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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 19:01 GMT
The Nations Cup's missing stars
By James Copnall
BBC Sport

Patrick Viera
Senegal-born Viera helped France win the World and European Cups
The 26th Africa Cup of Nations is not short of big names - but it could have been even more star-studded.

For every Didier Drogba or Samuel Eto'o strutting his stuff in Ghana, there is another player from Africa not on show.

Quite apart from the countries which failed to qualify, there are many great players from Africa who opted to play for a European country instead.

In fact, several legends of world football were born in Africa, only to go onto play for their adopted home.

France midfielder Patrick Vieira grew up in Senegal, and admitted his heart was divided when he took on the Teranga Lions at the 2002 World Cup playing for Les Bleus.

Vieira's companion in the centre of midfield, Claude Makelele, is a similar case.

Gerald Asamoah
Asamoah opted to play for Germany instead of Ghana's Black Stars

Born in Kinshasa, Makelele left the DR Congo for France at a young age.

Both men played a major part in France winning the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Cup, not to mention helping their domestic sides to countless trophies.

Another man who will be conflicted at the moment is German international Gerald Asamoah.

Asamoah is of Ghanaian origin, and had the option to play for the Black Stars.

By choosing to play for Germany he instead finished third in the 2006 World Cup, and played in the 2002 final in Yokohama, Japan.

Perhaps the attacking player does not regret his choice too much!

Senegal are the side who have been particularly badly hit, perhaps as a result of the country's close links to the former colonial master France.

As well as Vieira, a pair of full backs have opted to play for the Tricolours: Manchester United's Patrice Evra and Arsenal's Bakary Sagna.

Djibril Cisse
Djibril Cisse could have been an Elephant had he decided differently

The two are among the best young defenders in the game and would have added defensive strength to the Teranga Lions.

Equally Ivory Coast would benefit from the Arsenal and Switzerland defender Johan Djourou, and perhaps from the France striker Djibril Cissť, whose father was an Ivorian international.

Djibril Cisse's France team-mate Sidney Govou is also the son of an African international, from Benin in this case.

As well as players born in its former west African colonies, France has obtained many talents from the waves of immigration from the Maghreb.

Zinedine Zindane
Zinedine Zindane returns to his country of birth, Algeria

Zinedine Zidane was of Algerian origin, and so is the man many tip to follow in his footsteps, Marseille wonder-kid and France international Samir Nasri.

Several talents of African origin have played for Belgium, including Congolese-qualified brothers Emile and Mbo Mpenza, and the imposing defender Vincent Kompany.

Often the footballer who takes a European nationality grew up in that country, and is as least as much European as African.

But it is not always the case.

Eusebio
Eusebio learnt the game in Mozambique before moving to Portugal

The legendary Eusebio played all his early football in his native Mozambique, before moving to Portugal and eventually becoming one of the top goal-scorers at the 1966 World Cup.

Eusebio's case was a little different though: at the time Mozambique did not exist as an independent country!

To go even further back into history, the former France defender Michael Silvestre discovered that his ancestors were taken as slaves from Guinea to the West Indies.

It would be pushing it a bit to suggest the Manchester United player narrowly missed out on a career with Guinea though!

What is clear is that European football nations have benefited from an influx of talent from Africa, while the reverse has not always been true.



SEE ALSO
26th African Nations Cup
21 Oct 07 |  Africa Cup of Nations
Premier loss
22 Nov 07 |  Africa Cup of Nations
'Ivory Coast' lose Belgian Cup
23 May 04 |  Africa Cup of Nations


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