.
Sterling then emigrated to London as a youngster and played for Queens Park Rangers. A breakthrough on Merseyside would lead to a monster move to Manchester City.
The forward has been in the England system since the U-16s and will be key to their summer hopes.
Diego Costa (Spain via Brazil)
A warrior born within Brazil’s interior could lead the line in bullish fashion for Spain in Russia.
Costa needs little introduction after his belligerent and productive exploits at Atletico Madrid (twice), plus Chelsea. He appears the antithesis of the patient ‘tiki-taka’ that delivered such glory from 2008-12, but successive regimes have tried to weld him into the Spanish system.
Whenever he’s on the pitch, entertainment, scandal and goals follow.
Pione Sisto (Denmark via Uganda)
It is safe to say that Sisto will have no memories of when he was a resident of Uganda.
His parents of South Sudanese-extraction would head to Denmark when he was aged just two months.
From there, the creative left winger’s excellent displays at Midtjylland would lead to La Liga’s Celta Vigo and the full Denmark side.
Himself and Christian Eriksen represent a supreme production line.
The World Cup 2018 is just around the corner and all 32 teams have announced their final squads.
There are plenty of young players who will be involved in Russia. In fact, there are seven teenagers at this edition of the World Cup.
We take you through the tournament’s 10 youngest participants.
10. LEE SEUNG-WOO | SOUTH KOREA | AGE: 20 | D.O.B: 06/01/98
Lee Seung-woo is the surprise inclusion in South Korea’s 23-man squad. The 20-year-old who plays for Verona in Serie B only made his debut last Monday in a 2-0 friendly win over Honduras but impressed enough to warrant a World Cup berth. The young winger is a product of La Masia and made one appearance for Barcelona B.
9. ISMAILA SARR | SENEGAL | AGE: 20 | D.O.B: 25/02/98
Ismaila Sarr began his professional career with French outfit Metz and moved on to Stade Rennais after just one season. He reportedly decided against a move to Barcelona to stay in French football. He’s a pacey winger who plays on either flank and has a penchant for the spectacular.
8. IAN SMITH | COSTA RICA | AGE: 20 | D.O.B: 06/03/98
Jose Salvatierra suffered an ACL tear during the qualification stage and that opened up a spot for a full-back in the squad. Ian Smith was called upon and has managed to remain in the squad for the World Cup. The 20-year-old right-back is plays in Sweden for Norrkoping.
7. JOSE LUIS RODRIGUEZ | PANAMA | AGE: 19 | D.O.B: 19/06/98
Panama have a rather aging squad but their average age would’ve been a lot older if it were not for 19-year-old Jose Luis Rodriguez. The midfielder plays for Gent’s B team in Belgium and only made his international debut on on 29 May 2018 in a 0–0 friendly home draw against Northern Ireland.
Gent II midfielder Jose Luis Rodriguez played his first match for Panama yesterday and is included on the 23-man World Cup squad. He's 19. Nurse, Blackburn left off up top.— Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) May 30, 2018
6. MOUSSA WAGUE | SENEGAL | AGE: 19 | D.O.B: 04/10/98
Moussa Wague joined Belgium outfit KAS Eupen shortly after his 18th birthday and made his professional debut in a 1–0 defeat to Genk. Wague came in fourth at the 2015 U-20 World Cup with Senegal. The 19-year-old right-back will provide cover for the established Alanyaspor defender Lamine Gassama in Russia.
5. TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD | ENGLAND | AGE: 19 | D.O.B: 07/10/98
Following a fine season with Liverpool, the youngster has prompted Gareth Southgate to include him in England’s World Cup squad having shown great composure in big games. A midfielder by trade, the 19-year-old has adjusted well to his right-back role as he helped Liverpool to a Champions League final berth.
4. FRANCIS UZOHO | NIGERIA | AGE: 19 | D.O.B: 28/10/98
The Nigerian’s age has already made headlines as he currently holds the record as the youngest foreign keeper to play in La Liga. Francis Uzoho plays for Deportivo la Coruna. At the age of 12, his coach deemed him too slow for a striker and stuck him in goal instead. He never looked back.
3. ACHRAF HAKIMI | MOROCCO | AGE: 19 | D.O.B: 04/11/98
The Moroccan made history as the first Arab to play for Real Madrid early on this past season. The 19-year-old impressed at right-back when asked to fill in for the injured Dani Carvajal and went on to make 17 appearances over the course of the season, scoring twice and winning the Champions League.
2. KYLIAN MBAPPE | FRANCE | AGE: 19 | D.O.B: 20/12/98
The French sensation needs no introduction. He followed on his tremendous breakthrough campaign with Monaco with a fine first season with Paris Saint-Germain. Despite living in the shadow of Neymar and Edinson Cavani, he scored 21 goals in 44 appearances and won the domestic treble. He’s tipped to take the World Cup by storm.
1. DANIEL ARZANI | AUSTRALIA | AGE: 19 | D.O.B: 04/01/99
He’s the only player at the World Cup who was born in the year 1999. Following a superb spell with Melbourne City in the A-League, he was called up to the national team and only made his debut against the Czech Republic earlier this week. The tricky winger has scored a couple of spectacular goals at club level.
The 22-year-old was a shock omission from Joachim Low’s final 23-man party for the tournament in Russia, having starred in City’s record-breaking Premier League campaign and been a regular in Germany’s recent matches.
A day after Low’s announcement, Sane issued a statement via his Twitter account which said: “Thank you so much everyone for your encouraging messages yesterday and today.
“I’m obviously disappointed I won’t participate in the World Cup but I have to accept this decision and I’ll give it my all to bounce back stronger!
“Nothing but the best of success to the DFB Team in Russia. Go get that title!”
Sane’s performances for City earned him the PFA young player of the year award as he scored 10 league goals and added 15 assists, second only to team-mate Kevin De Bruyne in that category.
Announcing his squad on Monday, Low said it was a “tight” call to leave Sane out as he favoured Julian Brandt of Bayer Leverkusen.
“In the end it was tight, both (Sane and Brandt) have great qualities, are fast and dribble,” he said.
“Julian Brandt had some good games at the Confederations Cup and was also very good in training, it was close.
“Leroy has a huge talent and he’ll be there again, and we’ll have to work more with him again from September onwards.”