Which World Cup Teams Have the Most Foreign-Born Players?

During qualification for the World Cup, many teams featured foreign-born players. Here are the connections between the national teams. (National Geographic)

What country won the first-ever FIFA World Cup? Hint: They’re in the World Cup this year, and won their first match.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Map by Riley Champine, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas


  • What national teams have the largest number of foreign-born players? Take a look at the graphic for some help.
    • Morocco
    • Senegal
    • Tunisia


  • What patterns seem to emerge when considering foreign-born players on national teams?
    • legacy of colonialism. Players born in countries with significant colonial history and migration between administered regions and the “home territory” account for many foreign-born players: France and Senegal, the United Kingdom (including England) and Egypt, Portugal and Brazil, France and Tunisia.


  • Why might these patterns not be statistically significant? Take a look at the smart language inside the circle for some help.
    • The sample size is far too small. The World Cup features only the most elite national teams, qualifying from hundreds that participated. An academic analysis would consider the entire FIFA ecosystem, not just the 32 teams competing in the World Cup.
    • The sample size only includes players from other World Cup teams. Even among the World Cup teams, 35 national teams have foreign-born players who were born in countries that didn’t qualify for the World Cup. (Costa Rican defender Óscar Duarte, for example, was born in Nicaragua, while Japanese defender Gōtoku Sakai was born in New York. Neither Nicaragua nor the United States qualified for the World Cup.)


  • How can a player born in one nation play for the national team of another? It’s on page 70 of the FIFA statues here.
    • dual citizenship
    • The player’s biological mother or father was born in the relevant nation.
    • The player’s biological grandmother or grandfather was born in the relevant nation.
    • The player has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 in the relevant nation.
    • FYI: Once a player has represented the national team in an official competition (such as the World Cup), the player may not change nationalities.



Nat Geo: See Which World Cup Teams Have the Most Foreign-Born Players

Nat Geo: Uruguay Wins the First World Cup

FIFA: 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia: Matches

FIFA: FIFA Statutes

UEFA: Member Associations

AFC: Member Associations

CAF: Member Associations

CONMEBOL: Member Associations

CONCACAF: Member Associations

OFC: Member Associations

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