National Football

8 players to look out for during the international break

 • by Matt Gault
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Just when you thought you were out, internationals pull you back in.

While we lapped up a month-long footballing feast this summer with a World Cup to remember, it’s difficult to greet the first interruption to the new club football season with anything other than a shrug.

And the Premier League was just heating up too.

Luckily, there are meaningful internationals taking place, with the start of the UEFA Nations League, the revamped qualifying process for the European Championships.

There are also a number of matches that catch the eye on paper, like Germany v France and England v Spain so, in keeping with the theme that this international break won’t be a complete waste of everyone’s time, we’ve picked out a few players which may make it worth tuning in (even if nobody’s really sure how the Nations League works).

David Brooks (Wales)

The 21-year-old midfielder has committed his future to Wales despite winning three caps for the England Under-20s and is set for his competitive debut when Ryan Giggs’ side welcome the Republic of Ireland to Cardiff on Thursday night.

Brooks earned a £10million move to Bournemouth in the summer having impressed with Sheffield United in the Championship last season.

A quick, intelligent winger blessed with exquisite control, Brooks may prove to be a devastating attacking outlet for the Welsh as they seek revenge on Ireland after the Boys In Green won last year’s crucial World Cup qualifier.

Lucas Paquetá (Brazil)

Brazil head coach Tite has left several established first-teamers out of his first squad following the World Cup as he looks to pump some fresh ideas into the set-up.

That meant a first senior call-up for Flamengo playmaker Paquetá, who has been strongly tipped to follow former team-mate Vinícius Júnior to Real Madrid.

A gifted playmaker who is adept at popping up between the opponent’s midfield and defence, Paqueta can further enhance his reputation with a strong showing during Brazil’s friendly double-header against the United States and El Salvador and stake his claim for a spot ahead of next summer’s Copa América, which the five-time World Cup winners are hosting.

Giovanni Simeone (Argentina)

Like Brazil, Argentina have a couple of friendlies in the United States.

After a disappointing World Cup, it’s all change. Lionel Messi is not involved and neither is Jorge Sampaoli, the embattled tactician stepping down after failing to guide La Albiceleste past the last 16.

In comes Lionel Scaloni as the interim boss and the 40-year-old has listened to reason and finally given Simeone his much-deserved, long overdue call-up to the senior side.

The 23-year-old will follow in the footsteps of his father, Diego, in representing Argentina and he will look to make a significant impression with the likes of Sergio Agüero and Gonzalo Higuaín absent.

Since the start of the 2017/18 season, Simeone has scored 15 goals and added five assists for Fiorentina. El Cholito is here on merit.

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Pietro Pellegri (Italy)

Another man shaking things up is Roberto Mancini, who has assumed command of the Italian national team after his predecessor, Giampiero Ventura, failed to reach the World Cup, the first time the Azzurri have fallen short of making the tournament in 60 years.

Mancini has signalled his intent by naming five uncapped players in his squad for a testing double-header against Poland and Portugal.

One of the players vying for his international debut is Monaco’s 17-year-old starlet Pellegri, who moved to the principality after breaking into the Genoa first team when he was 16.

Pellegri took Italian football by storm when he became the youngest player in Europe’s top five leagues to score a brace. Mancini is hoping the striker can announce his arrival on the international scene in similarly emphatic fashion.

Frenkie de Jong (Netherlands)

De Jong is going places. The 21-year-old is already a Barcelona and Tottenham transfer target and is set to make his debut for Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands this week as they face Peru in a friendly before facing France in the Nations League.

The Dutch are looking for revenge after Les Bleus spanked them 4-0 in World Cup qualifying last year and Koeman has turned to a clutch of untested starlets in his quest to resuscitate a dying giant of the world game.

Having shone for Ajax, De Jong is expected to become a mainstay in the national team. With the most passes, assists and successful take-ons in the Eredivisie since the start of last season, it’s safe to say he’s a talent worth getting excited about.

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Kai Havertz (Germany)

Despite having only turned 19 in June, Havertz is well and truly established at Bayer Leverkusen, with eight assists in the Bundesliga from August 2017.

Joachim Löw is set to give Germany’s youth a chance to impress after their doomed defence of the World Cup, which saw Die Mannschaft exit at the group stage for the first time in 80 years.

Manchester City winger Leroy Sané has been reinstated having been left at home for the World Cup, while Havertz is set to get his first taste of senior action.

His record of seven goals in eight appearances for the Germany Under-19 team is impressive but this is a colossal step-up. From what he’s shown for Leverkusen recently, however, he looks ready.

Dani Ceballos (Spain)

Luis Enrique has already made his presence felt as he prepares to take charge of Spain for the first time, omitting Barcelona’s Jordi Alba from the squad to face England and World Cup runners-up Croatia.

Real Madrid youngster Ceballos is one of three uncapped players among La Roja‘s playing panel – along with Pau Lopez and José Gayà – and the 22-year-old may feature in the midfield of Enrique’s favoured 4-3-3.

While Ceballos is hopeful of a more prominent role at the Bernabéu this season under Enrique’s predecessor Julen Lopetegui, he will be eager to stake his claim in Spain’s midfield following the retirements of Andrés Iniesta and David Silva.

Gedson Fernandes (Portugal)

Head coach Fernando Santos has mixed it up for the European champions double-header against Croatia and Italy.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been rested, while there are first call-ups for goalkeeper Cláudio Ramos Montpellier, Montpellier defender Pedro Mendes and Monaco forward Rony Lopes, once of Manchester City.

Santos has also called up exciting 19-year-old midfielder Gedson Fernandes, who has only recently broke into the first team at Benfica.

It means that, in little over a month, the teenager has: made his first-team debut, scored his first goal, signed a new long-term contract and earned a first call-up for senior international football having turned out for Portugal more than 50 times across the various underage levels.

If you want a snapshot of Fernandes’ ability, see below:

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