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[OC] What if every world cup team had the same population? - Group C

Hello again all, trying to distract myself from the fact that it’s already May, I’ve put my matching Friday pants and socks set on to bring you another edition of the alternative World Cup. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the premise of this series why not indulge yourself in the last two groups.
Group A, Group B
Whilst yesterday featured a group with sprinkles of quality throughout, I’m afraid to say this gathering is a little one-sided. One African team dwarfs three squads of an Asian persuasion, so with more utopian island spots than full time pro’s on display, I’ll try my utmost not to drift into a Thomas Cook holiday blog, no promises though.
Group C
West Africa
Togo, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinnea Bissau, Senegal, The Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Western Sahara, Algeria, Morrocco
Population (millions): 240.19
When it comes to brainchildren it’s strongly advised not to have favourites, but between you and me this is the funnest squad of the lot.
Similarly to Eastern Europe, West Africa has often been a hive of sporting talent restrained by the labyrinth of borders within its confines. George Weah, Emmanuel Adebayor, Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba and Abedi Pele are some notable stars of the past, but the conveyor belt of sporadic world-class attacking talent over the last 30 years appears to have crescendoed into a full blown production line of stars in every outfield position.
Something that my hypothesis can’t fairly simulate is what affect an open plan Africa would have on the decision making of some of our games Euro-Africano elite. N’Golo Kante is of Malean descent whilst fellow Parisian Paul Pogba boasts his Guinean parentage. It would be a safe bet to assume at least some juggling would take place with the region's newfound affluence, but until I am able to read the minds of millionaire athletes I’m not going to touch the subject with a barge pole, besides I think I’d go for the sort codes well before I look at their national preference.
What we DO have however is a terrific squad on paper that will continue to improve as the years continue, with 17 year old Barcelona wunderkind Ansu Fati hailing from Guinea-Bissau, as long as he doesn’t succumb to a Spanish inquisition.
Goalkeepers Birthplace FM20 Value Age
Edouard Mendy SEN Rennes GK Montivilliers, France 65 €4.40 28
Yassine Bounou MAR Sevilla GK Montreal, Canada 68 €10.00 29
Defenders
Faouzi Ghoulam ALG Napoli LB Saint-Priest, France 72 €17.10 29
Dakonam Djene TOG Getafe CB Dapaong 74 €26.80 28
Kalidou Koulibaly SEN Napoli CB Saint-Die, France 84 €64.30 28
Achraf Hakimi MAR B. Dortmund RWB Madrid, Spain 72 €23.30 21
Eric Bailly CIV Man United CB Bingerville 72 €31.40 26
Salif Sane SEN Schalke 04 CB Lormont, France 69 €9.00 29
Serge Aurier CIV Tottenham RB Ouragahio 70 €19.90 27
Kwadwo Asamoah GHA Inter Milan LWB Accra 74 €21.10 31
Midfielders
Riyad Mahrez ALG Man City RW Sarcelles, France 77 €62.00 29
Hakim Ziyech MAR Ajax CAM Dronten, Netherlands 79 €42.80 27
Thomas Partey GHA Atleti CDM Krobo Odumase 76 €33.40 26
Naby Keita GUI Liverpool CM Conakry 78 €52.20 25
Ismaila Sarr SEN Watford RW Saint-Louis 67 €22.20 22
Pepe CIV Arsenal RW Mantes-la-Jolie, France 76 €45.60 24
Idrissa Gana Gueye SEN PSG CDM Dakar 75 €28.80 30
Amine Harit MOR Schalke CAM Pontoise, France 69 €10.07 22
Forwards
Sadio Mane SEN Liverpool LF Sedhiou 90 €92.40 28
Wilfried Zaha CIV Crystal Palace CF Abidjan 77 €59.60 27
Moussa Marega MLI Porto ST Les Ulis, France 70 €16.80 29
Islam Slimani ALG Monaco ST Algiers 68 €19.80 31
Average/Totals 74 €712.90 27.13636364
A difficult pick but I’ve settled on a squad that could play in numerous formations, Sadio Mané and Riyad Mahrez are two of the Premier Leagues most potent wide players whilst the midfield is a superfluity of athleticism and technique.
