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Updated: June 5, 2010 17:13 IST

Premier League rules World Cup pitches

DPA
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Ivory Coast forward Didier Drogba, right, is tackled by Japan's defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka, left, during an international friendly test game. Drogba reportedly broke his arm in this encounter. Photo: AP
AP Ivory Coast forward Didier Drogba, right, is tackled by Japan's defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka, left, during an international friendly test game. Drogba reportedly broke his arm in this encounter. Photo: AP

England leads the way again as the Premier League supplies the most players for the World Cup in South Africa that kicks off on Friday.

The Premier League boasts 119 World Cup players, but the number could drop by one if Chelsea’s Didier Drogba is really ruled out of the tournament with his arm fracture and his Ivory Coast coach Sven Goran Eriksson calls up a replacement who plays elsewhere.

The big five European leagues top the contingents as they did for the 2006 edition, providing 386 and thus more than half of the 736 players in the 32 teams’ 23-player squads.

England's 119 (103 in 2006) are followed by Germany's 84 (75), Italy has 80 (61), Spain 59 (51) and France 44 (56). The order remains the same when only the foreign players in the leagues are counted: England 96, Germany 61, Italy 57, Spain 39, France 33.

In total, 454, or 61.7 per cent of the World Cup squad members, play in foreign leagues, up from 390 (53 per cent) in 2006.

As in Germany four years ago, all players from title holders Italy are at domestic clubs. England and Germany have also recruited all 23 from the Premiership and Bundesliga, respectively, after each had two players abroad the last time around.

At the other end of the spectrum, Nigeria's 23 all play outside the country, Ivory Coast and Cameroon have 22 each in foreign leagues, and Australia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Uruguay 21 each.

“We have the advantage that we can play African and European football because our players are under contract in Europe,” said Nigeria forward Obafemi Martins.

With Drogba not yet out of the running, Premier League winners Chelsea and Spanish champions Barcelona top the club bill with 13 players each.

Chelsea's number would have even equalled Arsenal's leading 15 from 2006 if their Germany captain Michael Ballack and Ghana midfield star Michael Essien weren't out injured.

Arsenal have 10 players at the World Cup this time around and so do European Champions League winners Inter Milan - but neither side has a man in the England and Italy squad, respectively, due to their large number of foreigners.

Denmark boasts the youngest player in South Africa in Christian Eriksen (18 years four months) while England goalkeeper David James is more than double his age at 39 years 10 months.

However, records will not be set in this division at the World Cup as Northern Ireland's Norman Whiteside remains the youngest player at 17 years one month in 1982 and Cameroon legend Roger Milla the oldest at 42 years one month in 1994.

Instead, there could be the first ever duel of brothers at World Cup level if Germany field Jerome Boateng and Ghana Kevin-Prince Boateng when the two sides play in group D on June 23.

Born in Germany, Kevin-Prince decided to play for Ghana because he saw no future for himself in the German squad after playing in the nation's junior teams.

While Kevin-Prince got the licence to play for Ghana just ahead of the World Cup, FIFA had no mercy with North Korea, which for whatever reason named forward Kim Myong Won as third goalkeeper.

“The three players listed as goalkeepers can only play as goalkeepers during the World Cup and cannot play outfield. And Kim Myong Won will not be allowed to play as an outfield player if he has been put on the list as a goalkeeper,” FIFA said.

Won's only chance of seeing World Cup play will now be in goal, but that chance appears as remote as lifting the trophy on July 11, given that only four teams have gone through all three keepers in World Cup history.

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