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Africa’s major impact on Euro 2024

African players in EURO 2024. African footballers. Football stars of African descent are making a significant impact at the European Championship, enhancing its diversity like never before.

As the 2024 edition reaches the quarter-finals, many teams owe part of their success to players with African heritage. Kevin Danso is a prime example. The 25-year-old defender played a key role for Austria, the country where he was born, as they reached the last 16. He grew up in England from the age of six with his Ghanaian parents, training in the academies of Reading and MK Dons.

Despite having ties to three different nations, Danso, who plays for Ligue 1 side Lens, has always stayed connected to his roots. In June 2022, he visited Ghana for the first time, a trip that deeply moved him.
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“I’ve been very lucky to call Austria home and Ghana my ancestral home,” Danso told BBC Sport Africa.
“The culture, the food, the people, and everything that is Ghanaian makes me who I am. I always follow the national football team and my support is always there for Ghana.”

Embracing Ghanaian culture also means adopting its traditions, including the friendly food rivalry with Nigeria. In fellow Austria international David Alaba, who has Nigerian parents, he has a willing sparring partner.
“He [Alaba] knows Ghana has the best jollof but he will always argue with me.”

Spain’s dynamic duo

During their rise to the top of international football in the late 2000s, Spain’s play was known for slow, patient possession. But things have changed. Now, with Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal, La Roja has two fast, direct wingers of Ghanaian and Moroccan-Equatoguinean descent.

Much like the Boateng brothers, Jerome and Kevin-Prince, who chose Germany and Ghana respectively, Nico and his older brother Inaki are on different paths. Both born in Spain to Ghanaian migrants, Inaki chose to play for Ghana, while Nico represents Spain.
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Inaki has faced challenges with the Black Stars, but Nico has been a standout for Spain in his second major tournament. His goal in the 4-1 win over Georgia was his first of Euro 2024, but he had already shown his skill, especially in the 1-0 win over defending champions Italy.

“We may have followed different international paths, but I always look up to him [Inaki] for guidance,” Nico told BBC Sport Africa. “Playing in the same tournament [the 2022 World Cup] was a dream come true, and our parents are the proudest because we represented two countries that define our family history.”

On the other wing, Yamal is a creative player whose maturity is impressive for his age. Few 16-year-olds have made such an impact in their debut tournament as the Barcelona prodigy has in Germany. While Morocco hoped to secure Yamal, like they did with other Spain-born players such as Achraf Hakimi and Brahim Diaz, he chose to represent Spain, much to their benefit.

Jamal Musiala starring for Die Mannschaft

Host nation Germany has been one of the most impressive teams at Euro 2024, securing a spot in the quarter-finals with a tough win over Denmark.

Despite some doubts about Kai Havertz’s effectiveness up front and the decision to drop Bundesliga winner Florian Wirtz for the last 16, Jamal Musiala has been the constant in Germany’s attack. The 21-year-old was the center of an international tug-of-war between Germany and England as a youngster, and he could have also played for Nigeria through his dual-national father.

Musiala has shared his experiences with Nigerian culture in recent interviews. “My dad made fufu while I was growing up in England; he made this dish every other day,” he said.
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His international allegiance was a well-considered decision. “I could have played for Nigeria because it crossed my mind, and I thought about it well,” Musiala explained to UK3. “I had good talks with Nigeria and Germany. So it really just came down to me and where I’d feel the most comfortable. I decided to go with Germany.”

Nicknamed ‘Bambi’ in his early days, Musiala has not looked back since his international debut in 2021. His dribbling skills give him an elusive, mesmerizing quality that has enhanced Germany’s intricate possession play and could be crucial if Julian Nagelsmann’s team is to lift the trophy in Berlin on 14 July.

Dan Ndoye part of Switzerland’s squad

Less than a year ago, Lausanne-born Dan Ndoye was considering playing for then-reigning African champions Senegal.

“For me, Senegal is the best team in Africa,” he told wiwsport. “They showed it at the Afcon and qualified for the World Cup. Of course, I’m interested, but it’s not up to me to decide if I’m going to play for Senegal or Switzerland.”

Fast forward a year, after a stellar Serie A season with Bologna, and Ndoye has become one of the standout players at Euro 2024 for a team known for its cultural diversity. The Swiss squad includes back-up keeper Yan Mvogo, defender Manuel Akanji, midfielder Denis Zakaria, and forwards Breel Embolo, Kwadwo Duah, and Zeki Amdouni, all with African heritage.

Now, ahead of a quarter-final clash with England on Saturday, Switzerland is being seen as a dark horse for the title. Their dominant win over Italy contributed to this perception, but it was their Group A draw against Germany that truly impressed.

In that match, the host nation needed a late Niclas Fullkrug header to equalize after Ndoye’s first-half goal put them on the back foot. Ndoye’s ability to play between the lines, move wide, and pose a threat inside the penalty area has been crucial to Switzerland’s success.