A new cycle has started afresh in the international arena.
World Cup 2018 is over and teams from across the globe are bracing for the next challenges.
This stance applies to players who either underwhelmed in Russia, have been given a golden opportunity in this break or need to take on responsibility for guiding underperforming nations to renewed successes.
Here are five players with something to prove in this international window.
ROBERTO FIRMINO (BRAZIL)
Firmino has bided his time for this moment.
Season-on-season improvement at Hoffenhem and Liverpool was not enough to earn him the fabled ‘No9’ shirt for Brazil at World Cup 2018. Instead, it was left to him to impress off the substitutes’ bench – scoring once in 83 combined minutes of action – as Gabriel Jesus failed to shine for the quarter-finalists.
But with the Manchester City forward snubbed by boss Tite this month, Firmino should start at least once against United States and El Salvador. Grasp this opportunity and there might be no way back for Jesus.
FEDERICO CHIESA (ITALY)
After the embarrassment of failing to make World Cup 2018, Italy need new heroes to emerge.
For his first competitive selection, head coach Roberto Mancini has cast the net far and wide. Of the 31 players called up, expectations centre on Fiorentina forward Federico Chiesa.
The 20-year-old is a coming force for La Viola, scoring once and assisting another in two Serie A matches this term. Italy desperately need this form to successfully transfer to the international scene.
LUKE SHAW (ENGLAND)
Things finally feel to be falling into place for Shaw.
From the ruins of September 2015’s horrific leg break against PSV Eindhoven, tangible signs of recovery have finally fallen in place. The left-back – an 18-year-old call-up to England’s World Cup 2014 roster – has played every minute in the Premier League this season for Manchester United, impressing throughout and answering manager Jose Mourinho’s challenges.
A first venture into the Three Lions set-up since March 2017 is just reward. Strong showings against Spain and Switzerland should cement his usurpation of Ashley Young for club and country.
HENRY ONYEKURU (NIGERIA)
A rising star was denied the chance to shine at World Cup 2018 because of injury.
Now fully fit and impressing on loan at Turkey’s Galatasaray from Everton, the forward will be expected to fully express himself in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Seychelles.
Head coach Gernot Rohr will surely be tempted to start a player with two goals in three matches for his new Turkish side. With Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho yet to score in four Premier League run-outs this term, Onyekuru could provide able support to Al Nassr’s Ahmed Musa and Changchun Yatai’s Odion Ighalo.
MAURO ICARDI (ARGENTINA)
Even though injury threatens to curtail his involvement in the weekend’s opening friendly versus Guatemala, the Internazionale predator’s mere presence promises revolution.
Icardi was controversially overlooked in Russia, despite a career-best 29 goals in 36 club appearances during 2017/18. Lionel Messi, however, is now on a sojourn, plus Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero were not called up by interim boss Lionel Scaloni.
Icardi has gone disappointingly goalless in four previous caps. Ending this drought next week against Colombia would point to a brighter future, after a dismal few months for Argentina.
England and Spain will go head to head at Wembley on Saturday evening.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at five of their notable past meetings.
Spain 0 England 0, World Cup second round, Group B, July 1982
The two sides last met in the World Cup at the Bernabeu in 1982. Visitors England managed to cancel the host nation out for 90 minutes and settled for one point in the second round of the group stages. The point meant very little as West Germany won the group and advanced to the knockout stage.
Spain 2 England 4, friendly, February 1987
One of the more high-scoring fixtures between the pair came in a friendly 31 years ago, again played at the Bernabeu. Then-Barcelona striker Gary Lineker scored all four England goals at the home of their domestic rivals as England claimed victory after coming from behind.
England 0 Spain 0 (England won 4-2 on penalties), European Championship quarter-final, June 1996
The last competitive fixture between the two came at Euro 96. England scored all of their penalties in the shoot-out – Alan Shearer, David Platt, Stuart Pearce and Paul Gascoigne converting from 12 yards with David Seaman saving Miguel Nadal’s spot-kick.
England 1 Spain 0, friendly, November 2011
In their first fixture after being knocked out of Euro 2012 on penalties by Italy, England ran out winners against Spain after captain Frank Lampard netted from close range in the 49th minute. England went unbeaten for the next year before falling to defeat against a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired Sweden.
England 2 Spain 2, friendly, November 2016
The most recent fixture between the two sides resulted in a draw being played out at Wembley. England went ahead through an Adam Lallana penalty and Jamie Vardy goal but Spain were not to be deterred as Iago Aspas and Isco scored in the 89th and 90th minute respectively.
Argentina idol Diego Maradona’s eclectic post-playing career could be set for another twist after he reportedly began talks to become technical director for struggling Mexican second-division club Dorados de Sinaloa.
Maradona, 57, had been expected to become chairman at Belarus’ Dynamo Brest after he surprisingly inked a pre-contract in May for three seasons. This followed a tumultuous exit from Fujairah in April after his failure to gain automatic promotion to the Arabian Gulf League as head coach.
TyC Sports has stated that the controversial joint FIFA Player of the 20th Century is in negotiations to join a side who are winless in the 2018/19 Ascenso MX and sit just two points off the relegation zone in 13th. A major sticking point, however, is his previous agreement with Dynamo that was intended to kick in after World Cup 2018.
The legendary former Barcelona and Napoli forward has also previously unsuccessfully managed Al Wasl and his native Argentina.