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Club football takes a breather this week, leaving the international game to take centre stage and a whole host of uncapped players will be hoping to make a splash for their countries the first time over the next seven days.
Whether it’s an exciting prospect exploding onto the scene or a battle-hardened late bloomer finally forcing their way into contention, a new face lining up for their country can add an extra dollop of intrigue to international proceedings.
This week, willing debutants across the globe will be given the chance to don their country’s colours at senior level for the first time and below, we’ve picked out some of the players in line to make their maiden appearance.
Kyle Walker-Peters – England
With Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James and Kyle Walker all out of contention for the Three Lions, Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peter will be given a chance to stake a claim for the right-back spot in Gareth Southgate’s team this week.
The 24-year-old could be handed his opportunity to shine against either Switzerland or the Ivory Coast and the ex-Tottenham academy starlet has the quality to make an impact. Walker-Peters has featured in 23 of the Saints’ 29 Premier League fixtures since August.
Christopher Nkunku – France
Didier Deschamps always has an embarrassment of riches to choose from when picking his Les Blues squad and RB Leipzig attacker Christopher Nkunku is the latest potential superstar to be fished out of an ever-deepening pool of talent.
The explosive 24-year-old has notched a staggering 24 goal involvements (15 goals, 9 assists) in just 25 Bundesliga starts for Die Roten Bullen in 2021/22, and Nkunku has been tipped to make a big-money move to a major powerhouse this summer.
Nico Schlotterbeck – Germany
Lauded for his superb performances at the heart of the SC Freiburg defence this season, many feel that Nico Schlotterbeck’s call up to Die Mannschaft is overdue, though the 22-year-old will finally be given his chance to impress this week.
Every inch a modern, ball-playing defender, Schlotterbeck has all the necessary attributes to become a world-beating player in his position. Recent rumours suggest that Bayern Munich are plotting a move for the in-demand hotshot.
Vitinha – Portugal
FC Porto’s midfield maestro Vitinha has long been part of the furniture in the lower ranks of the Portugal international pyramid and the 22-year-old is ready to claim his first full cap this week.
The schemer has played a key role in unbeaten Porto’s drive to the top of the Liga NOS this term and though he is unlikely to be handed a starting berth for Portugal against Turkey in the nations’ crucial World Cup qualification playoff, he could make an appearance from the bench.
João Pedro – Italy
Born in Brazil and a former U-17 international in his homeland, 30-year-old João Pedro has taken the scenic route to stardom and recognition in Italy. Made an Italian citizen through his marriage in 2017, the Cagliari attacker started to excel in Serie A in his late 20s and he is on course to net double figures for the third campaign running.
Azzurri boss Roberto Mancini is a keen admirer and he called him up for the first time this month. João Pedro will need to keep his fiery temper in check, however. He has already been booked eight times in Serie A over the course of the current campaign.
Siebe Van der Heyden – Belgium
Newly-promoted Union Saint-Gilloise’s rise to the summit of the Belgian First Division A this season has been one of club football’s most compelling storylines and several of their players are starting to make waves at international level too.
23-year-old centre-back Siebe Van der Heyden is among their number and the talented defender looks set to make his bow for Belgium against either Republic of Ireland or Burkina Faso over the next week. Van der Heyden’s club teammate Dante Vanzeir is also in the Belgium squad for the first time.
Jordan Teze – Netherlands
PSV Eindhoven right-back Jordan Teze has had a long association with the Netherlands international set-up, where he has featured from U16 level right through to the U21s.
The versatile 22-year-old, who can also operate more centrally, was drafted into the senior setup by Louis van Gaal for this month’s friendly encounters with Denmark and Germany. Teze has been attached to the Boeren for his entire career, though he could be tempted to seek out pastures new this summer.
Gabriel Martinelli – Brazil
Gabriel Martinelli has been one of the star performers in Mikel Arteta’s increasing effective Arsenal outfit and the fleet-footed wide attacker’s thrilling displays on the flanks for the Gunners have caught the eye of Brazil’s Head Coach, Tite.
20-year-old Martinelli has chipped in with eight-goal contributions in 15 Premier League starts this season and the youngster could be a wildcard option in attack against Chile and Bolivia. Martinelli has collected eight caps for the Seleção at under-23 level.
David Raya – Spain
Something of a surprise inclusion, Brentford stopper David Raya made the cut for Spain ahead of some of his more high-profile counterparts, including Manchester United’s David de Gea.
The 26-year-old has been a solid performer for the Bees in 2021/22 and his confidence with the ball at his feet is likely to have appealed to La Roja boss Luis Enrique. Raya has never played for his country before at any level.
Alejandro Garnacho – Argentina
With one eye firmly on the future, Argentina called up a group of teenagers to their squad this month, hoping to secure their allegiances early ahead of the other suitors sniffing around. Eligible for both Spain and Argentina, Manchester United’s Alejandro Garnacho falls into this category and the 17-year-old winger – who has yet to feature in any capacity at first-team level with the Red Devils – was brought into the fold by Argentinean head honcho Lionel Scaloni this month.
Garnacho has been excelling for United this season, particularly in the FA Youth Cup, where the forward's goals have helped to carry the club to the competition's final, and the ex-Atletico Madrid junior wields a lethal combination of pace and trickery.