From Mbappe to Musiala: Every single World Cup player who could have played for an African nation

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Mbappe, Saka, Gakpo, Musiala
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830 players have been involved at the 2022 World Cup, but how many of them could have played for African nations?
  1. Nathan Ake

    Nathan Ake

    Ake’s father—Moise—is from the Cote d’Ivoire, and there were rumours earlier in his career that he might be primed to represent the Elephants in international football.

    Ultimately, he plumped for the Netherlands, graduating to the seniors in 2017 after working his way up through the ranks.

  2. Jeremie Frimpong

    Jeremie Frimpong

    Frimpong can still play for either England or Ghana, via his mother, as he’s yet to make his debut for the senior Dutch side.

    That could all change if the Bayer Leverkusen man makes his debut during the tournament.

  3. Cody Gakpo

    Cody Gakpo

    One of the stars of the World Cup so far, expect the PSV Eindhoven man to be playing for one of Europe’s biggest clubs in 2023.

    Already a Netherlands hero after his performances during the group stage, Gakpo could have played for Togo or Ghana via his father.

  4. Memphis Depay

    Memphis Depay

    A third player in the Dutch squad who could have represented Ghana, how different could things have been for the Black Stars if they could have called upon Memphis and Gakpo!

    Currently with Barcelona, he has an enviable scoring record with the Dutch national side.

  5. Musab Kheder

    The first of several Sudanese representatives in this Qatar squad, he was born in Khartoum but has spent the entirety of his senior career in his new homeland.

  6. Abdelkarim Hassan
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    Abdelkarim Hassan

    2018 Asian Footballer of the Year Hassan was born in Doha to Sudanese parents.

    Nicknamed ‘The Flamethrower’, he was one of Qatar’s better performers during the World Cup.

  7. Meshaal Barsham
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    Meshaal Barsham

    More Sudanese representation in the Qatar team, Barsham came into the side after Saad al-Sheeb was ditched following the hosts’ opening match at the tournament.

    He did make a few smart saves against Senegal and the Netherlands as Qatar tumbled out of the competition.

  8. Assim Madibo
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    Assim Madibo

    Born in Doha to Sudanese parents, Madibo has been likened to N’Golo Kante for his playing style.

  9. Ahmed Alaaeldin
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    Ahmed Alaaeldin

    Egypt may not have qualified for the World Cup, but they were still represented by Ismailia-born Alaaeldin.

    He got some playing time in the defeat by the Dutch.

  10. Mohammed Muntari

    Mohammed Muntari

    The only Qatar international ever to score in a World Cup, Muntari will go down in history, even if his goal against Senegal wasn’t able to prevent defeat.

    He was raised in Ghana, learning his trade at the academy established by former PSV Eindhoven wonderkid Nii Lamptey.

  11. Almoez Ali
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    Almoez Ali

    Captain of Qatari heavyweights Al-Duhail, Ali was born in Sudan before moving to Qatar as a child.

    He was at the centre of an eligibility dispute during the Asian Cup in 2019.

  12. Akram Afif

    Akram Afif

    Doha-born wideman who has origins in East Africa.

    Afif’s mother is Yememi while his father is from the Somali-Yemeni Benadiri people.

    Afif senior, who was born in Tanzania, played football in the Somali top flight for eight-time champions Horseed FC.

  13. Karim Boudiaf

    Karim Boudiaf

    Energetic France-born midfielder who could have featured for either Algeria or Morocco.

    The 32-year-old is one of 100 centurions in the Qatar squad.

  14. Abdulaziz Hatem
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    Abdulaziz Hatem

    Sudanese-origin midfielder who was sensational in the 2019 Asian Cup, netting in both the semi and the final.

    He was unable to repeat these heroics at the World Cup.

  15. Ro-Ro
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    Portugal-born defender of Cape Verdean origin, utility man Ro-Ro featured in all of Qatar’s group games.

