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Europe is resounding with cries of 'immigrants, go home!' Here's what would happen to the World Cup if they did.
BERLIN, Germany — It's not just morons throwing bananas on the field.
Far-right political parties are gaining ground in France. Most of Germany's soccer hooligans are now neo-Nazis. And this spring, Switzerland voted to curb immigration, defying the spirit of laws that allow citizens freedom of movement across the European Union.
But amid all the bad blood, has anyone thought about how sending immigrants packing would affect the teams playing the world's greatest game? Broadly defining “foreigner” as anyone with at least one foreign-born parent, Switzerland would lose two-thirds of its players. France and the Netherlands might be knocked out of contention. And Algeria, Ghana, Turkey or even Suriname could win it all.
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Here's how the world's best would stack up in a World Cup with no first-generation immigrants. A couple of caveats: First, this list isn't comprehensive, hence the ommission of teams like England and Mexico, even though they do have immigrant players. Instead we've highlighted only the group favorites and the "big losers." Second, not all players on every squad are represented here — we've focused on those who were slated to make a difference for the team.
A heavy favorite in their real-world group, Brazil retains all of its star players in the no-immigrants-allowed version. Better still, Brazil picks up a few more of its nationals from other country's teams: Shakhtar Donetsk striker Eduardo Alves da Silva and Getafe midfielder Jorge Sammir Cruz Campos from Croatia, and Real Madrid defender Kepler Laveran Lima Ferreira and Fenerbahce S.K. Defender Bruno Alves from Portugal.
Croatia has only a slim shot at winning the real Group A, and it doesn't fare much better in the no-immigrant tourney. It keeps Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic, and Hull striker Nikica Jelavic. As noted above, it loses da Silva to Brazil, along with Jorge Sammir Cruz Campos, who was born there. Queens Park Rangers midfielder Niko Kranjcar didn't make the squad because of an injury.
Despite its proximity to Africa and a decade-long boom that saw immigrants swell from 2 percent to 12 percent of the population in 2010, Spain retains more than a 50-50 chance of winning Group B in our immigrants-barred game. It keeps Barcelona striker Pedro Eliezer Rodriguez Ledesma, Barcelona defender Jordi Alba Ramos, Atletico Madrid striker David Villa, Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata, Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, and Manchester City striker David Silva.
Big Loser: NETHERLANDS
The Dutch keep Manchester United striker Robin van Persie, Hamburger SV midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben, and Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. But we're taking back Dynamo Kviv striker Jeremain Lens, Swansea City goalkeeper Michel Vorm, and AC Milan midfielder Nigel de Jong — all of whom have roots in Suriname (which, as one commenter pointed out below, gained full independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1975). And we'll grab Feyenoord defender Rolando Maximiliano "Bruno" Martins, born in Portugal, and Swansea City midfielder Jonathan de Guzman, whose father was born in Jamaica.
Colombia remains the favorite in Group C, retaining River Plate striker Teofilo Gutierrez, AS Monaco midfielder James Rodriguez, and Atalanta defender Mario Yepes and West Ham United defender Pablo Armero, who's of African descent but not an imigrant by our definition. It lost AS Monaco striker Radamel Falcao from the squad because of an injury.
Facing even odds in the real cup, Uruguay remains even with Italy in the no-immigrants tourney. The South American side keeps Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani, and West Bromwich Albion defender Diego Lugano. We'll also let them keep Diego Forlan, whose father and grandfather both played for Uruguay, though they're technically of Basque descent. Atletico Madrid winger Cristian Rodríguez has roots in Spain, and Sao Paolo striker Alvaro Pereira and Palermo striker Abel Hernandez have roots in Africa, but none of them meet our definition of immigrants. However, they do lose Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, who was born in Argentina.
Co-favored to win the group in the no-limit cup, Italy loses less than you might expect in the no-immigrant version. It keeps Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi, Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo. However, the Italians do lose a couple guys. Fiorentina forward Giuseppe Rossi was born in New Jersey (though in the end, he didn't make the final squad, anyway). And AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, born in Palermo, has parents who immigrated from Ghana. Meanwhile, an injury knocked Riccardo Montolivo to the sidelines in early June.
The favorite in the real Group E, France can hardly field a team without its immigrants. It retains a shot at getting out of the group with Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud. It drops Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna and Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho, whose parents were born in Senegal, and Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, who was born there himself. It also loses Paris St.-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi, whose father was born in Angola; and Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala, whose parents were born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. France also gives up Lille OSC midfielder Rio Mavuba, whose father was born in Zaire and mother in Angola; Newcastle United midfielder Moussa Sissoko, whose parents were born in Mali; and Marseille midfielder Matthieu Valbuena, whose father was born in Spain. And don't look for as much flash without Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, whose father was born in Algeria. France also loses Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba, whose parents were born in Guinea. Topping off all that, they've lost Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery because of an injury.
Big Loser: SWITZERLAND
“No more immigrants” Switzerland loses about two-thirds of its players if it goes all-Swiss, all but erasing its chances of getting out of Group E. It keeps Grasshopper Club Zurich defender Michael Lang, FC Basel defender Fabian Schär, and Juventus defender Stephan Lichtsteiner. But it loses a lot more. Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta is of Italian descent and holds dual citizenship. Napoli midfielder Gokhan Inler's parents were born in Turkey. Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Granit Xhaka, Napoli midfielder Blerim Dzemaili and Bayern Munich midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri were all born in the former Yugoslavia, while Real Sociedad striker Haris Seferovic and FC Zurich striker Mario Gavranovic are of Bosnian descent.
