The FIFA World Cup is no doubt a time that brings nations together and gets families to sit around the TV like the days of old, cheering on their respective national teams and the plethora of players that come along for the chance to play for their countries of origin … to carry the flag for their people and make their nations proud.
The World Cup has always brought out a sense of patriotism in the athletes and the fans alike, as well as a showing of good sportsmanship (for the most part) on all sides. But at the same time, an overall sense of the whole world coming together to compete for the greatest soccer trophy and title in the world is something that is very palpable in the air as the summer draws near and that first whistle calls out for the first game to start.
Now, in 2018, many countries have laid claim to the trophy and all these years later, the world is still deeply interested if not more than ever.
However, what is very interesting is that there are in fact many players that are not exactly playing for their countries of origin, or the countries they were born in, but for whatever set of circumstances, are playing for other nations altogether when it comes to game time on the international level; predominantly the biggest stage of them all: The FIFA World Cup.
So as you enjoy this year’s World Cup, take a look at this article and see who made the list—from the past and the present.
20 Lukas Podolski
He was born in Gliwice, Poland, but yet this 33 year old forward played his international soccer for Germany. He represented Germany in the 2006 World Cup, the 2010, and the 2014. He retired from international play in 2017, after scoring the winning goal in a match against England. He still plays pro soccer in Japan.
Despite not being both there, he is considered one of the greatest German players in history.
He is known for his very powerful left kick, which has been known to be very precise. He is third in the list of most-capped players for Germany, with a whopping 130 caps.
Brazilian soccer is no doubt one of the most elite styles of play in the world … hence that’s why the national team has won so many World Cups to date: 5 times total!
Yet this soccer player opted to play for Portugal, despite having been born in the South American country.
His first appearance in the World Cup was back in 2010. He then appeared and played in 2014 and is in active play this year as well, and right into the action he has delved, playing hard and fast for Portugal, who definitely have a strong team this year.
18 Thiago Motta
This former midfielder played his club soccer in Italy, with Genoa and Inter-Milan, in Spain with Barcelona, and in France with Paris Saint-Germain. He enjoys having 27 major titles to his name, representing all his hard work and dedication to the sport within these clubs and others.
He was actually born in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, yet he played his international play with Italy. Despite the fact that he did play with Brazil for a short time, FIFA allowed Motta to transfer and he did represent Italy at the international level and more importantly in World Cup in 2014.
17 Diego Costa
This young man was born in Lagarto, Brazil back in 1988. He’s by no means an old man; at 29 years old, he’s a leading player for Atletico Madrid, the soccer club he plays his season soccer for these days. Although this gentleman played national soccer with Brazil, he put in a request to change nationalities.
In 2013, The Spanish Football Federation were on board with his request and petitioned the change of nationality, putting in a request to FIFA. On the 5th of March, of 2014, he played his first friendly game with Spain, but was unfortunately disgraced in Brazil. He is currently playing for Spain in this year’s World Cup.
16 Jonathan de Guzman
Now here’s a young midfielder who was born way between the Northern shores of Canada in Scarborough, Ontario, yet plays his soccer elsewhere. He plays his club/season soccer in Germany with Eintracht Frankfurt and his international soccer with The Netherlands. He is known as a free kick specialist whose precision is like no other on the field.
He was considered for the Canadian team, but was accepted to play for the Netherlands by FIFA officials.
He played in the 2014 World Cup and his participation was no doubt key to their progression among the ranks that year. They made third place, having won many of their matches with high scores.
15 Kevin-Prince Boateng
Here’s Jonathan de Guzman’s teammate from Eintracht Frankfurt, Kevin- Prince Boateng. He was born in Germany, but is of Ghanaian descent. He actually played with Germany’s youth team, but internationally plays with Ghana. He has said that he “feels” more like a citizen of Ghana.
He represented the African Country in the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups, with the 2014 outing having ended badly with a suspension for disciplinary reasons.
He is rather famous for his aggression as a midfielder, as well for his spectuclar finish against Barcelona as a member of AC Milan. He is also known for his strength and superior speed.
14 Jose Bosingwa
So on the 24th of August, 1982, the now 35 year old Jose Bosingwa was born in Mbandaka, Zaire, although his father was Portuguese and his mother was from Congo. He’s definitely a wonderful meshing of beautiful cultures, but he feels most at peace with himself playing for the Portuguese national team and did so from 2007 until 2015.
His club soccer has been played in Chelsea and with Porto - two very important teams, as well as others.
He is now retired from international play and regular season play, but leaves behind a legacy of a whopping 13 titles with Chelsea and Porto and that’s not too shabby at all.
13 Patrice Evra
Well, this controversial star is definitely no doubt a stranger to being written about and., in a brief moment, you’ll be privy to exactly why.
In 1981, the now 37 year old was actually born in Dakar, Senegal. He started playing soccer in the streets, literally, before moving up to more professional fare. He has played with Juventus, Marseille and West Ham—all great teams. On the international level, he played for France, despite his origins.
Known for a few altercations off the field, in 2017, the soccer player resembled Jean-Claude Van Damme when he karate kicked a fan on the sidelines.
He was not called upon to play for France this year.
12 Marcel Desailly
Marcel Desailly is a legend in the sport of soccer. Fans around the world know him to have played for the French national team and for successfully helping to bring home the World Cup back in 1998 and the Euro Cup in 2000. But what most don’t know, and staying in the theme of this article, is that he was actually born in Accra, Ghana.
He is now retired, but in his day, he definitely was a force not to be messed with in the midfield. He was in the defensive midfield and many forwards of the era will no doubt tell you: he was impossible to get around in those days.