    He’s been in the tiny Gulf country since joining Al Ahly Doha in 2011.

  16. Boualem Khoukhi
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    Boualem Khoukhi

    Algeria-born defender who has over a century of caps for Qatar after moving to the country in 2009.

    His error cost Qatar against Senegal in their group-stage defeat.

  17. Bukayo Saka

    Bukayo Saka

    Super Eagles supporters dreamed that Saka would represent Nigeria at senior level, but the Arsenal star ultimately broke hearts in West Africa by opting for England.

    He starred at the Euros last year, and already has three goals in this World Cup.

  18. Yunus Musah

    Yunus Musah

    Eligible for the USA, Italy, England and Ghana (through his parents), Musah represented England at youth level and appeared set for an international future with the Three Lions.

    Ultimately, the US got there first, with Musah quickly being identified as the future of their midfield.

    Gareth Southgate tried to change his mind, but it proved to be in vain for England.

  19. Haji Wright

    Haji Wright

    Like Canada’s Alphonso Davies, Wright could have represented either Liberia or Ghana at international level.

    Born in California, however, he’s been part of the USA set-up since the U-15s, and featured in every match at the World Cup.

  20. Timothy Weah
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    Timothy Weah

    The son of Liberia’s greatest ever player, and the only African Ballon d’Or winner, Timothy opted to represent the land of his birth—USA—rather than the country of his father.

    George Weah was present to watch his son in action at the World Cup, having never had the opportunity to play in the tournament himself with the Lone Stars.

  21. Ethan Ampadu
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    Ethan Ampadu

    Former Chelsea wonderkid who’s currently on loan at Spezia.

    Ampadu already has 40 Welsh caps but he could have also represented England, the Republic of Ireland, or Ghana.

  22. Ben Cabango
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    Ben Cabango

    Cabango’s Angolan father coached the boy’s youth team during his days growing up in Wales, with the young Swansea City man ultimately opting to represent the land of his birth.

    Cabango was unused for Wales during their brief World Cup campaign.

  23. Sorba Thomas
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    Sorba Thomas

    The Wales international was actually called up for England’s C team in 2020, but ultimately opted to represent his mother’s country.

    His dad is from Sierra Leone.

  24. Thomas Deng
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    Thomas Deng

    Captained Australia at the 2020 Olympics, Deng was born in Kenya to a family of refugees from South Sudan.

    He was unused by the Socceroos in Qatar.

  25. Awer Mabil
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    Awer Mabil

    Close friend of Deng, Mabil took a similar route to the Australia national side, having also been born to South Sudanese immigrants in a Kenyan refugee game.

    He currently plays in La Liga for Cadiz, and featured twice at the World Cup.

  26. Keanu Baccus
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    Keanu Baccus

    Providing rare South African representation at the World Cup, Baccus was born in Durban but came through the academy at Western Sydney Wanderers.

    He featured in every one of Australia’s games in Qatar.

  27. Garang Kuol
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    Garang Kuol

    Born in Egypt to parents from South Sudan, Kuol’s family had arrived in the North African nation before eventually moving to Australia.

    He made his debut for his adopted nation earlier this year.

  28. Alexander Bah
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    Alexander Bah

    Lightning full-back who was eligible for The Gambia through his father.

    Czech champion with Slavia Prague, he’s currently with Portuguese giants Benfica.

  29. Yussuf Poulsen
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    Yussuf Poulsen

    Born in Copenhagen to a Tanzanian father, Poulsen has made over 60 appearances for the Danish national side since making his debut eight years ago.

    Admired for his work rate, although his progress has slowed in recent years amidst injury problems.

  30. Steve Mandanda
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    Steve Mandanda

    Long-term understudy to Hugo Lloris, who nonetheless has amassed 35 caps for France.

    Born in Kinshasa, DRC, his brother Parfait represented the Leopards at senior level.

