Picking a Multinational World Cup Squad of Uncapped Players
As the flow of domestic football takes a pause for the international break, focus is drawn to preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Squad announcements at this stage can be interesting, as they can give clues as to who might be boarding the plane to Russia in June—and who might be left at home.
It's traditionally a time when managers will check on last resorts or alternative solutions, calling up uncapped players to see if they can play a role, and it tends to bring to light individuals who have yet to represent their country.
Here, we've crafted a multinational 23-man squad you could take to Russia this summer formed solely of uncapped players. Only those who qualify for nations who have made it to the finals are eligible.
Ralf Fahrmann (Germany and Schalke), Geronimo Rulli (Argentina and Real Sociedad), Neto (Brazil and Valencia)
Without wanting to suggest we're peaking too early, it's arguable our goalkeeper selection is the strongest of all positions.
Fahrmann of Schalke 04 is our first choice between the sticks. To those of you who only really know him as the scourge of FIFA 18, he's excellent in real life too.
That he hasn't been capped by Germany seems ridiculous at first, but then you remember they have Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Bernd Leno—then it starts to make a bit more sense.
In reserve we have Rulli, who seems equally capable of a wonder save or a blunder, and Neto, who is enjoying a brilliant first season with Champions League-chasing Valencia.
Hugo Mallo (Spain and Celta Vigo), Oscar de Marcos (Spain and Athletic Club Bilbao)
There's a distinct Spanish feel to the right-back section, with Mallo of Celta Vigo and De Marcos of Athletic Club Bilbao answering the call.
De Marcos was once a thrilling right-winger and attacking midfielder, finding his best level under Marcelo Bielsa and excelling during their run to the Europa League final in 2012. Since then, he's slowly moved deeper and deeper, and he now spends the majority of his time at full-back.
Picking a first choice between him and Mallo, who has impressed for Celta on a consistent basis for several years, would be a tough gig.
Marcos Alonso (Spain and Chelsea), Sergio Escudero (Spain and Sevilla)
Spain complete a clean sweep at full-back, supplying two left-backs to add to the two right-backs.
Alonso's call-up for the forthcoming friendlies might see him finally make his senior international bow, but until then he's eligible. After more than 18 months playing at a high level for Chelsea, he's finally impressed Julen Lopetegui enough to be selected.
For evidence of Escudero's ability, you need only watch Sevilla's win at Manchester United in the Champions League on March 13.
Aymeric Laporte (France and Manchester City), Lucas Hernandez (France and Atletico Madrid), Dayot Upamecano (France and RB Leipzig), Victor Ruiz (Spain and Villarreal)
Communication is key in defence, and there's no easier way to cement the building blocks of that than speaking the same language. That's why uncapped duo Laporte and Lucas man our central pairing.
France manager Didier Deschamps' continual refusal to acknowledge Laporte has been strange, and although that tide is beginning to turn—he has been named in the most recent squad and will be hard to ignore now that he plays for Manchester City—it's clear he could have been integrated sooner.
Partnering him is Lucas Hernandez, who spends more time playing for Atletico Madrid at left-back but is more at home in the middle.
Upamecano's strong performances for RB Leipzig haven't gone unnoticed, so he's next in line, and Villarreal's Victor Ruiz pips Felipe (Brazil) to our fourth spot.
Defensive Midfielders/Central Midfielders (5)
Dani Parejo (Spain and Valencia), Gabi (Spain and Atletico), Allan (Brazil and Napoli), Lucas Torreira (Uruguay and Sampdoria), Abdoulaye Doucoure (France and Watford)
We've blended experience, dynamism and work rate to create a trusted central-midfield corps.
That neither Parejo or Gabi have been capped by Spain yet speaks to the immense amount of quality La Furia Roja have to call upon in midfield, while the same can be said for Doucoure's lack of involvement with France.
Allan is eligible for Italy and Brazil but has been chosen by neither—strange, considering how good he's been for Napoli for two years—while Sampdoria's Lucas Torreira is just budding on Uruguay's international scene.
Attacking Midfielders/Wingers (4)
Kai Havertz (Germany and Bayer Leverkusen), Malcom (Brazil and Bordeaux), Luan (Brazil and Gremio), Anderson Talisca (Brazil and Besiktas)
Spain might be carrying us in defence and midfield, but Brazil have shown up to represent us further up. Quite predictable, really.
It's a good job we have such a solid, tactically savvy defensive-midfield corps, as these four attacking midfielders won't offer too much in that area. What they will bring is flair, long-range shooting and creativity to feed the forwards.
Luan can play across the advanced midfield line, allowing some tactical tinkering with the formation, while Talisca and Malcom offer a threat from distance and great ball-carrying ability.
The wild card is Havertz: a star for Bayer Leverkusen this season but still a developing player.
Wissam Ben Yedder (France and Sevilla), Willian Jose (Brazil and Real Sociedad), Lautaro Martinez (Argentina and Racing Club)
Wissam Ben Yedder's recent heroics at Old Trafford have earned him a first call-up to the France squad. He might return to Sevilla still uncapped, but it's a reward for his good form this term.
He's our first-choice striker, and backing him up are two varying options.
Willian Jose, 26, can be forgiven for failing to make an impact for Brazil given the quality ahead of him; and Martinez, 20, who might soon be looked upon as part of the "new generation" for Argentina come the end of this World Cup cycle.