This month’s international break should contain moments of real consequence for a selection of football’s brightest stars.
With Europe’s best continuing a new cycle in Euro 2020 qualification and South America’s contingent refreshing options now the 2019 Copa America is out the way, managers across the globe are open to new options.
Real Madrid teenager Vinicius Junior is free of the bothersome ankle injury that cost him continental glory this summer, while Leicester City playmaker James Maddison’s burgeoning reputation can no longer be ignored by England’s Gareth Southgate. These are just two names that could begin stand-out international careers from September 2-10:
Fixtures: Colombia (N), Peru (N)
Club: Real Madrid
2019/20 record: Three appearances, zero goals/assists
Vinicius has been destined to don the famous ‘Canarinho’ shirt since being a school boy.
This summer’s Copa on home soil seemed the natural starting point for a historic career. That was before, cruel, injury struck.
Preparation at Madrid has not been ideal since for the €46 million teenager. He’s been in and out of the XI in spite of an injury crisis and is yet to deliver any tangible returns from 2019/20.
Now, comes his international chance. With Neymar undercooked because of the abortive Barcelona/Real Madrid transfer sagas, he should get minutes.
Instantly forgettable friendlies in the United States could, nevertheless, feature a pivotal moment for Brazil’s future.
Fixtures: Bulgaria (H), Kosovo (H)
Club: Leicester City
2019/20 record: Five appearances, one goal, two assists
Maddison exudes the confidence of a celebrated 50-cap veteran.
Ignore the brash social media profile, the 22-year-old boasts the numbers to prevent lapsing into hubris. His debut Premier League campaign in 2018/19 saw him become the only player to create 100 goalscoring chances, in the process becoming the first Englishman to reach three figures since Everton left-back Leighton Baines in 2012/13.
In this term’s nascent competition, only the peerless Manchester City’s pair of Kevin De Bruyne (four) and David Silva (three) have notched more than his two assists.
With Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard in wretched form and Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli scrambling for fitness, Maddison should get a chance to stake his claim as the Three Lions’ latest creative hub.
Fixtures: Germany (A), Estonia (A)
Club: PSV Eindhoven
Position: Centre forward
2019/20 record: 11 appearances, four goals, four assists
Arsenal’s loss has been PSV’s gain.
Malen made the bold choice to break away from the Gunners’ youth set-up in August 2017, despite then manager Arsene Wenger labelling him as showing “interesting qualities”. This defection has proven adroit.
A clearer path to first-team football opened up under Mark van Bommel. Now at 20-years old, Malen is the No9 for one of the Netherlands’ leading clubs after the summer exit of Luuk de Jong to Sevilla.
The Ajax youth product is not a prolific scorer. Yet a refined football intelligence – honed as a youth under Denis Bergkamp at Ajax and Thierry Henry at Arsenal – and startling turn of pace shines through.
It is these facets that made Oranje boss Ronald Koeman issue a debut call-up, ostensibly as under study to PSV alumnus Memphis Depay. Malen has the ability to make this the first of many.
Fixtures: Chile (N), Mexico (N)
Club: San Lorenzo
Position: Centre forward
2019/20 record: One appearance, zero goals/assists
The spine of Argentina’s side has come under intense scrutiny.
Centre-backs not fit for purpose, an invisible midfield and failure from centre forwards to mirror club performances at international level have sparked serious doubts. Optimism about a brighter future, however, was restored during July’s semi-final defeat at the Copa to Brazil.
This positivity could increase further this month if prolific junior international scorer Gaich can replicate this form at senior level.
The imposing, 6 ft 3 in colt was a standout at both the U-20 World Cup and Pan American Games. Only three goals in 16 first-team run-outs, however, for San Lorenzo have been registered.
La Albiceleste tactician Lionel Scaloni will hope this friendly experiment has not come too soon.
Fixtures: Netherlands (H), Northern Ireland (A)
Position: Centre forward
2019/20 record: Four appearances, three goals, zero assists
Waldschmidt represents a striking prospect who is coming to the boil.
A leading seven goals in six appearances upon Germany’s charge to runners-up at the 2019 European Under-21 Championship showed genuine promise. This has been reflected in a strong start to the 2019/20 Bundesliga, with two goals coming in three games for Freiburg.
The 23-year-old possesses a thunderous left-footed shot and refined technical skills.
This mixture, obviously, appeals to Die Mannschaft supremo Joachim Low.
RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner is locked in as starter. Uninspired back-up options like Schalke’s Mark Uth and Freiburg team-mate Nils Petersen should be no competition in the long term for the flourishing Waldschmidt.
He is unlikely to be thrust into a competitive qualifier versus the Netherlands. But minutes against Northern Ireland are not out of the question.
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