  31. Axel Disasi
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    Axel Disasi

    A late arrival in the camp, stepping in for Presnel Kimpembe, Disasi could have featured for either DR Congo or Angola.

    He made his France debut in the shock 1-0 defeat by Tunisia.

  32. Jules Kounde

    Jules Kounde

    Barcelona defender who was heavily linked with Chelsea during his time at Sevilla.

    Of Beninese origin, he made his France debut last year, and has featured in three of France’s matches so far this term.

  33. Dayot Upamecano
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    Dayot Upamecano

    Born in Normandy, Upamecano’s descendents were royalty in Guinea-Bissau.

    He’s establishing himself as one of Europe’s most rounded centre-backs at Bayern Munich, but there have been indications during the World Cup that he can be a starting player for France.

  34. William Saliba
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    William Saliba

    One of the breakout stars of the Premier League season, at Arsenal, Saliba has made the step up comfortably to international football.

    He could be a feature in the France backline for a decade, having opted to represent Les Bleus ahead of Cameroon.

  35. Youssouf Fofana
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    Youssouf Fofana

    AS Monaco regular who’s taken part in each of France’s matches so far, representing a creative and technically proficient presence in Les Bleus’ midfield.

    Born in Paris, he’s of Malian descent.

  36. Ibrahima Konate

    Ibrahima Konate

    A revelation at Liverpool last season, Konate featured in the Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid, and made his international debut in June.

    Born to Malian parents, he featured in each of France’s group-stage games.

  37. Matteo Guendouzi
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    Matteo Guendouzi

    Guendouzi was made to wait for his France debut, only finally turning out for the reigning world champions in 2021.

    Ex-Morocco manager Herve Renard attempted to convince the midfielder to switch to the Atlas Lions—even meeting the player’s father in 2017—but ultimately he was unable to compel Guendouzi to ditch France.

  38. Aurelien Tchouameni
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    Aurelien Tchouameni

    Tchouameni’s performances in France’s midfield have (so far) helped Les Bleus get over the absences of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.

    The 22-year-old is of Cameroonian descent, and scored his first international goal against former African champions Ivory Coast.

  39. Eduardo Camavinga
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    Eduardo Camavinga

    Camavinga has long been tipped among Europe’s brightest young talents, and has been developing his game effectively since leaving Stade Rennais for Real Madrid in a €31 million deal.

    Born in Cabinda, Angola, he demonstrated his versatility by impressing for France at left-back against Tunisia, tying with Ibrahima Konate for the most tackles in a single World Cup match.

    Camavinga also has Congolese origins.

  40. Kylian Mbappe

    Kylian Mbappe

    France’s superstar, and currently leading the Golden Boot race at the 2022 tournament, Mbappe has origins in both Cameroon (father) and Algeria (mother), but ultimately opted to represent the land of his birth.

    The striker, who idolised another Franco-Algerian—Zinedine Zidane—growing up, was influential as France won the World Cup in Russia, 2018.

  41. Ousmane Dembele
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    Ousmane Dembele

    Starting right-sider for France who excelled in France’s opening victory over Australia, having finally appeared to have found his place in Didier Deschamps’ plans.

    He could have represented Senegal or Mauritius via his mother, or Mali via his dad.

  42. Randal Kolo Muani
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    Randal Kolo Muani

    A late arrival in the squad, replacing Christopher Nkunku, Muani featured for France in the defeat by Tunisia.

    Born in Parisian suburbs to Congolese parents.

  43. Antonio Rudiger
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    Antonio Rudiger

    Real Madrid defender who grew up in Berlin to a Sierra Leonean mother, although there was never any doubt that he’d represent Germany.

    The centre-back has invested heavily in the West African country, and used all of his World Cup bonus to fund surgeries for children in Sierra Leone.

  44. Armel Bella-Kotchap
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    Armel Bella-Kotchap

    The son of a former Cameroon international, Bella-Kotchap only got the call from Germany in September, with the Indomitable Lions entirely missing out on the young Southampton defender.

