Ireland has been a country often mocked somewhat for the use of the ‘granny rule’.
It has been a loophole used many times throughout Irish football history and in 2019, 18 players born outside of Ireland were capped although Ronan Curtis and Derrick Williams who make up that 18 were both raised in Ireland.
However, Ireland’s use of the rule is mild compared to other countries. To put it into context, Ireland had 6 players born abroad in the last squad to take on Denmark which is less than some countries like Algeria (11), Cape Verde Islands (10) and Armenia (7) not to mention many other higher profile countries which will be mentioned later.
The likes of Canada and Australia have also started using the ‘granny rule’ more vigorously in recent years, recruiting from the UK.
Below are six national teams that are active users of the ‘granny rule’ with some heavily relying on it, making Ireland look like rookies when it comes to recruitment.
Morocco are possibly one of the biggest users of the granny rule over the past few decades. The team had somewhat of a golden generation in the 1980s and 1990s but most of their key men were Moroccan born supplemented by French born players.
The team dipped in the 2000s but came back strongly, appearing in the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia but going out in the group stages, securing a draw with Spain in their final group game.
Only six of the players in that squad were actually born in Morocco with star men Achraf Hakimi, Medhi Benatia, Hakim Ziyech and Younes Belhanda all born outside the country.
It is fair to say that despite the heavy numbers of players born outside Morocco, they have strong ties to their heritage, especially given the fact that the likes of Hakimi (Spain) and Ziyech (Holland) could arguably get into the national teams of their birth.
Their last squad had an almost identical trend to that of the World Cup squad, despite some different personnel. The strong panel that played Burundi in November contained a baffling 17 out of 24 players born outside of Morocco with five different countries represented.
This included France (6), Holland (5), Belgium (2), Spain (2) and Canada (1). In addition to this, ten more players born outside Morocco were capped in 2019 with six of the ten coming from France.
The Turkish national team has always been strongly represented by German-born players qualifying on more of a parentage than granny rule. Many were born in Germany and moved back to Turkey at a young age with many born in Turkey and raised in Germany.
In fact, many current German caps like Ilkay Gundogan, Emre Can and Mesut Ozil are all of Turkish descent.
The last Turkish squad had 10 players born outside the country with eight German and two Dutch, the most notable being Hakan Calhanoglu of AC Milan who hails from Mannheim in south Germany. Former Dortmund, Liverpool and Real Madrid midfielder Nuri Sahin is also German-born and retired from international duty in 2017.
The strong links between Germany and Turkey will always see both national teams contain players hailing from both countries.
Equatorial Guinea is probably not a national team many people are familiar with.
The West African country is a former Spanish colony and has drawn on the services of Spanish born players frequently. Javier Balboa, formerly of Real Madrid and Benfica, ex-West Ham man Pedro Obiang and their captain and former Middlesbrough and Birmingham player, Federico Nsue, are probably their most notable names and are all granny rule players.
In 2015, the team shocked the world by reaching the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations, a tournament they hosted with Gabon. Out of the 23 players in that squad, 16 were Spanish born and 1 was Cameroonian born.
In fact, their last squad that was due to play Libya last month contained 14 Spanish born players out of 24 with three other Spanish born players unavailable.
Perhaps more controversially, the EG national team recruited nine Brazilian players with no ties to the country in between AFCON playoffs against DR Congo in 2012. FIFA did not intervene in this. They also called up Columbian born Jimmy Bermudez in 2013, reportedly paying him for his services.
The USA are probably the biggest users of the granny rule in history when it comes to the diverse amount of countries some of their players have been born in.
The vast majority were raised in the United States with many others qualifying on residency while playing in the MLS. Over 100 players from an astonishing 58 different nationalities have represented their national teams throughout the years with the top three including Scotland (47 players), England (24 players) and Germany (23 players) with three Irish born players holding USA caps.
Their current squad, although mainly US-born does still contain many players born abroad. Their tendency to pick German-born players has continued with many the sons of military based in Germany.
John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach) and Timothy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt) are probably the most high profile of several German-born players in or around the squad. The promising Sergino Dest of Ajax was also recruited from the clutches of Holland as was the Norwegian Mix Diskerund who is on the books of Man City.
In the last couple of years, the USA have cast their net back towards the UK with players like Cameron Carter-Vickers (Spurs), Duane Holmes (Derby County) and AC Milan linked Antonee Robinson (Wigan) all now part of the set up as well as Dom Dwyer of Orlando City qualifying by virtue of his marriage.
Wales have been one of the success stories of international football in recent years following the emergence of a golden generation which shows no signs of slowing down. The likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen are all Welsh-born as were other Welsh legends who retired in the last decade like Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy.
Their squad is packed with talent and most refreshingly, a blend of the big names and some youngsters which has become a trend of Welsh football.
What many people forget is the number of players in the Welsh squad that are actually English born. Some were born in England and grew up in Wales but the vast majority qualify on the granny rule.
12 of the 23 players in the last Welsh squad were born in England with Stoke goalkeeper Adam Davies born in Germany. A further eight English born players who were not in the squad were capped in 2019 with Terry Taylor (Wolves) a preliminary call-up who was born in Scotland.
Many of Wales’s current wonder kids are English born including the half-Irish Ethan Ampadu (born in Exeter), Dan James (born in Hull), Ben Woodburn (born in Nottingham) and Rabi Matonda (born in Liverpool).
With such quality Welsh players turning their backs on England, it begs the question what are the Welsh doing right that the Irish are not with the losses of players like Michael Keane, Jack Grealish and Declan Rice.
Curacao, formally the Netherland Antilles, have enjoyed their most fruitful few years ever in international football. Consecutive qualification for Gold Cups in 2017 and 2019 as well as being crowned Caribbean Cup champions in 2017 has brought a lot of joy to the small island. Much of their success has come from being able to call upon players in the Dutch Eredivisie who have a well-rounded football education.
Many of their players will be known to Dutch fans with the likes of Juninho (Huddersfield), Leandro Bacuno (Cardiff City), national team captain Cuco Martina (Everton) and ex-Swansea midfielder Kemy Agustein all players Premier League fans will have come across.
The team has risen nearly 100 places in the FIFA World Rankings in the last decade but despite recent successes are still only ranked 102.
In terms of their Dutch contingent, 23 Dutch-born players were capped in 2019 which is the equivalent of a tournament regulation squad. 14 of these players were included in their last squad although this should not take away from the fact that many of the players born on the island are carving out successful careers for themselves in Holland and are a key part of the national team.