11 Mauro Camoranesi
This 41 year old winger started his career back in 1995. He was actually born in Argentina and started playing pro soccer there. He moved on to Mexico and finally Italy where he eventually played for the famed club Juventus after a stint in Verona. It was there where this talented player made headlines for his skill and dedication to the sport.
Interestingly enough, he was able to get an Italian citizenship because of a great-grandfather who emigrated from Italy to Argentina back in 1873 … ancient history indeed. Regardless, he was able to choose between the two nations when it came to international play. He chose Italy and represented the team many times at the World Cup, winning the title back in 2006.
10 Alfredo Di Stéfano
We’re going way back with this entry on this list, as we should … soccer is an old sport and going back in time is often good, as it educates younger fans of what came before.
Alfredo Di Stéfano was actually born in Argentina way back in 1926, on the fourth of July. Of course back then, things were a little different and the regulations that FIFA has now set up were a tad different, to say the least, but Di Stefano is the only player on this list to have played for many international teams--and so extensively, which is something that would not ever happen today, but he predominantly played for Spain.
This centerback was born in Sao Vicente, Cape Verde, Africa. The imposing 6 foot 2 player started in the youth ranks in Portugal however. He moved there when he was 14 and became an official citizen in 2006, so he immediately started to play for Portugal’s under 21 squad. He has since moved up, representing the country many times in international competition.
His seasonal play has been decorated with many successes as well and he has played for many prestigious teams that include: Porto, Napoli and Inter Milan, and even Marseille of the French League.
His real name is Claudemir Jeronimo Barretto and he was born in Santo Andre, Sao Paolo, Brazil. He is famously known, however, as Cacau. He is now retired from the sport, but he played his international soccer with Germany, having gotten his citizenship with the country back in February of 2009.
He played his club soccer in both Germany and even in Japan, with Cerezo, Osaka. Internationally, he played in the 2010 World Cup as well as many other competitions.
He was predominantly a striker and his style of play not only garnered him quite the reputation on the field, but even the nickname: “Helmut.”
7 Giuseppe Rossi
This forward currently plays his soccer in Italy with Genoa. But as it turns out, this 31 year old soccer star was actually born in the beautiful United States of America … specifically, Teaneck, New Jersey. Although he was of Italian descent, he was more eligible to appear on MTV’s The Jersey Shore than to have a spot on the Italian national soccer team, but that’s how these things sometimes go, as we’re seeing in this article.
He is an exception on our list, but definitely deserves mentioning, as he never actually played in the World Cup, but came close twice, having played the qualifiers, but not making the final 23 man selection due to injuries.
6 Claude Makélélé
Born in Kinshasa, Zaire, the five foot six mid-fielder, Makélélé, was an immovable force on the field and a legend in the sport of soccer. He is now head coach at K.A.S. Eupen in The Belgian First Division A.
His reputation definitely precedes him and for good reason. He had fantastic seasons during his decorated career, playing predominantly for Celta Vigo, Real Madrid and, of course, Chelsea, where he is renowned.
Internationally, he played with the French national team, but sadly wasn't part of the 1998/2000 teams that brought home titles. Interestingly enough, he was coerced out of retirement in 2006 to help the team qualify for that year’s cup.
5 Patrick Vieira
He currently manages Nice in the French league, but as a player, he played in the midfield for his whole career. He debuted in Cannes at the tender age of 17 and actually captained the team at 19. He then went on to play for some rather elite European teams, which include: AC Milan, Arsenal, Juventus and Inter Milan. He had a very distinguished career and his fame and accolades are well deserved.
He played internationally for France, although he was born in Dakar, Senegal. He and his family moved to France when he was eight years old. He was part of the famed 1998 team that brought the World Cup home for France, as well as making many other international appearances.
4 Wilfried Zaha
Born in November of 1992 and in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Africa, this winger has had a decent career. His full name is Dazet Wilfried Armel Zaha and he has played his club soccer with Crystal Palace and Manchester United.
Now what’s interesting about this player is that he has represented two countries internationally and is a perfect example of where there’s a will, there’s a way, and if one is good enough at what he/she does, then a bending of the rules is like a simple turning of the head.
He played for England, but as of 2016 to the present day, he represents the Ivory Coast Internationally.
3 Christian Benteke
Kinshasa is the capital of The Democratic Republic of Congo and is near the famed Congo River. It is also the place of birth of Christian Benteke. He was born on the 3rd of December in 1990 and started playing soccer as soon as he could walk or roundabouts.
His club career has taken him to many great teams which include Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Liverpool.
Internationally, he has played with Belgium and was part of the squad that competed in the qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Unfortunately he was out of the finals due to a severe injury. He was also left out of the final 23 man team that competes this year.
2 Gerald Asamoah
Renowned for his strength and tireless pace on the field, Gerald Asamoah was born in Mampong, Ghana. A talented forward, he has had quite the impressive career and he has collected quite a few honors and accolades for his troubles.
He played his club soccer with Hannover 96 and FC Schalke 04. He played a whopping 275 games in the respected league in just 11 years … quite the impressive accomplishment.
Internationally though, he played with Germany and played in the 2002 and the 2006 World Cups. He broke a record, as he was the very first African born black male to ever play for Germany internationally.
He is now retired, but in his day, Deco was a powerful attacking midfielder who has left in his wake quite the legacy and a career he can most definitely be very proud of. He was born in Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil back in 1977. He played with many decorated clubs in Europe which included: Porto, Barcelona, Chelsea and Fluminense.
Internationally, he played with Portugal; coincidentally, his first international game pitted him against Brazil of all countries.
He competed in the 2006 World Cup and the 2010 one as well. He retired in 2013 after a pretty serious injury to his hamstring. He retired from professional play with 75 caps and 5 goals.