Six players who could win their first caps: Bamford, Lokonga, Cunha…
The dust has settled on the transfer window and attention has turned back to the football calendar, with a fortnight of international football before the domestic club season resumes.
The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe are away with their national teams and have understandably dominated the headlines. But there are some new faces in the international game that are worth keeping an eye out for.
As ever, the potential debutants over the upcoming international break are a nice mix of rising stars and more established professionals that are finally getting their dues.
Here are six players that could make their international debuts.
Bamford made a number of appearances in the England youth ranks between 2010 and 2014, but looked like his chance at senior level was never to arrive with years spent on unfruitful loans away from Chelsea and slogging away in the Championship.
But like England’s Player of the Year for 2021, Kalvin Phillips, his fortunes have been transformed by Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United. The striker scored 17 goals in his first full Premier League season, and in spite of missing out on the Euros in the summer, has clearly remained in Southgate’s mind.
And Bamford himself never lost belief, with the bet365 2021 odds for a Bamford start and goal in the coming fixtures looking promising for the forward.
“During my first season at Leeds Mick McCarthy did get in touch,” Bamford told The Guardian.
“I had a knee injury so I was more focused on getting fit and making sure I could play the rest of the season for Leeds. But also, I felt because my heart had been committed to playing for England, and I had always dreamed of that, it would be wrong to then play for Ireland and play international football just because they had asked me.”
Regular watchers of La Liga will be well aware of Soler’s talents, having made his top-flight debut for Valencia back in 2016.
Soler was part of the Under-21 side that finished as runner-up in the European Championship in 2017 and won it in 2019, but he’s had to wait for opportunities due to an abundance of technically proficient midfielders.
The 24-year-old’s patience – he’s racked up 150 appearances in the Spanish top-flight – has been awarded with a place in Luis Enrique’s squad for Spain’s upcoming matches against Sweden, Georgia and Kosovo.
Hernandez was exceptional for AC Milan as they secured a top-four finish in Serie A for the first time since 2013 and has been duly rewarded with a first call-up for France.
Older brother Lucas has already received 26 caps and featured for Les Bleus in their 2018 World Cup triumph, but he misses out a place alongside his sibling, sidelined as he recovers from a knee injury.
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) August 31, 2021
It’s been quite a few weeks for Cunha, who won Olympic Gold in Tokyo with Brazil’s Under-23s before earning a move to La Liga champions Atletico Madrid not long before the transfer deadline.
But the forward is yet to receive a senior cap for the Selecao. That looks set to change in Brazil’s upcoming qualifiers against Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
Others such as Leeds United’s Raphinha received a first call-up, but have been denied the chance to go and play in South America due to quarantine regulations – but Cunha appears to have been given the green light.
Albert Sambi Lokonga
Arsenal’s summer recruit starred for Anderlecht last term and was given a first call-up to train with the Belgium national team squad by Roberto Martinez in March, but he’s still awaiting his debut.
With his profile raised after a summer move to the Premier League, Lokonga’s time may well be here. Relatively straightforward qualifiers against Estonia and Belarus should present the perfect opportunity for Martinez to bed the midfielder in.
He opened his account for Villa with a delightful curling effort in their most recent Premier League outing against Brentford and could cap off a brilliant week with, well, a cap.
He’s been called by Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni for a second time, after previously being included in the squad in May, and unlike some of the other clubs in the Premier League, Villa have allowed him to travel alongside his club and international team-mate Emiliano Martinez.
Argentina apparently have quite a good No.10, but with three qualifiers coming up in quick succession, Buendia could be in for an appearance off the bench.