With the FIFA World Cup just around the corner, all eyes are now turning to Qatar. The Bundesliga is known globally as one of the best footballing leagues in the world, a home where players are nurtured and developed for prime moments like this. A total of 81 Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 players will represent their countries in the competition. FC Bayern München even set a record by sending 17 players to the World Cup – the highest-ever representation of a single club at the tournament. The Bundesliga is also home to the youngest player in the game, Borussia Dortmund’s Youssoufa Moukoko. Nations from around the world are benefitting from having their players compete in the Bundesliga each week, and ahead of the tournament start, we shine a light on five “under-the-radar” players based in Germany who could play a key role in their country’s success.
The South Korean attacking midfielder is currently playing for 1. FSV Mainz 05. The 30- year-old has featured in every one of Mainz’s matches this season, scoring twice and adding an assist. Lee is no stranger to the FIFA World Cup, having been selected for the South Korean squad for the 2018 World Cup and playing in all three of the team’s matches in Russia. Given his experience, Lee can be a key figure in helping the Taegeuk Warriors navigate a tough group that also contains Ghana, Portugal and Uruguay.
Nationality: South Korean
Previous Clubs: Holstein Kiel, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC
Djibril Sow (Switzerland)
The Swiss central midfielder is currently part of Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt but made his Bundesliga breakthrough with Borussia Mönchengladbach. The 25-year-old has played a total of 100 matches in the Bundesliga and has been a key part of Frankfurt’s progress both domestically and in the UEFA Champions League this season. Sow made his debut for the senior Swiss national team in 2018, in a UEFA Nations League group match against Iceland. Since then, he has represented his country 32 times, including at UEFA EURO 2020. Sow is not the only Switzerland international in the extended family. His cousin Coumba is a midfielder who has played for the women’s national team.
Previous Clubs: FC Zürich, Borussia Monchengladbach, BSC Young Boys
Abdou Diallo (Senegal)
The centre-back plays for Bundesliga club RB Leipzig and is well-acquainted with Bundesliga football, having already played for Mainz and Borussia Dortmund. Diallo will be playing for Senegal at the upcoming FIFA World Cup in 2022 in Qatar, a team currently ranked as a dark horse off the back of their impressive African Cup of Nations win in February 2022. At the African tournament, he played the full 90 minutes in all seven games, scoring the opening goal against Burkina Faso in the semi-final. Diallo also successfully converted his penalty in the final against Egypt and will be looking to help his country repeat their impressive performance on the world stage.
Previous Clubs: Paris St. Germain, Borussia Dortmund, 1. FSV Mainz 05
Jackson Irvine (Australia)
Jackson Irvine is an Australian central midfielder currently playing for St. Pauli in Bundesliga 2. The 29-year-old joined the club in 2021 and quickly rose to the position of team captain. During the 2022-23 season, he has been a consistent feature, starting in 15 out of 16 games and scoring three goals. But the Melburnian is also a key part of the Australian national team, the “Socceroos”. So far, he has represented his country 49 times, not only scoring seven goals but also providing a total of eight assists. Irvine will need to be at his best if Australia are to progress from a group that includes Denmark, France and Tunisia.
Previous Clubs: Hibernian FC, Hull City, Burton Albion, Celtic Glasgow, Ross Country
Noussair Mazraoui (Morocco)
Noussair Mazraoui is a 24-year-old right-back playing for the German champions Bayern München. At Bayern, he has impressed, featuring in 16 out of 21 possible games in all competitions during the 2022-23 season. While born in the Netherlands, the dual-citizen decided to play for his country of origin, Morocco, where he made his debut in 2018. So far, he has played in 14 games for his country and scored two goals.
Nationality: Moroccan Previous Clubs: Ajax