By Pete Grathoff
The Kansas City Star
June 21, 2010 12:00 AM
How best to describe ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas' depiction of the plight of Giuseppe Rossi?
Try restrained jubilation.
Born in New Jersey, Rossi shunned multiple opportunities to play for the U.S. national soccer team in favor of joining Italy, birthplace of his parents.
Rossi got his wish and even scored twice against the United States at last year's Confederations Cup in South Africa. However, he was left off Italy's World Cup roster.
"There's the case recently of a player who chose another team — the player shall remain nameless — and actually didn't get the opportunity that I think he was anticipating," Lalas said in a conference call. "And had he chose the U.S., he would have the opportunity to play in the World Cup."
Rossi is one of a growing number of players, including many at the World Cup in South Africa, who have been able to pick which country they want to represent.
FIFA rules allow uncapped players to switch allegiances if they have lived in a country for at least five years or have a parent or grandparent who was born there.
Defender Neven Subotic grew up in Salt Lake City and played for the United States under-17 and under-20 teams. But after being left off the U.S. team for the 2007 under-20 World Cup, Subotic joined the Serbian team. He also had the option of playing for Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Gonzalo Higuain, who had a hat trick for Argentina against South Korea, was born in France the one year his father played soccer there. Seventeen of Algeria's 23 players were born in France, including Hassan Yebda, who won an under-17 world title with the French.
There's even a good chance that Wednesday's Germany-Ghana game will feature a World Cup first: half-brothers playing against one another. Jerome Boateng is with Germany, and Kevin-Prince Boateng is with Ghana. Their father is from Ghana, while their mother is German.
Facing family on the field could be in Stuart Holden's future. He was born in Scotland but plays for the United States. However, he's urged the Scottish Football Association to take a look at his brother Euan.
Stuart Holden, though, is happy to be playing for U.S. coach Bob Bradley.
"Moving to the States at 10 and becoming ingrained in the culture and considering myself an American — obviously, I still have that Scottish tradition and culture that I'll never forget," Holden told the Associated Press. "But being able to represent the U.S. in a World Cup is something that is really prideful to me, and something I'll carry with me for the rest of my life."
Holden is one of seven Americans who had options. Others include Benny Feilhaber, who was born in Brazil; Tim Howard, whose mother is from Hungary; and Landon Donovan, whose father is from Canada.
The German team is a veritable United Nations. Players have ties to Ghana, Nigeria, Poland, Brazil, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Spain.
There was a bit of controversy in Germany leading up to the World Cup, because some players weren't signing the national anthem in the warm-up games.
"All of them should sing the anthem," German legend Franz Beckenbauer told reporters. "It can't be that the fans in the stands or watching at home sing along but those on the field don't."
That didn't persuade the players, however. Many were silent before Germany's last game against Serbia.
Lalas, who was with the U.S. national team at the 1994 and '98 World Cups, doesn't believe the practice of choosing your country is detrimental to the game. It wasn't as common in his time, though Lalas recalled playing with Thomas Dooley, who was born in Germany.
Even Lalas had another option ... but it was never really a choice.
"In my time, I was born in Detroit," Lalas said. "I was going to play for the U.S. and it was a privilege and pleasure to do so even though I grew up going between Detroit and Greece. With all due respect to Greece, it was about playing for the U.S. for me."
This was an interesting read, I'm not quite sure how I would handle the situation. But I'm so glad Gonzo decided to go with Argentina. Any dual citizens hereeeee?