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Meet exciting budding international debutants


While the international break is generally to be loathed, even more so during a pandemic, it does at least offer the opportunity to see players you don’t always get to see on a weekly basis. With three fixtures now being packed into the space of two weeks rather than two for most, international managers are naming larger squads to cope with the demands and that has only increased the likelihood of introducing new faces.

Though there is an abundance of international debuts over the next two weeks, here is a list of six that may be of particular interest, perhaps due to their age, talent or story.

Marcus Thuram (Gladbach / France)

More than 12 years on since Lillian Thuam played his 142nd and final game for France, his son, Marcus, has been rewarded with his first senior call-up at the age of 23. It’s richly deserved, as the Gladbach forward has been in great form so far this season.

Thuram has notably reserved his best performances for the Champions League, which isn’t a bad quality to have – stepping up for the big games. Thuram really put his name out there with a stunning brace in a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid late last month. Thuram made five appearances for the France U21s, all coming in 2019, and he never found the back of the net. He will hope to get off to a flyer if selected in any of France’s upcoming matches against Finland, Portugal or Sweden.

Willy Boly (Wolves/Cote d’Ivoire )

After years pining for a place with the French national team, Wolves centre-back Willy Boly has decided, at the age of 29, to switch allegiance to Cote d’Ivoire. Boly represented France from their U16 age group until U20 but never got a look-in thereafter.

Wolves have been one of the Premier League’s top sides over the last two years with one of the best defensive records in that time, with Boly playing a key role in that. Perhaps with reservations over his suitability in a four-man defence, France head coach Didier Deschamps constantly overlooked Boly.

While France certainly haven’t missed Boly, he will certainly boost to the Elephants defensive options, particularly with Manchester United’s Eric Bailly constantly in and out of the physio room.

Since the beginning of last season, Wolves have won 43.3% of their Premier League matches with Boly in the team compared to 37.5% when he hasn’t started, with goals conceded per game  decreasing from 1.56 when he hasn’t featured from the off to just 0.8 when he has.

Jude Bellingham (Dortmund / England)

Not named in Gareth Southgate’s original squad, but the Three Lions head coach has turned to Jude Bellingham as a result of injury to Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse. Having already reported for duty with the U21s, it was felt promoting Bellingham was more straightforward than recalling Aston Villa’s Ross Barkley.

Recognition by the senior caps a whirlwind few months for Bellingham, who left boyhood club Bir

mingham in the summer to join Dortmund despite intense interest from Manchester United. The 17-year-old has already made a real impression in the Bundesliga, despite only completing 90 minutes once for the German giants. He already has his first assist in the league and Champions League and averages more tackles per 90 (3.2) in the league than any other Dortmund player. Should Bellingham manages to go start any of England’s three matches he will be the youngest player in England’s history to do so.

Giovanni Reyna (Dortmund / USA)

Borussia Dortmund are not short on young talent, which brings us to our next potential international debutant. Gio Reyna showed flashes of his potential at the back end of last season and the 17-year-old has already established himself as a regular for the Black and Yellow this term, even impressing more than last season’s star Jadon Sancho.

Reyna has started six of Dortmund’s first seven league matches this season and has already played a direct hand in four goals – only Erling Haaland (8) has managed more for the club. The teenager remarkably registered a hat-trick of assists in a 4-0 home win over Freiburg at the start of last month – the first player to do so in a Bundesliga match since February.

Reyna is the son of ex-Manchester City midfielder Claudio Reyna. Claudio racked up more than 100 caps during his 12-year international career and didn’t make his debut until the age of 21. With Gio set to debut for the United States at the age of 17, there is no reason why he cannot surpass his father’s achievements.

Marcos Llorente (Atletico / Spain)

They often say some career hinge on moments and there is no doubt Marcos Llorente’s has taken a turn for the better since his stunning cameo against Liverpool in the Champions League knock-out phase last season. The 25-year-old has been a regular for Diego Simeone’s side ever since his two-goal haul from the bench knocked the Reds out of Europe and his up-turn in form has been recognised by Spain head coach Luis Enrique.

What is most interesting about Llorente is how he has developed and been moved further forward since joining Atletico from Real Madrid in the summer of 2019. The Spaniard was used more as a defensive midfielder during a loan spell at Alaves in 2016/17, notably racking up 3.8 tackles per game and 2.7 interceptions per game, but since moving to Atletico has often been deployed up front or out wide.

Diego Carlos (Sevilla / Brazil)

The timing of Diego Carlos’ call-up for Brazil is interesting, as the Sevilla centre-back’s reputation is arguably at its lowest for some time.  The 27-year-old earned rave reviews a few months back before enduring a very tough end to last season. Sevilla ended up winning the Europa League (again) but Carlos conceded a penalty in the quarters, semis and final.

Up against pace and power, it appeared the Brazilian had been found out, particularly after hauling down Romelu Lukaku in the Europa League final. Even this season, Carlos is no longer considered Sevilla’s best defender but 22-year-old Jules Kounde. The Spanish side may rue not cashing in on Carlos when the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City were sniffing around earlier this year.

Brazil head coach Tite is certainly mindful of the fact Thiago Silva’s international career is almost over and finding a long-term partner with Marquinhos is now a priority.

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