By 90Min
October 07, 2019

The international break has traditionally been an unwanted interval whereby dire football is played out in half-full stadiums with fans travelling to tourist (not so) hotspots like Northern Macedonia and Moldova, begging for the return of domestic football.

So, to save your sanity and maybe even bring a sense of enjoyment to international football, here is a list of the best youth players under the age of 23 that may well feature for your nation during the upcoming break. 

7) Germany


While Germany undoubtably have an abundance of talent at international level, with the likes of Leroy Sane, Toni Kroos, Serge Gnabry and Marco Reus, their youth ranks are somewhat in need of bolstering. 

Nevertheless, there are unquestionably some young gems coming through the ranks. Starlets like Kai Havertz (20) have earned a senior call up, brothers Maximilian (22) & Johannes Eggestein (21) and Robin Hack (21) are yet to get the nod from Joachim Löw. It surely must only be a matter of time for these players however, with five goals between them for Germany Under-21s. 

6) Spain

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Another side who has dominated world football over the past decade is Spain, winning the 2008 & 2012 European Championship and 2010 World Cup. 

However, with the Spanish golden era coming to an end, is it time for the ever-present youth set-up to start churning out the next generation of stars. Of all players under the age of 23, only Brais Méndez (22)Unai Nüñez (22) and Mikel Oyarzabal (22) have earned senior caps for Spain, with one and two caps respectively. 

It may be time for manager Robert Moreno to gift caps to some of the exciting youth players at Spain's disposal, with Dinamo Zagreb's Dani Olmo (21) and Barcelona's Carles Aleña (21) and 16-year-old wonder-kid Ansu Fati all eligible to make the step up. 

5) Portugal

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Selecção das Quinas (Team of the Five), named after the five shields on the Portuguese crest, are the current European Champions and winners of the first UEFA Nations League after beating the Netherlands in the final, managing to do so whilst fielding several players under the age of 23, such as Benfica centre-back Rúben Dias (22) and Valencia winger Gonçalo Guedes (22), and Wolves midfielder Rúben Neves (22) coming on in the 75th minute. 

This should serve as a testament to the talent coming through the Portuguese youth ranks. Moreover, talented Under-23 players including teenage sensation João Félix (19), Manchester United's Diogo Dalot (20) and Wolves striker Diogo Jota (22) were unable to feature in the Nations League final. 

4) Italy


Italy have not enjoyed much success at international level recently, with their last triumph coming in the famous 2006 World Cup final against France and a runners-up medal at the 2012 European Championships. 

However a new dawn is on the horizon for the Azzurri, with a number of notable players under the age of 23 already established in the senior national team. Gianluigi Donnarumma (20) has earned 14 senior caps, Fiorentina's Federico Chiesa (21) has 15 caps, Internazionale midfielder Nicoló Barella (22) has nine caps, Everton's Moise Kean (19) has three and Nicolò Zaniolo (20) has two caps to his name. 

It seems that Italy have a new approach to their national team, handing caps to younger players and integrating them into the first team at a younger age. So far, so good.

3) Netherlands

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At number three we have a Netherlands side who have an extremely talented group of young players coming through the ranks at domestic level, and subsequently earning caps for the Flying Dutchmen. 

The Oranje faithful have Ajax to thank for a number of young starlets who are shaping up the next generation of Dutch football, with special pair Frenkie de Jong (22) and Matthijs de Ligt (20) sealing summer moves to Barcelona and Juventus during the summer after star-turns in last season's UEFA Champions League. 

Another player to feature at the Johan Cruyff ArenA is Donny van de Beek (22), with the midfielder opting to stay at Ajax for another season, at the very least. Domestic rivals PSV Eindhoven have former Arsenal youngster Donyell Malen (20) in their ranks, who has made an impressive start to the season, scoring eight goals in eight games.

With senior figures such as Memphis Depay and Liverpool pair Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum, the Netherlands look to have a well-rounded squad who could compete at the very top level for years to come.

2) France


Les Bleus are widely regarded as the best team in the world at the moment; having won the 2018 FIFA World Cup in style. A major factor in France's recent success is their impeccable youth set-up and abundance of talent coming through the ranks in every age group. 

Key members of the world-conquering side include PSG forward and future Ballon d'Or winner Kylian Mbappe (20) and former Dortmund prodigy Ousmane Dembélé (22). While, astonishingly considering their talent, Matteo Guendouzi (20), Houssam Aouar (21), Jeff Reine-Adélaïde (21) and RB Leipzig defensive pair Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate (both 20) have not featured for the senior side yet. It will only be a matter of time until those players do earn their first caps. 

Whilst they are almost certainly the sauciest international side, they have to settle for second place behind...

1) England

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This isn't a biased pick...swear. 

From every conceivable age group, there is an incredible amount of talent emerging from England youth set-ups. 

Already established players featuring for the England first-team are Jadon Sancho (19), Trent Alexander-Arnold (20) and James Maddison (22). Whilst the Under-21 group consists of players including Man City's Phil Foden (19), Manchester United's Mason Greenwood (18) and Arsenal's Reiss Nelson (19). 

In fact, there is so much talent within the England national team that prolific players like Eddie Nketiah (20), Joe Willock (20) and Rhian Brewster (19) have yet to win a senior cap for their country. Even the Under-19 squad has some names to follow over the coming seasons, with Arsenal's Bukayo Saka only just turning 18.

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