Numbers game shows global appeal

The global appeal of the 2006/07 UEFA Champions League remains undiminished with players of 28 different nationalities battling for a place in the final.

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The UEFA Champions League crown may be destined for England or Italy, but such is the multinational flavour of modern European football that a wide range of countries retain an interest in this season's showpiece event.

With three clubs from England – Chelsea FC, Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC – and one from Italy – AC Milan – through to the semi-finals, it is no surprise that English and Italian players head the list of players still involved, with 21 and 15 respectively. Yet the cosmopolitan composition of their squads means that, counting the players who have appeared already this term, there are another 26 nationalities still represented.

Pace of change
It is quite a jump from the 15 nationalities featured in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals just five years ago and highlights the pace of change in football. Third on the list after England and Italy is France with seven players, followed by Brazil and the Netherlands (six), Portugal (four), and Argentina and Spain (three).

Park carries Asian hopes
Interestingly, three of the countries represented have never boasted a European champion before, hence the undoubted support in Chile for Liverpool (Mark González), in Ivory Coast for Chelsea (Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou), and in Korea Republic for Manchester United (Ji-Sung Park). In Park's case he will be hoping to make history as the first Asian winner of the UEFA Champions League.

It is not only the players who are a multinational bunch. All four coaches hail from different countries – and there is not one Englishman among them. While Milan are led by an Italian in Carlo Ancelotti, the three Premiership contenders are guided by a Portuguese (José Mourinho at Chelsea), a Spaniard (Rafael Benítez at Liverpool) and a Scot (Sir Alex Ferguson at Man United). As if to underline the global nature of the modern game, the English trio are also foreign-owned with a well-known Russian at Chelsea and Americans overseeing Liverpool and United.

List of players' nationalities in semi-final clubs*
21 – England
15 – Italy
7 - France
6 – Brazil, Netherlands
4 – Portugal
3 - Argentina, Spain
2 – Czech Rep, Ivory Coast, Norway, Rep of Ireland, Wales
1 - Australia, Cameroon, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Korea Republic, Nigeria, Poland, Scotland, Serbia, Ukraine