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11th Jul 2022

7 footballers who switched national teams after being capped

Simon Lloyd

Iñaki Williams has joined a select club

Athletic Club forward Iñaki Williams recently made headlines by announcing his intention to play for Ghana, turning his back on the Spanish national team after being capped for La Roja at senior level in 2016.

Williams was born in Bilbao to Ghanaian parents, making him eligible to represent the African nation despite his previous appearance for the country of his birth.

In making the switch, Williams joins a select group of players who have represented more than one national team at senior level. Here are seven more members of said club.

Declan Rice

Rice has become a key performer for Gareth Southgate’s England side, playing an important role in their run to the final of Euro 2020. Although born in London, the midfielder’s paternal grandparents were from Cork, meaning he qualified to play for the Republic of Ireland.

Along with England teammate Jack Grealish, Rice played for the Republic of Ireland at junior level. While Grealish never represented them at senior level, Rice did – making three appearances under Martin O’Neill. Crucially, those caps were earned in friendlies, permitting Rice to declare his international allegiance to England in 2019.

Wilfried Zaha

Wilfried Zaha made two appearances for England under Roy Hodgson, appearing as a substitute in friendlies against Scotland and Sweden. He also represented the Three Lions across junior age groups.

Zaha was born in Abidjan, moving to London with his family at the age of four. In 2016, three years on from making his debut for England, he announced he would be playing for the Ivory Coast.

Diego Costa

Born in the Brazilian municipality of Lagarto, Diego Costa made two appearances for the country of his birth in March 2013, playing in friendlies against Italy in Geneva and then Russia in London.

Later that same year the Royal Spanish Football Federation submitted an official request to FIFA for permission to select Costa, who had been playing in Spain for several years.

The request was granted and the striker went on to play for Spain at the 2014 World Cup, held in Brazil.

footballers switched national teams

Nacer Chadli

Former Tottenham midfielder Nacer Chadli was born in Liege. He held dual citizenship with Morocco, who handed him an international debut in a friendly against Northern Ireland in 2010.

That was Chadli’s only appearance for the African nation. The following year he announced his intention to play for Belgium and made his debut for the Red Devils against Finland. The following month, he scored his first international goal in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Azerbaijan in Brussels.

Alfredo Di Stefano

Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano played for a total of three national teams throughout his illustrious career – though his appearances for Colombia are not officially recognised by FIFA. Born in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, he made his debut for La Albiceleste in 1947, when playing for River Plate.

Di Stefano left Argentina to join Millonarios in Bogota in 1949, becoming one of several stars to join a league not affiliated with FIFA. Di Stefano took the Colombian league by storm and represented a combined XI on four separate occasions – despite never holding a Colombian passport. His participation in these matches and the Colombian league saw him banned from representing Argentina.

In 1953, he moved to Madrid, helping them establish their reputation as the biggest football club in the world. Not permitted to play for Argentina, he lodged an appeal to FIFA to play for Spain. Although initially rejected, FIFA reversed their decision after pressure from the Spanish FA. He made 31 appearances for Spain, scoring 23 goals.

Despite his success at club level, Di Stefano never featured at a World Cup.

Thiago Motta

Thiago Motta won two caps for Brazil, the country of his birth, in 2003, when he was playing for Barcelona.

Motta also qualified to play for Italy through his paternal grandfather and, years later, when at Inter Milan, was approached by Cesare Prandelli about transferring his allegiance to the Azzurri. He agreed, making his debut in a friendly against Germany in 2011.

Jermaine Jones

Jermaine Jones was born in Frankfurt but also eligible to play for the United States through his father, a former US soldier who had been stationed in West Germany.

Jones was capped by Germany at Under-21 level after breaking into the first team at Eintracht Frankfurt. He also represented Germany at senior level in a few friendly games but opted to declare himself available for the US after being overlooked for competitive fixtures.

Having received clearance from FIFA in 2009, his debut was delayed by injuries and fitness issues, causing him to miss out on a place in the US’s World Cup squad in 2010. Later that year, however, he made his first appearance for them in a friendly against Poland.

Four years later, he played for the US in the 2014 World Cup, facing Germany in the group stage.

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