31 July 2012

The expat boys from Brazil

Brazilian midfielder Renan Bressan plays AGAINST Brazil - FOR BELARUS?!

On Sunday, Belarus took an 8th-minute lead against Brazil in the group stages of the men's Olympic Games football tournament. The goal was scored by Renan Bressan, who was born in Tubarao, in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. (For the record, Brazil went on to win the match 3-1.)

Bressan is one of a number of Brazilian footballers playing international football for other countries. And with the issue of eligibility rearing its ugly head again because of the sheer number of ex-Chinese participants in the Olympic table tennis tournaments (like Han Xing playing for Congo - seriously?!), I've decided to look at some of the best - and worst - Brazilian players to pull on the colours of other national teams.

A native of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo arrived in Croatia in 1999 and was first capped by them five years later. The striker has since reached a half-century of international caps, but a broken leg sustained while at Arsenal stunted his until then fast progress, and he is now at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Mr United Nations himself, Kuranyi was born in Rio to a German-Hungarian father and a mother from Panama, but won 52 caps for Germany, scoring 21 goals. He is now based in Russia, where he plays up front for Spartak Moscow.

PAULO RINK (Germany)
Before Kuranyi and the more recent Cacau, Curitiba-born Rink became a star centre-forward in Germany, for Bayer Leverkusen in the 1990's. In fact, he was so prolific that he won 13 international caps for the Mannschaft. Although he's still only 39, he retired from football some time ago.

In 1958, striker Mazzola played for Brazil as they won the FIFA World Cup in Sweden. Four years later, he was back at the World Cup in Chile - but playing under his birth name in the Azzurri shirts of Italy. His record of 5 goals in 6 games for Italy was slightly better than his Brazil record, which read 4 goals in 8.

Motta's a bit different from the other players on this list, because he did actually qualify for Italy through his family and did not need to be naturalised. Nevertheless, the midfielder featured in two matches for Brazil in 2003 before last year switching his allegiance to the Azzurri. He was part of their squad that reached the UEFA Euro 2012 Final.

Santos, or if you like, Alex, emerged in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, where he played in midfield for co-hosts Japan. The former S-Pulse man, who was denied a work permit for a move to Charlton Athletic, went on to win 82 caps for his adopted nation, and is still active today for Nagoya Grampus.

ZINHA (Mexico)
Antonio Naelson is a modern legend at Mexican club Toluca, having featured over 400 times for them since 1999. The attacking midfielder first turned out for Mexico four years afterwards and, 55 caps into his international career, is still part of the squad at the age of 36.

Midfielder Guerreiro had spent just two years in Poland when he was fast-tracked Polish citizenship in 2008 by the then-president, the late Lech Kaczynski. The Sao Paulo Polack played at UEFA Euro 2008 and showed such loyalty to his new countrymen that he buggered off to Greece a year later.

DECO (Portugal)
Sao Paulo-born Deco arrived at Benfica in 1997, and was first given the Portuguese jersey in 2003 when he was at Porto. The brilliant midfielder went on to win the UEFA Champions League twice as well as 75 caps for the Portuguese before returning home to Brazil two years ago.

It will perhaps become a running joke in ten years time that Brazil will have two teams at the 2022 World Cup: Brazil, and Qatar. The 2022 hosts' class of 2012 includes centre-back Marcone and midfielder Fábio César Montezine, and striker Emerson was in the squad two years ago. There will be more in the future, as Qatar tend to favour foreign-born talent over locals.

Central midfielder Senna has spent a decade with Villarreal, and won 28 Spanish caps between 2006 and 2010. An excellent passer of the ball, he enjoyed a wonderful UEFA Euro 2008 but hardly featured for La Furia Roja afterwards. He looks set to stay at Villarreal despite their relegation from La Liga at the end of last season.

In 2003, Togo manager Antonio Dumas decided it would be a neat idea to bring in a number of his Brazilian compatriots, even though hardly any of them had set foot in the African country before! Players like Bill, Cris, Fabinho, Fábio, Hamilton and Mkimba played in a couple of matches alongside Emmanuel Adebayor, but all were swiftly discarded and forgotten about.

ZÉ LUIZ (Trinidad & Tobago)
José Luiz Seabra featured for T&T in a friendly against Azerbaijan in 2005, five years after the left-back signed for Trinidadian club W Connection. He won five more caps but could not play for them at the 2006 World Cup because he wasn't a full citizen. Not long afterwards, he returned to Brazil.

A brief two-year sojourn at Étoile Sahel, which ended in 2000, was enough for Tunisia chiefs to give Santos his first cap for the country - in 2004! The striker has since scored 22 caps in 40 goals, and 'Roadrunner' has since returned to Étoile, where he still bangs in the goals today aged 33.

The former Marco Aurelio became Mehmet in 2006 after five years in Turkey, and the Rio-born defensive midfielder went on to play in 37 international games, with a number of them coming at Euro 2008. The former Fenerbahce star now turns out for Beskitas, but his Crescent-Stars career is over.

With so many Brazilians plying their trade in Ukraine, it's surprising that midfielder Edmar is the only footballer to play in the Ukrainian shade of Selecao yellow. After becoming the vice-captain of Metalist Kharkiv, he won his first and only international cap to date against Sweden last year. Known as Edmar Halovskyi in Ukraine, he recently married a local girl.

Jewish midfielder Feilhaber spent the first six years of his life in Brazil before his family chased the American dream. He first played for Team USA in 2007, having previously turned down Austria. Perhaps best remembered for an unsuccessful spell at Derby County, things have improved for him since then, and at 27, he will surely add to his 39 US caps.

During his nine-year stay at Dong Tam Long An, goalkeeper Fábio dos Santos became Phan Van Santos, and pulled on Vietnamese colours twice during 2008. At 198 centimetres tall, he is a giant in a country where there aren't many, but surprisingly, he hasn't been selected since.

Vietnam veteran: Fábio dos Santos left Brazil for south-east Asia.

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