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English flavour on global stage  


Express News Service

As South Korea took to the field against Uruguay on Thursday, their fans were anxiously waiting to make sure that there was one name on the starting list. To their relief, their captain Son Heung-min took to the field in a protective mask, as he continues to recover from a facial injury. On the other side of the half-line, all eyes were on Darwin Nunez, Uruguay’s main goal-threat.

That they were their respective team’s talisman was not the only thing that linked Son and Nunez. When Qatar 2022 is finally done and dusted, they will both be boarding a flight to the same country to resume their club careers England. Such is the influence of the world’s most popular league on the World Cup, that this one common thread will link together two players in most games of this tournament.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the only two countries without an England-based player in their respective line-ups — neither of them have selected any players plying their trade abroad. Apart from them, every team has, at the very least, a tinge of an English flavour. Qatar’s opponents in the opener, Ecuador, had Brighton’s Pervis Estupinan and Moises Caicedo playing prominent roles. In the next game, Iran opted not to throw on Brentford’s Saman Ghoddos against England.

The captains shaking hands before the Netherlands-Senegal encounter were Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk and Chelsea’s Kalidou Koulibaly. As Argentina conceded two in quick succession against Saudi, fans were questioning why Manchester United’s Lisandro Martinez had not started. Images like these can be conjured up from every game in the World Cup’s group stages, bar the six featuring Saudi and Qatar. With a whopping 164 players, England-based clubs have contributed almost a quarter of the on-field manpower. For reference, Spanish and German clubs, who are second and third respectively in this regard, have a combined contribution of 166 players!

And not all of them are from the English Premier League. England’s second tier the Championship has more representatives in Qatar than the Belgian First Division A, the Dutch Eredivisie and the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Even the League One England’s fourth tier have a couple of representatives at the World Cup.

This English dominance is a progressive trend. In France ‘98, the first World Cup with 32, English clubs accounted for just ten per cent of the players. Four years later in Japan and South Korea, it had crept up to fourteen. By the time Brazil 2014 came along, this ratio was just over sixteen. And in 2022, English clubs have more than double the number of representatives than what they had in 1998.

The most obvious explanation to this is the increasing financial power of English sides, due to the mammoth television revenue that they generate. Former Ajax director of football Marc Overmars once suggested that Dutch clubs cannot compete financially with England’s second tier, let alone the Premier League. Naturally, for the Championship’s domestic television deal eclipses that of the Eredivisie.

Factor in parachute payments to relegated clubs that stretch over several years, and his statement ceases to be surprising. It still remains to be seen if England’s much-fancied team can end their 56-year drought on the world stage. But even if football fails to make it, it is certain that at least a couple of winner’s medals are coming home.

Some top players
Kevin De Bruyn (Man City, Belgium)
Virgil van Dyke (Liverpool, Netherlands)
Alisson (Liverpool, Brazil)
Son-young Min (Tottenham Hotspurs, South Korea)
Thiogo Silva (Chelsea; Brazil)

2022 Players from England 164
Percentage19.76% (30 lower tier players)

2018 Players from England 129

2014 Players from England 119

2010 Players from  England 117

2006 Players from England 102

2002 Players from England 103

1998  Players from England
74 10.51%

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