    He didn’t feature at the World Cup.

  45. Jamal Musiala
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    Jamal Musiala

    Another player who snubbed both England and Nigeria to represent another country, Musiala still excelled at the World Cup despite Germany’s early exit.

    His dynamism in midfield, positive attitude, and immense creativity set him apart during a poor campaign for the former winners.

  46. Serge Gnabry

    Serge Gnabry

    Former Arsenal wonderkid who’s overcome early-career struggles to star in Germany with Bayern Munich.

    Gnabry was eligible for the Ivory Coast, although reports that his dad represented the Elephants were inaccurate.

  47. Leroy Sane
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    Leroy Sane

    Speedy wideman who’s the son of former Senegal international Souleyman Sane.

    Imagine what the Teranga Lions could have achieved if they’d been able to have paired Sane with Sadio Mane at the 2022 World Cup.

  48. Karim Adeyemi

    Another Nigerian starlet to have been snapped up by Germany, Adeyemi has developed his game at Red Bull Salzburg after leaving Bayern Munich.

    He made his international debut in September 2021, and has been tipped for a move to Liverpool, among others.

  49. Youssoufa Moukoko
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    Youssoufa Moukoko

    The youngest ever play to play and score in the Bundesliga, Moukoko was tipped by Samuel Eto’o to become Barcelona’s long-term replacement for Lionel Messi.

    The Fecafoot president will surely be gutted that Moukoko opted for an international future with Germany rather than Cameroon.

  50. Alejandro Balde
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    Alejandro Balde

    New arrival in the Spain squad, 19-year-old Balde looks set to be the long-term successor to Jordi Alba.

    A €500 million-release clause in his Barcelona contract is evidence of how highly the club rate the Bissau-Guinean wonderkid.

  51. Nico Williams
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    Nico Williams

    While brother Inaki Williams opted to give up on further Spain caps in order to pursue an international future with Ghana, Nico featured for La Roja at the World Cup after making his debut earlier this year.

    He threatened to make an impact for Spain after coming off the bench in their Last 16 defeat by Morocco.

  52. Ansu Fati
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    Ansu Fati

    Guinea-Bissau-born wonderkid who is the youngest player ever to represent Spain, having made his debut at 17 years and 311 days.

    Injury has subsequently slowed his progress in the intervening years.

  53. Youri Tielemans
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    Youri Tielemans

    Eligible for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tielemans is one of several dual nationality players in this tournament who are tipped for a major transfer in 2023.

    His mother is Congolese.

  54. Amadou Onana
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    Amadou Onana

    Summer signing at Everton, who recruited him in a £31.5 million deal from LOSC Lille, Onana has Senegalese and Cameroonian origins.

    He didn’t make an impression at the World Cup, but looks to have a big future in Belgium’s midfield.

  55. Romelu Lukaku
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    Romelu Lukaku

    One of several Belgian superstars coming off a miserable World Cup, Lukaku’s father Roger represented the Democratic Republic of Congo at senior level.

  56. Michy Batshuayi
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    Michy Batshuayi

    Instead of vying with Lukaku for minutes with the national side, the pair could both have been turning out for the DRC.

    Batshuayi was born in Brussels to parents from the former Zaire.

  57. Lois Openda
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    Lois Openda

    Approached by Morocco before committing to Belgium, Openda also has Congolese origins.

    He made his debut earlier this year, but only featured in one game for the Red Devils in Qatar.

  58. Jeremy Doku
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    Jeremy Doku

    It’s been a disastrous World Cup for Belgium, and it’s surely time for the new blood like Doku to be fast-tracked into the starting XI.

    He needs to work on his consistency, but expect Doku to make Ghana regret not snapping him up before Belgium got there.

  59. Sam Adekugbe

    Sam Adekugbe

    Adventurous left-back who featured in each of Canada’s group-stage games, Adekugbe was actually born in London to Nigerian parents.