The likes of Feghouli, Kessie and Gervinho didn’t survive the longlist but the competition was stiff. I’m not overly happy with the inclusion of goal starved Islam Slimani but the area is surprisingly scarce of talented out and out forwards.
If this team fails to collect all nine points in this group it would be the worst thing to happen to West Africa since Di Caprio’s accent in Blood Diamond.
South India & Arabian Sea
6 Indian provinces (Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Goa), Sri Lanka, Maldives
Population (millions):239.70
Another region that practises footballing atheism, this was one of the most difficult to research. But if any documentarians want to make this into a series then I’d be happy to take some time out to fly out and research the Maldives for a while.
The two island nations donate their services to an uninspiring mess of Indian nonentity. Including the world’s sixth highest scoring active player Ali Ashfaq, never heard of him? Nah me neither.
Goalkeepers Birthplace FM20 Value Age
Kamaljit Singh IND Hyderabad GK Goa 24 €0.02 24
Chathura Ekanayake SRI Eagles Malé GK Sri Lanka 22 €0.00 27
Defenders
Anas Edathodika IND ATK CB Kerala 33 €0.03 33
Adil Khan IND Hyderabad RB Goa 32 €0.02 31
Mandar Rao Dessal IND Mumbai City LB Goa 31 €0.02 28
Lenny Ridrigues IND Goa CDM Goa 24 €0.02 32
Mohamed Imtiyas SRI Renown CB Kotahena 25 €0.01 24
Akram Abdul Ghanee MDV Valencia (MDV) CB Maafaru 28 €0.01 33
Edwin Sydney IND Chennaiyin RWB Kerala 21 €0.01 27
Asikur Alawadeen SRI Pelicans CB Kurunegala 23 €0.01 26
Midfielders
Brandon Fernandes IND Goa CAM Goa 33 €0.03 25
Rowllin Borges IND Mumbai City CDM Goa 32 €0.02 27
Sahal Abdul Samad IND Kerala Blasters CM Kerala 34 €0.04 23
Michael Soosairaj IND ATK CM Tamil Nadu 32 €0.03 25
Nikhil Poojari IND Hyderabad CM Karnataka 29 €0.02 24
Ahmed Razeek SRI Berliner AK CDM Berlin 44 €0.06 26
Mohamed Umair MDV Maziya CM Malé 27 €0.01 20
Romeo Fernandes IND Odisha RM Goa 23 €0.02 27
Forwards
Ashique Kuruniyan IND Bengaluru CF Kerala 35 €0.04 22
Jobby Justin IND ATK ST Kerala 28 €0.02 26
CK Vineeth IND Jamshedpur ST Kerala 27 €0.02 31
Ali Ashfaq MDV Club Green Streets ST Malé 27 €0.01 34
Average/Totals 29 €0.47 27.04545455
Ali Ashfaq has officially netted 463 times in his now 19 year career. Haters will say most of that was in the Maldivian league but I think I’d only be able to score half that amount so fair play to him.
The most notable islander is German born Sri Lankan Ahmed Razeek, the Berliner came through the ranks at now-Bundesliga team Union Berlin, but finds himself playing fourth tier football at the time of writing. At 25, Razeek only dedicated his services to Golden Lion in 2019, a bit of European experience may help the nation who have commanded just four wins in the last five years.
India’s most promising contribution to the side is 22 year old Ashique Kuruniyan, the young forward lacks goals but is known as something of a playmaker, Kuruniyan to Ashfaq could be the new Ozil to Ronaldo, but realistically I think this team will be lucky to find the net at all if the ratings are anything to Goa on.
Oceania and Southeast Asia
Australia, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Cambodia, Singapore, Phillipines, Malaysia, 11 Indonisian Provinces (Papua, West Papua, Maluku, North Maluku, Sulawesi Island, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara)
Population: 231.57
I almost broke the comma button on my laptop writing out all those islands, and it still doesn’t quite reach 240m. The pacific islands are home to some of the worst national teams out there, none more infamous than American Samoa who hold the record for the biggest ever defeat in international football, a 31-0 loss to Australia. If anyone hasn’t seen the documentary that was inspired subsequently to the loss, ‘next goal wins’ is perhaps my favourite football film and couldn’t recommend it highly enough when trying to explain the humanity of playing football in this part of the world.
