The term “golden generation” has been applied to various international sides down the year, with recent iterations including the English and Portuguese teams of the noughties.
While neither of these sides was able to fully realise their potential or yield the fruits of their grassroots production lines, however, several other countries are now said to be on the verge of enjoying their own golden generation of players.
But which international sides have the best young players, and could they go to fulfill their immense promise in the near or medium-term?
We start with Norway, whose young guns are already making their mark as the country goes toe-to-toe with the Netherlands for automatic qualification to the Qatar World Cup.
Currently, both sides have 13 points from six matches in their qualification group, with Norway’s exciting side producing some thrilling football as they look to reach their first major tournament since the European Championships in 2000.
These young charges are best represented by the precocious striker Erling Haaland, who despite being just 21 has plundered 132 goals in 175 club career appearances and 12 in 15 outings for Norway. He’s joined by long-time prodigy Martin Odergaard, with the gifted playmaker having initially burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old.
Martin Linnes, Mats Moller Daehli and midfielder Sander Berge are also future stars, while the 24-year-old Alexander Sorloth is emerging as another high-quality marksman with a bright future in the game.
Despite the disappointment of England’s previous golden generation (which included players like Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney), the Three Lions have another crop of supremely talented and arguably more technically gifted stars ready to shine on the international stage.
This was borne out during the delayed Euro 2020, as England reached the final with young players like Mason Mount and Phil Foden used regularly throughout the tournament. Aged just 22 and 21 respectively, these players have huge potential and could be England regulars for decades.
22-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold could be a future (and present) star in either defence or the centre of the park, while Declan Rice (22), Bukayo Sako (20) and Reece James (21) will also emerge as national team stalwarts going forward.
Then there’s the brilliant 18-year-old Jude Bellingham, with this silky, Rolls-Royce of a midfielder arguably one of the best players produced by England in the last 30 or 40 years.
France is another country that seems to have an endless conveyor belt of top talent, with this best embodied by the electric 22-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe.
Despite his trials and tribulations at Arsenal, Marseille’s Matteo Guendouzi is a tenacious midfielder with a huge future at just 22, while Monaco’s 21-year-old Aurelien Tchouameni also adds a touch of class and vision in the middle of the park.
Bayern Munich’s powerful center-back Dayot Upamecano showcases maturity beyond his years as a 22-year-old, while the 18-year-old Eduardo Camavinga (who tends to ply his trade as an energetic box-to-box midfielder) showcased his potential with a big-money move to Real Madrid.
Make no mistake; France has talented young players in every area of the pitch, so they’ll definitely retain a team to watch during the coming decade.