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Who should Africa back in the World Cup?

Paul Pogba of France during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Round of 16 match between France and Argentina at Kazan Arena on June 30, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.

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Getty Images Sport

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Paul Pogba (pictured) plays for France while his brother represents Guinea

Hearts were broken when all five African nations – Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia – crashed out in the first stage of the World Cup – but some fans say hope is not lost.

“At least we still have France,” many people have joked on social media.

Even French President Emmanuel Macron has got in on the act, telling Nigerians yesterday that now the Super Eagles are out of the World Cup, they should support France.

Indeed, France has 14 players in the squad who would be able to play for an African country. Two French players have siblings who do so.

Paul Pogba’s brother, Florentin, plays for Guinea, while Steve Mandanda’s brother, Parfait, plays for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both previously played for France’s national youth teams before opting to represent the countries where their parents came from.

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STF/Getty Images

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Fourteen of France’s 23-member squad would be eligible to play for African teams

France’s breakout star of the competition so far, 19-year-old striker Kylian Mbappé, was born to a Cameroonian father and French-Algerian mother.

Belgium, meanwhile, has eight players of African parentage – with either one or both parents hailing from the continent.

They are Kompany, Fellaini, Lukaku, Dembélé, Boyata, Batshuayi, Chadli and Tielemans.

Fifa’s nationality rules

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  • Footballers who have played a competitive international for one team cannot switch to another national side
  • But this rule has been relaxed to allow footballers to change nationality from junior to senior level
  • Friendlies are not binding – so Diego Costa was able to switch to Spain after playing friendlies for Brazil, as did Belgium’s Nacer Chadli after a Morocco friendly
  • Players with no blood connection to a country are only allowed to represent it if they have lived and played there for five years
  • But this is different for refugees, who can play upon receiving citizenship without having to wait to wait five years

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Sweden’s Kenya connection

Also left in the competition are England, Sweden, Uruguay, Brazil, Russia and Croatia. Players of known African parentage are England’s Delle Alli – whose father hails from Nigeria – and his team-mate Danny Welbeck who was born in Manchester to Ghanaian parents.

Perhaps Sweden’s African connections are lesser-known.

Sweden’s John Guidetti lived in Kenya for three years as a child, showing early promise as player with Nairobi youth team Ligi Ndogo. Delighted Kenyan football fans have been sharing this image of the young Guidetti on social media:

“I still have a strong link with Kenya and every time I go back there I always get a warm welcome,” Guidetti is quoted as saying by Kenya’s Standard newspaper.

Guidetti’s former coach, Chris Amimo, told the same newspaper that Guidetti “always made it to the team’s starting line-up. He loved playing.

“His father used to work at the Swedish School which is directly opposite Ligi Ndogo grounds,” he added.

While Guidetti would fail in Fifa’s eligibility test for Kenya by two years, his Sweden team-mate Martin Olsson was born to a Kenyan mother and so would in theory have had the choice between the two countries.

But it reality, footballers’ professional prospects often trump questions of national allegiance.

“Those professional prospects are often improved by playing international football,” says BBC Africa Sport’s Nick Cavell, “and that means that plenty of players born or raised in European countries commit to play for African teams.

“Indeed just six of the 23-man Morocco squad at the 2018 World Cup were born in the country.”

Who should Africa back in the World Cup?

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