Five expatriate Brazilians playing at the World Cup
Just days away from the start of the World Cup finals in Brazil, Coral experts have put their heads together to lift the lid on five players that could have played for the host nation.
Each of the men featured below was born to the beat of Samba soccer, but left South America in search of careers elsewhere. Their intercontinental journeys are to culminate in them competing for other countries as they return to their homeland.
Eduardo da Silva (Croatia)
Former Arsenal frontman Eduardo, 31, grew up in the Bangu neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro, but was scouted extensively by Dinamo Zagreb. Their interest saw him leave Brazil behind as a teenager when he joined the Croatian club.
A couple of loan spells at smaller siders helped Eduardo hone his striking talent, and when he came back to Dinamo, he was prolific. Netting more goals than games played in the domestic Croatian league, scoring stats of 46 in 47 appearances in all competitions during a double-winning campaign in 2007 alerted Arsene Wenger.
Eduardo’s adopted country recognised his potential far faster, however, handing him a senior international debut in November 2004. His Arsenal career was interrupted by a horrific leg break, though, so he left for rich Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk in 2010.
It is only fitting that Eduardo is in line to make his World Cup finals debut on Brazilian soil. Croatia missed out on qualification in 2010, while the 2006 tournament in Germany came a little too early for him.
Only Davor Suker has scored more international goals for Eduardo’s adopted country. With Mario Mandzukic suspended for the opening game against the tournament hosts, the sentimental pick for Niko Kovac is surely him. Odds of 4/1 say Eduardo will be Croatia’s top scorer in Brazil.
Real Madrid central defender Pepe, 31, left Brazil for Portuguese club Maritmo as a teenager in 2001. He switched to giants Porto shortly after Jose Mourinho guided them to their Champions League triumph in 2004.
Pepe had to wait to work with ‘the Special One’ until 2010, however, when the enigmatic coach left Inter Milan for the Bernabeu. This was a switch the player made in 2007 for a reported fee of €30m.
Former Brazil boss Dunga approached Pepe about a call-up to the Samba Boys in 2006, but he rejected these overtures and, upon gaining Portuguese citizenship shortly after his Real move, he made his debut for his adopted country instead.
It proved to be a pivotal decision for Pepe. With Portugal, he has gone to the last two European championships, scoring in both, and the World Cup in South Africa, earning over 50 caps. Now he has a fourth major tournament to look forward to.
Thiago Motta (Italy)
PSG midfielder and Sao Paulo native Motta, 31, actually went with Brazil to a tournament – the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He possesses dual nationality, however, and was able to switch allegiance to Italy because of this.
Motta signed for Barcelona aged 17 and won a Champions League and La Liga double in 2006, but bettered that feat by landing a historic treble at Inter Milan under Mourinho four years later. He also took in Atletico Madrid and Genoa between these crowning glories.
Years of steady displays in holding and deep-lying midfield roles saw Italy finally come calling in 2011. Under pragmatic coach Cesare Prandelli, Motta has 20 caps and played in the Euro 2012 final defeat by Spain.
Injury to Riccardo Montolivo means there is a real chance Motta will have regular involvement in Brazil at his first World Cup finals. His left foot may give the Azzurri better balance.
Attacking midfielder Sammir, 27, is a relative newcomer to international football. Playing in Brazil until he was 19, he joined Dinamo Zagreb on loan alongside fellow expatriate Eduardo.
Steady progress in Croatia’s domestic league saw him gain citizenship and the attention of then-national boss Igor Stimac, who has since been replaced by Kovac. An international debut for Sammir followed in World Cup qualifying.
A switch to Getafe in January helped the Madrid outfit preserve their La Liga status. Sammir is yet to score for his new club or his adopted country but, unlike namesake Samir Nasri, he will be at the World Cup finals.
Diego Costa (Spain)
Last and by no means least, we come to the most interesting subplot punters will see in Brazil. Samba Boys boss Phil Scolari capped Atletico Madrid frontman Costa, 25, during his preparations for the finals, but he turned his back on the country of his birth as these were only friendlies.
Playing in Spain since 2007, he has had a lethal campaign in front of goal (36 in 52) for Diego Simeone in club competitions. Hamstring problems, horse placenta and other unusual treatments were used to get him fit to play in Brazil, but Costa can expect boos and jeers at every ground because he opted for La Roja instead of the Samba Boys.
If Scolari encounters Spain again and replicates the sound thrashing his side gave the World Cup holders in last summer’s Confederations Cup final, might Costa rue his decision to switch allegiance?