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Three Exciting International Football Teams On The Brink Of A Golden Generation

The last decade saw the likes of Belgium and Wales reap the rewards of nurturing a golden generation of players.

Both teams had struggled to get to major championships and are now two of the strongest sides in Europe.

Irish fans may feel that they could be on the verge of something similar given the talent coming through at underage level but a look around world football shows that they are not the only ones who could enjoy a successful decade should some promising youngsters live up to their hype and deliver on the international stage.

Here we look at three up and coming international sides who could be about to come out of the wilderness and into the spotlight.

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Norway

Norway bears many similarities to Ireland. Despite the popularity of football in the country and some of the greats who have worn a national team jersey, the Scandinavians have only appeared in three World Cups and one European Championships (They were on the cusp of another before the postponement of their Euro 2020 play-off against Serbia).

Players like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Tore Andre Flo, John Carew, Henning Berg and Ronny Johnsen formed part of a golden generation for Norway in the 90s and they may be on the brink of another.

If people think Ireland have a talented cohort of players coming through, they just have to look at the Norwegians who are exceeding the Irish and have been for some time.

Their side, who are managed by international football master Lars Lagerback, were unbeaten in 2019 and boast a number of household names.

The likes of Josh King, Stefan Johansen, Marcus Henriksen, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Kristoffer Ajer will be familiar to fans of British football but it is some of their younger players who make the future of Norwegian football very bright.

Martin Odegaard, who burst on to the scene as a 15-year-old and made headlines after joining Real Madrid in 2015, is still arguably one of the most exciting youngsters in Europe. Now 21, Odegaard has enjoyed loan spells away from the Bernabeu and if he does not make the breakthrough at Real, could do so at another big European side, especially given his magical performances for Norway.

Sander Berge of Sheffield United is another future star and key part of the Norwegian side. Having been linked with Liverpool, the imposing midfielder has made a bright start to his career in the Premier League.

Alexander Sorloth who is on loan at Trabzonspor from Crystal Palace has become one of the top marksmen in Europe despite seemingly flopping in the Premier League. The 24-year-old has been linked with both Manchester United and Real Madrid.

However, despite also boasting an array of other talents like Martin Linnes (Galatasary), Mats Moller Daehli (Genk) and Bjorn Maars Jonsen (Ulsan Hyandai), it is Erling-Braut Haaland who is catching most of the attention from a Norwegian perspective.

With two international caps to his name, the Borussia Dortmund man looks like one of the best young attackers in world football right now and will be central to the Norwegian national team for the next decade. Should they reach next year’s European Championships, it could mark the start of a successful decade.

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Scotland

Another side on the brink of next year’s European Championships but one that has arguably underperformed for the past few years despite the talent available to it, Scotland have famously failed to qualify for a major tournament since the World Cup in 1998.

They have come close on many occasions and like the Norwegians, qualification for next year’s tournament could start a decade of success.

The Scots have always been able to call on Premier League players as well as a bulk of some strong Celtic and Rangers sides. Some Scottish fans have argued that Steve Clarke has failed to call upon the best available to him, often going for some of his ex-Kilmarnock players and even Scottish Championship players.

Players like Manchester United-linked John McGinn (Aston Villa) and Celtic trio Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Ryan Christie have been central to Clarke who can also call on the quality of Ryan Fraser (AFC Bournemouth), John Fleck (Sheffield United), Stuart Armstrong (Southampton) and, of course, captain Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) who is arguably one of the best left backs in the world.

However it is the wave of young players that the Scots will be excited about. Scott McTominay of Manchester United is not even a starter for Clarke but his quality at club level has shown how important he will be for the Scots who lured him from England’s clutches.

Despite injury struggles, Kieran Tierney also remains an important prospect for his country, even if Robertson’s presence continues to force him out of position. Mikey Johnstone (Celtic) and Billy Gilmore of Chelsea are two of Britain’s brightest young midfield prospects with Gilmore in particular looking like he will become a regular at Stamford Bridge.

If the Scots can get the right balance between these exciting youngsters and some of the more established players, they could finally start to achieve having underwhelmed for so many years. Their underage sides have qualified for a number of tournaments over the last decade and that experience will help to create a more consistent winning mentality

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Canada

Canada is certainly not a team that spring to mind when it comes to football. A regular in the Gold Cup, they have been restricted to just one World Cup appearance in 1986.

The establishment of a new domestic league and the continued success of Toronto, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS have injected quality into the national team who once relied on the likes of Paul Stalteri and Tomas Radzinski.

The team has also suffered in the past from losing the likes of Asmir Begovic to Bosnia, Jonathan De Guzman to the Netherlands and Owen Hargreaves to England.

However, they now have some well-known names who form the spine of their side with some genuinely exciting wonder kids coming up through the ranks. Junior Hoilett (Cardiff City) and Scott Arfield (Rangers) are by no means world beaters but are an important part of that spine as well as Atiba Hutchinson of Besiktas who is the veteran of many Champions League campaigns.

Ex-Newcastle defender David Edgar and former Norwich man Simeon Jackson are also in and out of the squad, but it is the youngsters who make the future of Canadian football very exciting.

Alphonso Davies burst onto the scene in the Gold Cup as a 16-year-old in 2017, netting three times and looking like a seasoned pro which prompted Bayern Munich to sign him.

He has since thrived with the German giants, playing both as a winger and more recently as a left back, running riot against Spurs in the Champions League.

The Ghanaian born player could be one of the best wide men in Europe should his form continue. Another extremely exciting player is Jonathan David of Gent who at only 20 has 11 international goals in 12 appearances as well as a goal every two games for the Belgian side.

Arsenal and Barcelona are said to be interested in the youngster who can play as a centre forward or in a deeper role .

Cyle Larin (Besiktas-on loan at Zulte) also has impressive stats since arriving in Europe with Portuguese-raised Stephen Eustaquio (Pacos Ferreira) also highly rated. Liverpool youngster Liam Miller has already received full international caps while Montreal player Ballua Tabla was running riot for Barcelona’s B team before it was reported that he wanted to return to his home country 

In addition to these players, MLS based Theo Bair (Vancouver Whitecaps), Mark Anthony-Kay (LA FC) and Liam Fraser  (Toronto FC) are others who could yet find themselves securing moves to Europe.

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Author: Nick Menezes

Nick is a soccer, GAA and rugby fanatic who has a worrying obsession with the Irish football team. His articles focus on Irish football and he also writes some light-hearted pieces, particularly quirky starting XIs.