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First Eleven – Dual Nationality

September 3, 2010

In the wake of the whole Mikel Arteta saga that has eventually seen him ruled out of the reckoning for an England call-up, the whole thing got me wondering. If there was a team put together of the greatest or best players to have played for two countries who would make up that team?

And after hours of research, I think I’ve got the team. Not quite the greatest of players, most of these guys have been born in a differing country to the one they represented or at the very least, played at under age level for one team and then changed their mind.

The formation of the team is a bit of a stretch. It seems that its hard to find a good ex-pat (is that a word I can use in this instance?) defensive unit so they’ll be looking to simply score more goals than the opposition rather than shutting them out. Starting with the leader of the attacking front line and the unquestionable captain…

Captain: #10 Alfredo Di Stéfano

Just one look at the right column of Alfredo Di Stéfano’s Wikipedia entry should tell you all you need to know about his international career. 6 caps and 6 goals for Argentina in 1947 and 4 caps for Colombia in 1949 before the first ever World Cup in 1950 actually saw FIFA banning Alfredo from competing at the tournament.

Twelve year later at the age of 36, he helped his third national side Spain qualify for the 1962 World Cup only for a muscle injury to rule him out. In that time, Di Stéfano had scored 23 times in 31 games for Spain.

29 goals in 41 caps for 3 countries. It goes without saying he would be wearing the armband for this mismatched band.

Goalkeeper: #1 Nilson

Nilson Corrêia Júnior has yet to actually play for two countries but he is included as the exception that can therefore prove the rule… or something.

Born and raised in Brazil, Nilson moved to Portugal in 2005 when he signed for Vitória S.C. He’s been there ever since and has subsequently qualified for Portuguese nationality. In the build-up to the 2010 World Cup, the Portuguese media were falling over themselves to encourage his inclusion into Carlos Queiroz’s squad but Nilson refused. Despite being constantly overlooked by Brazil and being the best goalkeeper in Portugal, Nilson has constantly insisted he does not feel Portuguese and has no desire to pull on that national shirt.

Right-back: #2 Bill Lacey

While known for having played in all 11 positions on a football pitch during his career, Bill Lacey finds himself slotted in the full back position of our back-three. The second player to play for both Ireland teams Lacey gets the nod as he was much more versatile than Dinny Hannon and at one point, was set to pull on some Dual Nationality gloves.

At it is, he’s made it in as one of the first players to represent the Belfast-based Ireland side and then move on to play for the Dublin-based Free State XI. During his club career, Lacey played for both Everton and Liverpool so it seems he knew all about crossing borders.

Left-back: #3 Nadir Belhadj

Easily the most recognisable name to all British football fans in the Algerian team, the inclusion of Nadir Belhadj in this eleven is not only a nod to him but the whole 23 man squad that went to the 2010 World Cup. National coach Rabah Saâdane raided the French league for as many players that qualified for Algeria as possible and in South Africa, quite a few members of the squad made their international debuts.

Belhadj is a perfectly acceptable attacking full back but he’s on the team sheet to represent a nation supplementing themselves rather nicely from being a former French colony.

Holding midfielder: #4 Edgar Davids

Given the attacking strength that I will eventually unveil, it felt right to weight down the Dual Nationality XI with two holding midfielders. Having been born in Suriname but capped by the Netherlands, Davids is the first of those two players.

Probably best known for the goggles that he wears while playing (most recently for Crystal Palace) ‘The Pitbull’ got the nod over more creative players because of his defensive discipline.

Central defender: #5 Marcel Desailly

Based on the couple of times that I have seen Marcel acting as a TV pundit on ITV (here and here), I really doubt that there has been a point in the life of Marcel Desailly when he has declared his nationality as French.

Watch those two videos and then try to argue with me.

Despite representing France an incredible 116 times, he is most definitely Ghanaian; and that’s why he is my defensive rock.

Holding midfielder: #6 Owen Hargreaves

Very rarely in the instances of swapping nationalities do players ‘trade up.’  They mostly tend to struggle to get into the team of a successful team so have to slum it in a team that they qualify for through their grandparents.

But in the case of Mister Hargreaves, it is obvious to say that is the case. Born in Canada to a Welsh mother and English father, the croaked star tried to complicate things much further when he gained German citizenship while at Bayern Munich as a teenager. And he even pulled out of a Wales Under 21 squad at the last-minute to make sure he could one day play for England. He did; but its unlikely he will be doing it again.

Inside-left: #7 Giuseppe Rossi

Following close behind Owen in the trading up stakes is my left winger-slash-support striker Giuseppe Rossi. Despite being born and initially educated in America, Rossi always made it clear that he wanted to become an Italian international thanks to his Italian parentage. Initially signed by Parma at the tender age of 12 and then later to Manchester United, Rossi played for Italy at as many age groups as he could before America came a calling.

USA coach at the time Bruce Arena invited Rossi into his pre-World Cup training squad despite him being just 19. As you should know, Rossi declined and instead made the jump into the full Italian team less than 18 months later. If he’d have joined up with the Americans, he would probably be known as the new Freddy Adu by now.

Central midfielder: #8 Benny Feilhaber

Not a well-known name by any stretch of the imagination, Benny Feilhaber secures his place in the Dual Nationality XI by having the most chaotic line-up of potential countries to choose from. Rather than selecting a naturalised Brazilian in the team, Feilhaber actually qualified for both Austria and Brazil from birth. Born to Austrian parents in Brazil who fled the Nazi regime in Europe, Feilhaber was moved to the U.S.A. when he was six.

Having played for Hamburg in Germany, Derby County in England and now AGF in Denmark, Feihaber is arguably the most interesting of the whole team. Arguably.

Striker: #9 Ferenc Puskás

A one-time strike partner of our team captain, Ferenc Puskás scored 515 times in 533 club appearance and 84 times in 89 international appearances. There was no way I was leaving the guy out of the team.

A legend for Kispest and Budapest Honvéd at club level as well as his native Hungary, Puskás played for Spain four times after moving to Real Madrid in 1958. The prolific hitman won the European Cup with the Spanish club and scoring 157 times for them.

He never scored for Spain in the 4 games he played for them; but I won’t hold that against him.

Inside-right: #11 Tony Cascarino

It’s rumoured that the first time Tony Cascarino stepped foot in Ireland, it was to play for the Republic of Ireland. The same has been said of the many English-born players that followed Cascarino’s lead around the mid-to-late 80s and pulled on the green shirts. It is a large group that has gone on to include 100-man Kevin Kilbane, with all the players taking advantage of the ‘grandparents rule.’ Though, it has seemingly always been to the advantage of the Irish team… generally.

That said, few have been so transparent with it as ‘Cas’. In his autobiography, Tony refers to himself as ‘A Fake Irishman’ and nothing else. He never tried to hide the fact that he was just happy to be playing football at an international level.

Dual National First XI

And there you have it. My Dual Nationality First XI. Agree or disagree with any of my selections? Please let me know.

This article can also be found on Just Football and via the link here: Dual Nationality XI – A team of two countries

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