Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
One of the most fascinating parts of international football is watching an uncapped player pull on his country’s colours at senior level for the first time.
Whether it’s a promising up and comer or a battle-hardened pro arriving late on the scene, a new face lining up for his country adds an extra layer of excitement to any fixture.
In the coming days, a number of international level greenhorns will be hoping to take their first steps towards national team stardom by appearing in this week’s World Cup qualifiers.
With that in mind, here’s our rundown of some of the most exciting uncapped players hoping to win their first caps during the international break:
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Ryan Gravenberch (Netherlands)
18-year-old Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravenberch is the pick of a fresh generation of talented footballers emerging in the Netherlands and the talented midfielder expected to represent the Oranje at senior level for the first time this week against Turkey.
Gravenberch became the youngest ever player to represent Ajax in the Eredivise when he made his debut aged 16 years and 130 days in 2018, surpassing the previous record of 16 years and 242 days set by all-time great Clarence Seedorf.
Nuno Mendes (Sporting CP)
Portuguese champions elect Sporting CP have a team littered with outstanding prospects, and 18-year-old flanksman Nuno Mendes is considered one of the jewels in their crown.
The flying wingback, has been linked with money-spinning moves to several of Europe’s biggest clubs, and he can take his first steps towards international stardom with a debut for A Seleção this week when Portugal take on Azerbaijan.
Albert Sambi Lokonga (Belgium)
Schooled on the same pitches as Youri Tielemans, Romelu Lukaku and Vincent Kompany, the latest hotshot off the Anderlecht academy production line, Albert Sambi Lokonga, will hope to feature for Belgium for the first time when they take on Wales on Wednesday evening.
The box-to-box midfielder is enjoying a fine season in his homeland, and the 21-year-old has already drawn covetous glances from some of the continent’s powerhouses.
Conor Coventry (Republic of Ireland)
Conor Coventry has long been tipped for the top by those in the know at West Ham, though the midfielder, who turns 21 later this week, hasn’t quite lived up to the hype in East London.
Coventry has time on his side however, and his promising form on loan with Lincoln City this season earned him a call-up to Ireland’s injury-hit squad for their fixtures against Serbia, Luxembourg and Qatar.
Maksim Mukhin (Russia)
Having never played Russian Premier League football before, 19-year-old Maksim Mukhin exploded to prominence after the winter break, and a string of excellent performances at the base of the Lokomotiv Moscow midfield earned him a first national team call-up.
The combative destroyer has been averaging a bone-crunching 4.5 tackles per 90 minutes for his club, and his ability to disrupt possession could see him deployed by Russia against Malta on Wednesday.
Yusuf Demir (Austria)
Yusuf Demir has yet to fully establish himself at club level for Rapid Vienna in his homeland, though he showed enough flashes of potential in his fleeting appearances to be drafted into Franco Foda’s youthful and exciting Austria squad for their fixtures against Scotland, Faroe Islands and Denmark.
The diminutive 17-year-old has a sublime array of technical weapons in his armoury, and Demir looks set to be at the centre of a transfer auction this summer when his lengthy line of suitors battle it out for his signature.
Jamal Musiala (Germany)
Jamal Musiala caused quite a stir when he opted to represent Germany over England, especially having turned out for the Three Lions at youth team level from Under-16 right through to the Under -21’s.
However, the 18-year-old midfield dynamo’s decision was vindicated when he was drafted into the senior German setup by Joachim Low earlier this month, and Musiala will hope to become a fully-fledged member of Die Mannschaft against Iceland.
Described as the “new Andres Iniesta”, Barcelona midfielder Pedri has been making waves in La Liga this season with his silky close control and defence-splitting distribution, and the gifted 18-year-old could represent La Roja for the first time against Greece on Thursday.
Barca paid just €5m to sign Pedri from Las Palmas last summer, and the teenager has gone on to start 20 La Liga and six Champions League matches during his debut campaign in Catalonia.
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