Russia 2018: 9% of players born in a different country to whose flag they will be wearing

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November 28 – The globalisation of football is illustrated by new research that shows that almost two thirds of footballers likely to play at the Russia 2018 World Cup are currently playing for clubs outside of the association they represent.

The research, a joint project by the CIES Football Observatory and FIFA, analyses the profiles of the players who were fielded by the 32 qualified teams on the road to Russia. “The analysis highlights the diversity of the squads in terms of both age and height, as well as the importance of migration,” says the report authors.

The research finds that an astonishing 9% of players were born outside of the association they represent. “Only seven of the 32 teams did not field any players born abroad. The number of footballers playing for clubs outside of the association they represent also illustrates the importance of migration in football. In total, 64.6% of footballers play abroad: from 0% for England and Saudi Arabia, to 100% for Croatia, Sweden and Iceland,” finds the report.

Also examined are the age and physical differences between players. “Nigeria fielded the youngest players (with an average age of 24.9 years) in the qualifiers, followed by title-holders Germany (25.7) and by U-17 and U-20 world champions England (25.9). At the opposite end of the spectrum are two newcomers Panama (29.4 years) and Iceland (29.0), as well as 2014 FIFA World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica (29.0).”

There are also differences in average height. “At one extreme, seven associations fielded players with an average height of less than 180cm: Peru, Argentina and Uruguay (CONMEBOL), Saudi Arabia and Japan (AFC), Mexico (CONCACAF), and Spain (UEFA). At the other extreme, the average height of the players fielded by four European nations – Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Serbia – was at least 185cm.”

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See the full report at

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