The return of international football has handed the opportunity to several starlets to make a name on a bigger stage. The recent matches have seen young players step up to new heights at national level, cementing their status as some of the hottest prospects in world football. Here we look at five who have made the breakthrough in the last week.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (England)
There has been much hype surrounding Hudson-Odoi of late as Chelsea have struggled to keep their exciting young talent a secret. To date his contribution for the Blues has been mostly limited to a handful of cup appearances but, despite not having started a Premier League match, the 18-year-old was selected for international duty ahead of England’s Euros qualifiers. He made his debut when he came off the bench against the Czech Republic and was chosen to start in Montenegro on Monday night, where he registered an assist for club mate Ross Barkley. He will do well to keep his place considering the competition, but there is more on the horizon for the youngster.
Moise Kean (Italy)
Born to Ivorian parents, Juventus’ Kean has been breaking records for years now. In 2016 he became the youngest ever player to feature in the Champions League, while later in the 2016/17 season he became the first player born in the 21st century to score in Serie A. Having represented Italy at several youth levels, the forward made his senior debut last November before he netted in both of Italy’s recent matches as the Azzurri started their qualification campaign with back-to-back wins. With his club teammates including Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, he has the chance to learn from the best.
Lucas Paqueta (Brazil)
Paqueta’s journey with the national team started last summer when he was named in Brazil’s provisional squad for the World Cup. He did not make the final 23-man company, but appeared as a substitute in subsequent friendlies in September. His performances for Flamengo didn’t only catch the eye of national team coach Tite, though, and in January AC Milan snapped up the 21-year-old for a fee in the region of €40 million. He returned to the international fold last week and marked his first start for Selecao with a goal against Panama. This might not be the last time you hear his name.
Thilo Kehrer (Germany)
While his mother is from Burundi, Kehrer was born and raised in Germany, where he made his Bundesliga debut three years ago with Schalke. His performances at club level alerted PSG, who acquired his signature last summer, and it was not long until Joachim Low selected him to be part of his new-look Germany line-up. He started in Die Mannschaft’s win against Netherlands on Sunday, where he wore the number two shirt. He has been playing regularly at club-level too, and future involvement at international level seems a certainty.
Timothy Castagne (Belgium)
Injury to Belgium’s regular right back Thomas Meunier has opened the door to Atalanta’s Castagne, who started in both of the Red Devils’ recent Euros qualifiers. At 23, the former Genk defender has played in nearly 100 league games in his career and is suited to the wing-back system preferred by national coach Roberto Martinez. He impressed in the recent wins over Russia and Cyprus and even registered an assist in the former and, although Meunier may reclaim his place in the summer, Martinez has more to think about now.