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Jul 19, 2011

Cosmopolitan winners, uni graduates

Norman Hubbard is Soccernet's resident anorak. If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to asknorman@hotmail.com and he'll try to answer as many as possible.

When France won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000, I believe that most of the squad, including Zinedine Zidane, were born outside of France. May I know if any other countries have had similar experience? Laughing Gor asked

France's greatest side were certainly a multicultural group, but only two of the squad who won the 1998 World Cup final were born elsewhere and Zidane himself, though of Algerian parentage, was born in Marseille. Those two were Patrick Vieira (born in Senegal) and Marcel Desailly (Ghana).

Plenty of others, however, came from foreign families or grew up elsewhere. They included Bernard Lama (French Guiana), Youri Djorkaeff (Poland and Armenia), Robert Pires (Spain and Portugal), Alain Boghossian (Armenia) and David Trezeguet (Argentina). In addition, Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram and Bernard Diomede all come from families in France's Caribbean territories and Thuram was actually born in Guadelope. Christian Karembeu was also born in a French territory, though New Caledonia - in the Pacific Ocean - may become a separate country in the future.

However, there is an earlier World Cup-winning squad had far more foreign-born players. Italy's policy of including the oriundi - players of Italian heritage but South American birth - was controversial, but helped them to victory in 1934. Four of their squad - Attilio Demaria, Enrique Guaita, Luis Monti and Raimundo Orsi - were born in Argentina and another, Anfilogino Guarisi, was born in Brazil.

With the European seasons ending, I've spent a lot more time watching the MLS. Just a casual observation but it seems that a higher percentage of matches end in draws. Is there any statistical evidence to back this up? Aaron from the United States asked

The facts back up your feeling. The statistics in Major League Soccer (up to and including the games played on July 16) do show a remarkably high number of games ending level. With 71 draws in 171 matches, 41% have ended all square.

In comparison, all of the major European leagues produce more winners. As the figures from last season show, the Spanish and German top flights are the divisions to watch if you want to see a result, while France produces most tied matches, though nowhere near as many as the United States:

•  La Liga: 79 draws in 380 (21% of games)

•  Bundesliga: 63 in 306 (21% of games)

•  Serie A: 97 in 380 (26% of games)

•  Premier League: 111 in 380 (29% of games)

•  Ligue 1: 125 in 380 (33% of games)

This year, David Villa scored 20 goals for his tenth consecutive season between four clubs. Can any other player in recent memory boast this kind of record?, Mike Pellicio from the United States asked

Villa's record is indeed unique among current players who have operated, as he has, in any of Europe's top five leagues throughout the past decade. I'm not sure if this meets your definition of recent memory, but the great German predator Gerd Muller can boast a superior record by reaching 30 goals in 12 successive seasons for Bayern Munich between 1966 and 1978.

Do you know of any professional soccer players who have also excelled in academic circles, say a university graduate in a challenging discipline like mathematics or science? Allan Mwangangi from Dubai, UAE, asked

Graduate footballers are a rarity, but not a complete unknown. They were more common in earlier eras, perhaps because playing football wasn't as lucrative then. One comparatively recent example is Iain Dowie, who got a degree in engineering and worked for British Aerospace (allowing people to call him a rocket scientist).

Others to graduate in tough academic subjects include Steve Heighway (economics), Brian Hall (mathematics), Gudni Bergsson (law), Arjan de Zeeuw (medicine), Steve Palmer (software engineering at Cambridge University), Shaka Hislop (mechanical engineering), Barry Horne (chemistry), David Wetherall (chemistry), Oleguer (economics), Matt Lawrence (American Literature), Antonio Nunez (law), Seyi Olofinjana (chemical engineering) and Brian McClair (mathematics). In addition, the great Brazilians Socrates and Tostao both have degrees in medicine and were doctors.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the more intelligent have excelled in management, including Ottmar Hitzfeld (maths), Arsene Wenger (electrical engineering and economics), Steve Coppell (economic history) and Slaven Bilic (law). Martin O'Neill started a law degree, though he did not finish it.

I read somewhere that when India qualified for the World Cup, they refused to wear football boots and thus were disqualified. Is this true? Ashik Burathoki asked

Strange as it may sound, it is. India were due to take part in the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, but on the proviso they wore football boots. They refused and didn't play (although, more prosaically, it is also thought budgetary reasons explained their reluctance to travel). Had they played, by the way, they would have been in a group with Italy, Sweden and Paraguay.

The other unusual element of the story is that India qualified without winning, or indeed playing, a game: they were placed in a group with Burma, Indonesia and Philippines, all of whom withdrew, meaning India qualified by default. Incidentally, the Indians had been allowed to play in the 1948 Olympics without wearing football boots.

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