The UEFA Euro 2016 are set to take place in France from June 10 to July 10 and the best talent Europe has to offer will be on show in an attempt to be crowned champions of the continent.
There are a number of players of African descent who have chosen to play for European national teams rather than representing the African nations for which they qualify. In some cases they were born in Africa and made their way to Europe at a young age, while in others they are European-born to African parents.
We take a look at a selection of top players who may take to the pitch at Euro 2016, and the national teams that they’d be representing if the circumstances were different.
Belgium > Kenya
Confirmed in the Belgian Euro 2016 squad, 21-year-old Liverpool striker Origi is a formidable attacker with great potential. The son of former Kenyan professional footballer Mike Origi, he represents Belgium rather than his father’s homeland.
Born in Belgium because his father Mike spent most of his professional career in the country, Divock became the youngest goal scorer in Belgian World Cup history and the first player of Kenyan descent to score at a World Cup when he netted against Russia in 2014.
France > Mali
The 25-year-old midfielder of Malian descent was an unknown on the world stage until this season, when his contributions to Leicester City’s triumphant English Premier League season shot him into the spotlight.
He has been named in the Euro 2016 squad for Les Bleus, despite only making his debut this year, but could just as easily have been playing for Mali as the country of his African roots. His tenacious play and tireless work ethic will make him a valuable asset for the tournament hosts.
Italy > Egypt
Coming off the back of a prolific few months with Roma in Serie A, striker El Shaarawy has made the final Euro 2016 squad for the Azzurri thanks to his eight goals and two assists in 18 appearances for the Giallorossi.
The 23-year-old was born in Italy, but could have played for Egypt as he has an Egyptian father. Affectionately known as the ‘Pharaoh’, he is one of the top Italian strikers in circulation at the moment. His presence at Euro 2016 would see him take part in his first continental tournament for the Italians.
Switzerland > Cameroon
Born in Douala, Cameroon, the 25-year-old made his debut for Switzerland in 2014. He is set to represent the Swiss at the upcoming tournament in France, and will add versatility in the left-back position.
He plays his club football for Toulouse in Ligue 1 and recent performances have inspired confidence in his ability to do well at Euro 2016 for his adopted Swiss national team. The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon have lost out on his tremendous talent.
Portugal > Guinea
The 24-year-old chose to play for the Portuguese national team over Guinea, where he was born.
The powerful defensive midfielder had an impressive season for Porto, having learned from experience playing football in Italy, Greece and the Netherlands. Pereira moved to Portugal from Guinea when he was five, and recently attracted interest from Arsenal, with scouts travelling to watch his performances for Porto.
England > Nigeria
The 20-year-old is amongst the youngsters that are eagerly anticipated to make waves on the world stage at the European Championships.
Alli’s father is Nigerian, and his mother is English, which means he could have chosen to feature for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, but the English were quick to snap up the talented midfielder. Despite his age and inexperience, his performances against strong sides including France and Germany have shown his versatility and maturity.