    He became eligible for Canada after moving to the North American country as a 10-year-old.

  60. Richie Laryea
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    Richie Laryea

    One of several Canada players who impressed during the group stage, Laryea caught the eye with his fast, direct dribbling.

    He could have represented Ghana’s Black Stars.

  61. Ismael Kone
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    Ismael Kone

    Arguably underused by Canada at this World Cup, Kone was born in Abidjan but moved to Canada at the age of seven.

    He settled at Montreal, and represented his boyhood club before signing for Watford during the World Cup.

  62. Ike Ugbo
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    Ike Ugbo

    London-born Ugbo came through the Chelsea academy and became one of the club’s loan army before signing permanently for Genk in 2021.

    He opted for Canada in 2021, despite having represented England at youth level. The forward could have represented Nigeria via his parents.

  63. Alphonso Davies
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    Alphonso Davies

    Canada and Bayern Munich sensation who could have represented either Liberia or Ghana.

    He was born in a Ghanaian refugee camp to Liberian parents fleeing the county’s second civil war.

    The family eventually emigrated to Canada—a decision which was directly led to an upturn in the nation’s footballing future.

  64. Edimilson Fernandes
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    Edimilson Fernandes

    Part of the celebrated Fernandes football family—a relative of ex-Portugal midfielder Manuel Fernandes and former Switzerland man Gelson Fernandes—Edimilson was born in Sion and been representing the Swiss since 2016.

    Another cousin, Cabral, chose to play for Cape Verde, but Edimilson seemingly didn’t fancy turning out for the islanders.

  65. Manuel Akanji
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    Manuel Akanji

    What a defensive asset Akanji could have been for Nigeria had he opted to represent the land of his father.

    Instead, the Manchester City man chose Switzerland, and is closing in on a half century of senior caps.

  66. Denis Zakaria

    Denis Zakaria

    He may be struggling to make an impact at Chelsea, but Zakaria has been a key element of the Swiss national side for the last six years.

    He was born in Switzerland to parents from South Sudan and Congo-Brazzaville.

  67. Djibril Sow
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    Djibril Sow

    Eligible for Senegal, Sow instead chose to play for Switzerland—the land of his birth—and has been involved in the international set-up since 2013.

    His cousin, Coumba, plays for the Swiss women’s team.

  68. Breel Embolo
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    Breel Embolo

    Yaounde-born frontman who made headlines earlier in the World Cup when he scored against the country of his birth—Cameroon.

    Embolo was praised by Indomitable Lions head coach Rigobert Song after refusing to celebrate the goal.

  69. Noah Okafor
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    Noah Okafor

    Despite being eligible for Nigeria—father his father—Okafor opted for the land of his birth, and has been representing Switzerland since U-15 level.

  70. William Carvalho

    William Carvalho

    Born in Luanda, the Angolan capital, Carvalho moved to Portugal as a youngster and made his international debut in 2013 after coming through the youth ranks.

    For a long time rumoured for a move to the Premier League—specifically Arsenal—he eventually left Sporting Lisbon for Real Betis in 2018.

  71. Rafael Leao
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    Rafael Leao

    Portugal-born, to Angolan parents, Leao has caught the eye on the left flank in a few brief World Cup cameos.

    He’s been tipped for a move to Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid among others.

  72. Nuno Mendes

    Nuno Mendes

    Yet another potential Angola international in this Portugal squad, Nuno Mendes was raised in Lisbon and made his name with hometown club Sporting before signing for Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

  73. Joao Mario
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    Joao Mario

    Also of Angolan descent, Joao Mario was part of the Portugal squad that won the European Championship in 2016.

  74. Danilo Pereira
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    Danilo Pereira

    Born in Bissau, the defensive utility man moved to Portugal when he was five, and came through the academy at Benfica before moving to Italy with Parma.

    He’s been with PSG since 2020.