The antagonists of the Samoan’s defeat, Australia have since changed confederations from lack of challenge. Joining the Asian Football Confederation in early 2006, the Socceroo’s have since won the Asian Cup on home soil and qualified for each of the previous four iterations of the World Cup. In 2006 a ‘golden generation’ fronted by Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill narrow missed out on a quarter final berth being beaten by eventual champions Italy in the 95th minute thanks to a controversial penalty.
While the likes of Kewell, Cahill and Mark Schwarzer have long since retired, the Aussies produce a modest yet constant procession of pro’s. Along with fellow anglophone New Zealand, the select Oceanic islanders often choose a path of playing in England’s football pyramid, with a few Premier League stalwarts found within the squad below.
Southeast Asia has a curious footballing culture, a strong general interest in the European game with seemingly little rewards for their appropriation, no malaysians manage to sneak into the selection whilst the Phillipines’ most famous athlete behind Manny Pacquiao only makes back up keeper.
Goalkeepers Birthplace Football manager Value Age
Matthew Ryan AUS Brighton GK Plumpton 66 €15.80 28
Neil Etheridge PH Cardiff GK London, England 64 €11.00 30
Defenders
Winston Reid NZ West Ham CB Auckland 66 €14.50 31
Milos Degenek AUS Red Star CB Knin, Croatia 62 €1.30 26
Trent Sainsbury AUS Maccabi Haifa RB Thornlie 60 €0.88 28
Bailey Wright AUS Bristol City CB Melbourne 59 €3.30 27
Wesley Lautoa NCA Dijon CB Epernay, France 62 €2.20 32
Aziz Behich AUS Basaksehir LB Melbourne 60 €2.20 29
Brad Smith AUS Bournemouth LWB Penrith 63 €9.50 26
Stephan Schrock PHI Cares RB Schweinfurt, Germany 57 €0.77 33
Midfielders
Aaron Mooy AUS Brighton CM Sydney 70 €26.70 29
Tom Rogic AUS Celtic CAM Griffith 67 €11.90 27
Mathew Leckie AUS Hertha Berlin CM Melbourne 65 €4.80 29
Robbie Kruse AUS Mebourne Victory RM Brisbane 64 €1.30 31
Awer Mabil AUS Mitdtjylland RW Kakuma, Kenya 63 €1.50 24
Craig Goodwin AUS Al-Wehda LM Adelaide 58 €4.60 28
Ryan Thomas NZ PSV CDM Te Puke 65 €6.50 25
Massimo Luongo AUS Sheffield W CDM Sydney 62 €7.80 27
Forwards
Chris Wood NZ Burnley ST Auckland 67 €23.40 28
Adam Taggart AUS Suwon Bluewings ST Perth 62 €0.84 26
Aposrolos Giannou AUS AEK Larnaka ST Nousa, Greece 63 €1.30 30
Daniel Arzani AUS Celtic CF Khorramabad, Iran 60 €8.20 21
Average/Totals 63 €160.29 29.68181818
As you can see the team is dominated by Aussie and Kiwi men, but there is some polynesian persuasion in the way of Wesley Lautoa who takes restbite trying to defend the likes of Neymar, Mbappe and Depay by bullying semi-pro strikers playing for New Caledonia.
Daniel Arzani is the best bet for a future talisman, despite really struggling to make the grade in Europe he’s still only 21 and could yet fulfil his potential. The Celtic forward has impeccable technical ability and has an eye on one day becoming a regular at his parent club Man City.
Chris Wood has a Premier League goal record that any striker would be proud of and is the archetypal Sean Dyche forward, but I would suggest that his physical play style precedes his genuine international quality. New Zealand famously exited the 2010 World Cup as the only side to leave undefeated, and part of that was due to the defensive talents of Winston Reid, who at that time was a 21 year old padawan learner to Blackburn hero Ryan Nelson. Now 31, The former West Ham captain Reid leads this sides defensive line where he’ll do his best to make the younger lads do most of the legwork.