Bigger Loser: ECUADOR
Wee little Ecuador has a slim chance of getting out of Group E in the real cup. But its odds look much better against the almost-empty rosters of France and Switzerland in the no-immigrants version. Monarcas Morelia winger Jefferson Antonio Montero hails from one of Ecuador's indigenous tribes. Al-Hilal midfielder Segundo Castillo ended up being dropped from the squad because of an injury.
A strong favorite in the real Group F, Argentina leads the group in the no-immigrant tourney, too. It keeps Barcelona striker Lionel Messi, Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano, Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria and Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero. However, Argentina loses Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain, of Basque descent, who was born in France. On the plus side, it picks up Juventus striker Pablo Osvaldo from Italy.
Ghana keeps Al Ain striker Asamoah Gyan, Rubin Kazan midfielder Wakaso Mubarak, Vitesse Arnhem striker Christian Twasam Atsu, AC Milan midfielder Sulley Muntari and Juventus midfielder Khadwo Asamoah, and Rennes defender John Boye, not to mention AC Milan midfielder Michael Essien. The team also keeps Schalke midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng and gets back Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng from Germany — their father was born in Ghana, though the brothers were born in Berlin. The same goes for Marseille striker Jordan Ayew, whose parents were born in Ghana though he was born in France. As a final bonus, Ghana picks up AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, whose biological parents were born in Ghana, from Italy. It also gets Danny Welbeck, whose parents were born in Ghana, from England.
The Germans get our moral support in honor of their recent decision to allow dual citizenship to the children of immigrants. But their football team doesn't look too good without the guys that the red-faced chap at the end of the bar still calls “foreigners.” Germany keeps Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker, Bayern Munich midfielder Thomas Mueller, Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos, Bayern Munich midfielder Mario Goetze, and Chelsea winger Andre Schuerrle. They retain Schalke defender Benedikt Howedes, whose parents were born in Germany though the family has roots in Norway. But they lose superstar Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil, whose father was born in Turkey; Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira, whose father was born in Tunisia; and Lazio striker Miroslav Klose, who was born in Poland. They'll also take the field without Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng, who has roots in Ghana; Sampdori defender Shkodran Mustafi, whose parents are Albanians born in Macedonia; and Lukas Podolski, who was born in Poland. And they lose Marco Reus regardless, to an injury.
Bigger Loser: PORTUGAL
Lesser-known colonizer Portugal keeps Real Madrid defender Fabio Coentrao, Valencia defender Ricardo Costa, Besiktas J.K. forward Hugo Almeida and Lazio striker Helder Postiga. But it loses Real Madrid defender Kepler Laveran Lima Ferreira, aka Pepe, to his native Brazil. It loses Fenerbahce S.K. Defender Bruno Alves, whose father was born in Brazil. It also drops Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha, aka Nani, who was born in Cape Verde (independent from Portugal since 1975), and FC Porto winger Silvestre Varela, whose parents were born there. Lucky for them, Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo, whose great grandmother was from Cape Verde, isn't an immigrant by our rules.
Just Because: US
Team USA gets to keep San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski — half Native American, with a grandfather from Poland — as well as Seattle Sounders midfielder Clint Dempsey and Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron. However, the melting-pot nation loses Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore, whose parents were born in Haiti; Tim Howard, whose mother is Hungarian; AZ striker Aron Johannsson, who was born to Icelandic parents in Alabama; and Rosenborg midfielder Mix Diskerud, who was born in Norway. We'll also take away LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez, whose parents were born in Mexico, and Nantes midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, whose father was born in Colombia. Finally, we'll take back Hertha defender John Brooks, Nurnberg defender Timmy Chandler, Bayern Munich winger Julian Green, Besiktas midfielder Jermaine Jones, and 1899 Hoffenheim defender Fabian Johnson — all of whom were born in Germany or have a German parent.
Bookies say Russia has an outside chance of winning the real Group H. But Vladimir Putin's men become the odds-on favorite when we take away the immigrants. Among scorers, the Russians keep Zenit St. Petersburg striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Dynamo Moscow striker Aleksandr Kokorin, Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder Viktor Faizulin, Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder Igor Denisov, Spartak Moscow midfielder Dmitriy Kombarov and Spartak Moscow midfielder Denis Glushakov. We'll also let them keep CSKA Moscow midfielder Alan Dzagoev (3 goals). Strictly speaking, Dzagoev is of Ossetian descent — his parents moved from Georgia in 1989. But we've seen Putin without his shirt, and we don't want another Crimea-type situation. The Russians did lose one team member, FC Krasnodar midfielder Roman Shirokov, due to injury.
Big Loser: BELGIUM
A strong favorite to win the real Group H, Belgium loses some stars without its immigrants. Among scorers, the Belgians keep Vfl Wolfsburg midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard, Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen and FC Porto midfielder Steven Defour. But they lose a lot. The fathers of both Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku were born in what is today the Democratic Republic of Congo. Everton striker Kevin Mirallas' father was born in Spain. Marouane Fellaini's parents were born in Morocco. FC Zenit Saint Petersburgmidfielder Axel Witsel's father is from France. And Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Mousa Dembele's father was born in Mali.
Correction: This story has been edited from an earlier version that contained geographic errors and incorrect personal details of some players. Text and/or images have been revised in the entries for Brazil, Croatia, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Russia and the Netherlands. GlobalPost regrets the errors.