Saturday 20 July 2019

One in three players at Euro 2016 could play for another country

Just under half of Ireland's 23-man squad could play for another country
Just under half of Ireland's 23-man squad could play for another country

Alistair Tweedale

As Great Britain prepare for a referendum that could shape immigration laws for years to come, Home Nations England and Wales head to the European Championship with two of the most diverse squads at the tournament.

More than half of the players selected by Roy Hodgson and Chris Coleman for Euro 2016 could have opted to pledge their international footballing careers to other countries.

In fact, this will be a tournament of exceptional diversity, with 166 of the 552 players who have gone to France - nearly a third - having roots outside the nation they will be representing, according to research by NetBet.

Countries represented at Euro 2016 range from Guadeloupe and Indonesia to Nigeria and Pakistan, while almost all of the squads have at least one player who could have gone to the tournament with another qualifying European nation.

Hosts France boast the most multicultural squad, with 15 of their 23 players eligible to play for another country, most of whom have parents who migrated to Europe from Africa. This fact rather makes a mockery of the comments made by Eric Cantona last week, which Bacary Sagna branded as 'stupid'.

Switzerland and Albania are next in the list, with 14 and 13 players, respectively, who could have chosen another country.

Interestingly, those teams, who meet on Saturday in Lens, have multiple players who could have ended up on either side. Albania could field as many as six players who are eligible for Switzerland, including midfielder Taulant Xhaka, who will come up against his brother - Arsenal's latest signing Granit Xhaka.

It will be the first time two brothers have faced off at a European Championship, though Jerome Boateng did play against his brother, Kevin-Prince, when Germany played Ghana at the World Cup in Brazil two years ago.

Wales and the Republic of Ireland have 10 players who could have played for another country, while Northern Ireland have six.

At the bottom of the table, Romania are the only nation heading to Euro 2016 without a single player who is eligible for another country, while Iceland, Czech Republic and Slovakia each have just one such player in their squads.

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