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  • With World Cup semifinals are set, Grant Wahl and Brian Straus acknowledge how England, France and Belgium have thrived with rosters that represent multiple players of unique, multicultural backgrounds.
By Grant Wahl and Brian Straus
July 08, 2018

The World Cup semifinals are now set with England set to play Croatia and Belgium playing France. With apologies to Croatia, Grant Wahl and Brian Straus take the off day to acknowledge how England, France and Belgium have thrived with rosters that represent multiple players of unique, multicultural backgrounds. How can the USMNT learn from their successes? 

They discuss that and more in our latest World Cup Daily podcast. Listen to the full episode below, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes to hear each episode throughout the 2018 World Cup.

Here's a snippet of the latest episode:

Grant Wahl: So many contributors from so many ethnic backgrounds, is the best way to put it. Different countries, different races, all coming together on these teams that are so successful at this World Cup and I remember talking to Roberto Martinez, the Belgium coach, and he told me that one of the things that made him so excited about taking the Belgium job, was not just the immense talent in terms of the individuals on the team, but how mnay different backgrounds they came from and how many different playing styles they had. 

Romelo Lukaku is very different in playing style from Eden Hazard and they're different from Kevin De Bruyne and they're different from Marouane Fellaini, but they're all really talented players—well he didn't say that about Fellaini. 

Brian Straus: [Laughs] No way! 

GW: That was harsh, I'm sorry. 

BS: Yea, that's an easy diss. That's pretty awesome. But hey, he did work against Brazil. 

GW: Yes!

BS: That's not fun what he was asked to do against Brazil and he did it. So props to sideshow Marouane. 

GW: Yea, I mean the point I would make I guess out of all of this is that, you and I have run into people in the U.S. who, when we're talking about what does the U.S. need to do, you hear a lot about how the U.S. needs to find an identity, a United States playing style. Argentina has a style and Germany has a style. 

BS: You just mentioned a guy who believes that.

GW: Jurgen! 

BS: Yeah!

GW: And I've also heard people sort of use that to say, well whoever comes in as a coach is going to have to face some hard decisions about which players to use and which players not to use in the U.S., because certain players just aren't going to fit the style that we choose to have. And you can't help but come away from that thinking, is this a rationale to basically not use Latino Americans in the national team, or other types of hyphenated Americans or whatever in the national team, because they don't fit this chosen identity. And then I look at France and Belgium and England, and they use their diversity to their advantage. 

BS: It's not their advantage. I don't know that England is using diversity to its advantage as much as it is allowing the diversity to happen, you know what I mean? They're not excluding people. They're not saying, We have a certain way of playing, and because you have this kind of background or grew up learning the game this way or approached the game this way, you're therefore not welcome. They are doing what teams and coaches and programs should do, which is saying, Here's who we have, here's what they're good at, let's put them in position to do well, and that's what good coaches do. That's what Jurgen [Klinsmann] never did, and it's a big reason USA's not in this World Cup.  

Continue listening in the podcast above or download and subscribe to the podcast here.

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