The open secret of international soccer is that for the best players in the world, citizenship tends to be, uh, significantly more fluid than it might be for the average globetrotter. That is to say that between dual nationals, naturalized citizens, and other border-blurring affairs of bureaucracy, if an athlete wants to play for another team, there’s not a whole lot that stands in his or her way, most of the time.
For the people who think that someone’s home country is their home country and that athletes have an obligation to honor their birthplace, this is an abhorrent practice. For those that take the view that a player should be able to compete for whichever country he or she calls home, it is not nearly so offensive. The litmus test this year, during the 2014 World Cup, was Spain’s Diego Costa.
Costa, who was born in Brazil, began his professional soccer career in Portugal before going to play in La Liga, the top Spanish league (and, subsequently, one of the best leagues in the world). After playing for Brazil in a pair of international games, Costa — who had been granted Spanish citizenship, which some soccer fans will informally suggest was fast-tracked — declared his intentions to play for Spain, his adopted country, in the 2014 World Cup. Which is being held in Brazil.
The crowds were not very excited, to say the least, and Costa was booed relentlessly whenever he had the ball. Spain also played awfully and were eliminated early, to the delight of everyone else. With that said, here are the seven teams with the most ambiguous nationals at this year’s World Cup.