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Morocco line-up during the 2022 FIFA World Cup quarterfinal match against Portugal in Doha, Qatar.

Jose Breton via Reuters Connect

What’s it worth to crush it at the World Cup?

Whether or not underdog Morocco beats France in the World Cup semifinals on Wednesday, one thing is sure: Becoming the first African or Arab nation to get this far in the biggest sporting event on the planet stands to get Morocco more than on-field glory in Qatar.

The Atlas Lions probably didn't expect to have such an amazing run, but their overperformance is no coincidence. It’s the fruit of decades of heavy investment by the kingdom in developing its players as part of Morocco’s broader sports diplomacy.

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France fan inside the stadium before the World Cup 1/16 match against Poland.

REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Hard Numbers: Qatar gets snubbed, Croatia gets Schengen nod, Nigerians get less cash, Indiana gets tough on TikTok

765,000: That's how many visitors Qatar received during the first two weeks of the men's soccer World Cup, far less than the 1.2 million the host country was hoping for — with only eight out of 64 games left to play. Point the finger at political backlash, expensive tickets, almost no booze, and lack of hotel rooms.

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Foreign born World Cup players.

GZERO Media

The Graphic Truth: The World Cup of immigration

If you're a soccer player, your dream is to compete in the World Cup — with whatever country will call you up, whether you were born there or not. About 10% of players in the 2022 edition of the tournament in Qatar are foreign-born.

But this is nothing new. Almost 14% of players in Italy '90 were foreign-born and in the colonial era legends like striker Eusébio from Mozambique defended the colors of Portugal. What's more, when FIFA's eligibility standards were more lax, players were allowed to switch sides. José Altafini won the trophy with his native Brazil in 1958 and four years later didn’t repeat victory because he’d signed up for Italy, his adopted country. Wars matter, too: Robert Prosinecki played for Yugoslavia in 1990 and later for independent Croatia in 1998.

Also, the distribution of foreign-born players in Qatar 2022 is unequal: While half of Morocco's squad was not born in Morocco, four teams — Argentina, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea — have no foreign-born players at all. Fun fact: The Williams brothers, both born in Spain, are playing for different countries — the older Iñaki is realizing his grandfather's dream by playing for Ghana, where the family's roots are, while Nico is with La Roja.

We take a look at the number of foreign-born players in World Cup national squads.

A sculpture of the World Cup trophy is pictured in front of Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

Reuters

Will politics or soccer win Qatar's World Cup?

Sunday is the day half the world has been eagerly awaiting for four years. The men's soccer World Cup — the most-watched event of the most popular sport on the planet — kicks off in, of all places, Qatar.

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The logo of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project is seen at a rolling plant in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

What We're Watching: Russian gas pipeline problems, China's economic slump, the other mobilization

Did someone blow up the Nord Stream pipelines?

The operator of the two Nord Stream gas pipelines, which run from Russia to Western Europe under the Baltic Sea, reported “unprecedented” leaks and massive pressure drops on Tuesday, stoking fears of foul play. Nord Stream was not actually carrying gas to Europe at the time — the EU froze approvals for the new Nord Stream 2 line after Russia invaded Ukraine, and Russia halted existing flows through Nord Stream 1 in August, blaming Western sanctions. But the incident comes as Europe bundles up for winter with substantially reduced shipments of Russian gas. Seismologists recorded explosions in the area on Monday, and European officials have suggested sabotage, but so far there is no hard evidence. Russian officials, for their part, lamented the incident’s impact on “energy security,” while some pro-government outlets have suggested American sabotage. If it were deliberate, who’d benefit most from blowing up a non-operational pipeline? Apart from the geopolitical intrigue, there are environmental concerns too — the line is now leaking gargantuan amounts of methane, churning up the sea off the Danish island of Bornholm.

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