The value of foreign-developed players: What Football Australia can learn from Morocco for Socceroos success


At the last World Cup, Morocco gripped the imaginations of nations without much footballing pedigree everywhere, as they beat Spain, Portugal, and Belgium en route to an astonishing fourth-place finish.

Although some may conclude from their staggering improvement that they must have improved their pathways or stumbled upon a lucky golden generation, a quick look into the makeup of their squad shows this is not the case.

The Moroccan squad that reached the semifinal included four people raised in both the Netherlands and Belgium, three in Spain, two in France, and one in each of Canada and Germany, meaning over half the squad was raised outside of Morocco.

Many of the most iconic players in the squad like Ziyech (Netherlands), Hakimi (Spain), and Amrabat (Netherlands) were developed by other nations.

Importantly, Morocco is not the only nation to find success with a large contingent of foreign-developed players. The Indonesia side that became the first one to beat Vietnam away since 2004 included five Dutch-raised players in the starting 11.

The Albania team that finished above bigger footballing nations like Poland and Czechia in Euro qualifying named 18 foreign-raised players in their latest squad, from eight different countries.

The Croatia squad that beat Morocco in the third-place game of the last World Cup included eight players born or raised outside of Croatia.

If we accept that part of the reason these countries are excelling is their diaspora recruitment, the question becomes: How do we do it in Australia? One simple answer is that it has to start young; of the 24 players in the last Morocco under-15 squad, a staggering 16 play their football overseas.

Socceroos giant Harry Souttar celebrates scoring at the AFC Asian Cup. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Countries will have a higher success rate of recruiting dual nationals when the players feel like they are part of a system from a young age.

To be fair, it seems Australia is doing a better job of that with the current Joeys set-up than they have with previous generations, given the significant European-based contingent in the last Joeys squad.

Another important thing to consider is actively advertising that Australia is looking for foreign-based players and allocating funds to scouting potential representative-level players.

Welsh rugby, for example, runs a program called the Welsh exiles for this purpose. The exiles were created to find, recruit, train, and give representative experience to eligible Welsh players who lived outside of Wales.

They train players through camps and have their own fixtures, getting their players into the Wales system.

Football Australia, of course, does work to recruit dual-national players, but I think it is quite evident that more work can be done to make sure that Australia is fielding the most talented teams possible across the age groups.

A quick Transfermarkt search will show that there are dozens of Australian talents playing in Europe, and it is so important that we use these players to reach our potential as a footballing nation.

While players like Harry Souttar, Martin Boyle, and Jason Cummings were all good finds, they were introduced to Football Australia at a later-than-ideal part of their careers.

If we start the recruitment process early, wonders will be done for the level of talent available for Australia squads.

Here’s a short list of some Australia-eligible dual-nationals to watch out for:

Matteo Mazzone (Eintracht Frankfurt) Australia capped, Italy capped

Luka Jovanovic (Adelaide United) Australia capped, Serbia eligible

Noah Slunjski (Hajduk Split) Australia capped, In Croatia camps

Danilo Treffiletti (Monza) Australia capped, Italy capped

Will Millwood (Partizan) Australia eligible, Serbia capped

Noa Skoko (Hajduk Split) Australia eligible, Croatia capped

Nickolas Alfaro (Sydney FC) Australia capped, Peru capped

Paul Okon (Benfica) Australia capped, Italy/Belgium eligible

Jayden Necovski (Melbourne City) Australia capped, North Macedonia eligible

Anthony Pavlesic (Bayern Munich) Australia capped, Croatia eligible

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