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African World Cup Participants Who Snubbed European Sides

Senegal hero M'Baye Niang scored the goal that ensured Africa's first win at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, things could have been different had he not snubbed his European country of birth. Here are some African players who are at the World Cup after snubbing European nations. 

Click through the gallery above to see Africans who are playing at the World Cup, despite snubbing the chance to represent European nations.

Niang scored Senegal's second in their 2-1 win over Poland as the Lions of Teranga collected Africa's only win in the tournament so far, while Morocco and Egypt are already knocked out of the tournament.

But things could have been very different because Niang was born in Meulan-en-Yvelines in France and represented the European giants at U16, U17 and U21 level. However, in October 2017, he made his debut for Senegal, the birth country of his parents. The game against Poland was only his seventh appearance for the African nation, and he could not have found better timing to score his first senior goal.

Niang, though, is not the only Senegalese star with European roots – his teammates Moussa Sow and Kalidou Koulibaly were also born in France, while Keita Balde grew up in Spain, coming through FC Barcelona's youth academy.

Hakim Ziyech was one of the few shining lights in Morocco's first two World Cup games, but he actually grew up in the Netherlands. His decision to represent Morocco, the birth country of his father, made international headlines and then assistant coach Marco van Basten publicly slammed him for it.

"How stupid can you be to choose Morocco if you are in contention for the Dutch national team?" Van Basten said in May 2016, as quoted by The Guardian, after hearing that Ziyech had decided to represent the Atlas Lions.

Read: 14 Stars In France's World Cup Squad With African Heritage

The 24-year-old Ajax midfielder came through the Dutch youth ranks, featuring for the Netherlands at U19, U20 and U21 level. He even received a Netherlands call-up in May 2015, but was injured and could not play. Just four months later, he announced that he decided to run out for Morocco and has since represented the Atlas Lions 15 times, scoring seven goals.

Ziyech, though, had the last laugh over Van Basten after the Netherlands failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

You can find more African World Cup stars who snubbed representing European nations in the gallery above. Do you think they made the right decision? Let us know in the comments section below.

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