England's Fabian Delph misses World Cup knockout match for birth of child

Midfielder Fabian Delph is unavailable for England’s World Cup Round of 16 match against Colombia on Tuesday after flying home to be with his pregnant wife.

Delph, who was unlikely to start, but who could have been used as a substitute, was listed as “absent” on the official team sheet as he awaits the birth of his third child back in England.

He departed the camp with the full support of manager Gareth Southgate. “Some things in life are more important than football,” Southgate said Monday. “His focus needs to be with his family at this time.”

Fabian Delph played for England against Belgium in the 2018 World Cup group stage, but left the squad prior to Tuesday’s Round of 16 match. (Getty)
Fabian Delph played for England against Belgium in the 2018 World Cup group stage, but left the squad prior to Tuesday’s Round of 16 match. (Getty)

Southgate and all involved parties have been aware of the potential conflict for months. “Gareth Southgate has been fantastic,” Delph said back in May. “There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

Delph, at 28, is making his first appearance at a World Cup, or for that matter any major tournament. He made his debut along with other reserves in England’s 1-0 loss to Belgium during the group stage. But he made the difficult decision to be with his family during England’s first knockout round match.

“It’s a bit of perspective in life,” Southgate said. “Everybody says you only get one chance to be in a World Cup, but also there’s only one day in your life where your children are born.”

Delph isn’t the only one to face the decision. Switzerland’s Breel Embolo flew home immediately after his team’s final group stage match against Costa Rica to witness the birth of his daughter, then returned to Russia and played in Tuesday’s 1-0 Round of 16 loss to Sweden. He described the whirlwind as the “most beautiful 24 hours” of his life.

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In that same game, though, Swedish captain Andreas Granqvist made the opposite decision. His second child was due on Tuesday, the same day as the match. He chose to stay with the squad.

“I’m fully focused on the game tomorrow and my wife is very strong,” Granqvist said Monday.

Then, on Tuesday, he led Sweden to the quarterfinals.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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