We pick out the players who need to impress in this international break.
A new cycle has started afresh in the international arena.
World Cup 2018 is over and teams from across the globe are bracing for the next challenges.
This stance applies to players who either underwhelmed in Russia, have been given a golden opportunity in this break or need to take on responsibility for guiding underperforming nations to renewed successes.
Here are five players with something to prove in this international window.
ROBERTO FIRMINO (BRAZIL)
Firmino has bided his time for this moment.
Season-on-season improvement at Hoffenhem and Liverpool was not enough to earn him the fabled ‘No9’ shirt for Brazil at World Cup 2018. Instead, it was left to him to impress off the substitutes’ bench – scoring once in 83 combined minutes of action – as Gabriel Jesus failed to shine for the quarter-finalists.
But with the Manchester City forward snubbed by boss Tite this month, Firmino should start at least once against United States and El Salvador. Grasp this opportunity and there might be no way back for Jesus.
FEDERICO CHIESA (ITALY)
After the embarrassment of failing to make World Cup 2018, Italy need new heroes to emerge.
For his first competitive selection, head coach Roberto Mancini has cast the net far and wide. Of the 31 players called up, expectations centre on Fiorentina forward Federico Chiesa.
The 20-year-old is a coming force for La Viola, scoring once and assisting another in two Serie A matches this term. Italy desperately need this form to successfully transfer to the international scene.
LUKE SHAW (ENGLAND)
Things finally feel to be falling into place for Shaw.
From the ruins of September 2015’s horrific leg break against PSV Eindhoven, tangible signs of recovery have finally fallen in place. The left-back – an 18-year-old call-up to England’s World Cup 2014 roster – has played every minute in the Premier League this season for Manchester United, impressing throughout and answering manager Jose Mourinho’s challenges.
A first venture into the Three Lions set-up since March 2017 is just reward. Strong showings against Spain and Switzerland should cement his usurpation of Ashley Young for club and country.
HENRY ONYEKURU (NIGERIA)
A rising star was denied the chance to shine at World Cup 2018 because of injury.
Now fully fit and impressing on loan at Turkey’s Galatasaray from Everton, the forward will be expected to fully express himself in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Seychelles.
Head coach Gernot Rohr will surely be tempted to start a player with two goals in three matches for his new Turkish side. With Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho yet to score in four Premier League run-outs this term, Onyekuru could provide able support to Al Nassr’s Ahmed Musa and Changchun Yatai’s Odion Ighalo.
MAURO ICARDI (ARGENTINA)
Even though injury threatens to curtail his involvement in the weekend’s opening friendly versus Guatemala, the Internazionale predator’s mere presence promises revolution.
Icardi was controversially overlooked in Russia, despite a career-best 29 goals in 36 club appearances during 2017/18. Lionel Messi, however, is now on a sojourn, plus Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero were not called up by interim boss Lionel Scaloni.
Icardi has gone disappointingly goalless in four previous caps. Ending this drought next week against Colombia would point to a brighter future, after a dismal few months for Argentina.