Neil Etheridge is unlucky not to be the standout number one in this team, the keeper come underwear model caught the eyes of English fans saving three penalties in the 2018-19 season, although when on loan to Bristol Rovers he caught a free-kick and stepped backwards into his own goal, don’t think we’ve forgotten Neil.
Western China
9 Chinese Provinces (Feng Jin, Gansu, Shaanxi, Sichaun, Tibet, Xinjiang Uygur, Ningxia, Qinghai)
Population (millions): 256.25
A little over the limit for this one but you wouldn’t notice from the squad. The west of China is the least densely populated region and the one with the least investment in the club game, so it is no surprise that there is correlation to the talent, or lack thereof.
Every metric I’ve used in research points to this being the Chinese team that will struggle the most, the bulk of the players hail from Sichuan, which since we’re on reddit may give most of you PTSD of Rick and Morty fans standing on McDonalds counters.
None of the following players featured in the most recent Chinese national squad. In a sporting wilderness that hasn’t been invited to the game of Monopoly out east, you can’t blame this side for underwhelming.
Goalkeepers Birthplace FM20 Value Age
Wang QI CHI Shaanxi Athletic GK Shaanxi 35 €0.60 27
Yerjet Yerzat CHI Chongqing Lifan GK Xinjiang Uygur 36 €0.72 27
Defenders
Yang Xiaotian CHI Jiangsu Suning LB Shaanxi 40 €1.40 30
Wang Erzhuo CHI Shaanxi Athletic CB Shaanxi 28 €0.24 33
Alishat CHI Xinjiang Sport Lottery CB Xinjiang 40 €0.43 25
Zhang Ao CHI Xinjiang Sport Lottery RB Shanxi 28 €0.37 29
Liu Yu CHI Shanghai Shenxin CB Sichuan 30 €0.44 25
Zhou Xuri CHI Dalian Yifang CB Sichuan 29 €0.30 21
Otkur Hesen CHI Sichaun Jiuniu LB Xinjiang 20 €0.00 27
Bari Mamatil CHI Qiangdao Huanghai RWB Xinjiang 39 €1.50 31
Midfielders
Peng Xinli CHI Shanghai Shenhua CM Shanxi 47 €2.60 29
Mirahmetjan Muzepper CHI Shanghai SIPG CAM Xinjiang 46 €3.30 29
Zhang Xiuwei CHI Guangzhou E CM Sichuan 46 €2.70 24
Luo Senwen CHI Hebei China Fortune CDM Sichuan 44 €2.10 27
Li Yuanyi CHI Shenzhen CM SIchuan 42 €1.30 26
Zhang Chiming CHI Tianjin RW SIchuan 38 €1.10 31
Shewket Yalqun CHI Guangzhou E LW Xinjiang 33 €0.94 27
Yehya CHI Xinjiang Tianshan CM Xinjiang 24 €0.24 32
Forwards
Yan Dinghao CHI Gondomar CF Sichuan 45 €2.40 22
Li Fang CHI Chongqing Lifan ST Sichuan 34 €1.30 27
Gan Yingbo CHI Sichaun Longfor CF Sichuan 24 €0.16 35
Abduhamit Abdugheni CHI Jiangsu Suning CF Shaanxi 35 €0.75 23
Average/Totals 36 €24.89 27.59090909
Finding a 22 was a real struggle and there is an imbalance of positions to show for it. The only true striker is Chongqing’s Li Fang, who is officially listed as a striker-come-right back which is an oddly specific duology of skills.
The squad is predominantly composed of players from the nations second tier CL1, which to enlight the general reader means they probably aren’t going to win the tournament.
Another day another group, tomorrow we finally see one of the long anticipated Western European megasquads, and play a game of spot the Uzbekistani. Thanks again for reading, let me know if you think I've missed anyone from the squads or made an error and try to have a stab at the starting XI’s for today's teams.
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