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The pair are both poised to make their first appearances for their respective nations on Wednesday, thus becoming the latest members of a select and precociously talented club

By Mark Doyle

With all of Europe's top leagues just starting to warm up and the Champions League having reached its knockout stage, the current international break has, in the eyes of many football fans, come at a most inopportune time.

However, while getting excited about a friendly can be as difficult as trying to find meaning in a Quentin Tarantino film, there are two games this week which will most definitely be worth watching given they are likely to feature the international debuts of two of the most exciting young forwards in Europe.

Athletic Bilbao starlet Iker Muniain is expected to play some part in Spain's meeting with Venezuela at La Rosaleda, while Roma forward Fabio Borini is set to make his Italy bow in the Azzurri's clash with the United States in Genoa.

Muniain has been breaking records for Athletic ever since he became the Basque outfit's youngest every player when he came on in a Europa League clash with Young Boys, fittingly, in July 2009 at the age of 16 years, seven months and 11 days old.

Big things have long been expected of Borini, meanwhile, but he failed to make the grade at Chelsea and it is only this season that his career has finally taken off.

The use of "finally" is probably a bit harsh but then, as Goal.com has outlined below, there are several players born in the 1990s who are already into double figures in terms of international caps.

MARIO BALOTELLI | Italy

Read more on Balotelli
PROFILE
Date of Birth
12/08/1990
Position
Forward
Club
Manchester City
INTERNATIONAL STATS
Caps
7
Goals
1
Borini's call-up has come at the expense of Balotelli, who is undoubtedly one of the most gifted youngsters in the game today but also one of the most infuriating. The Manchester City striker has all the talent in the world. However, he also seems to have a darkness inside him which makes him do the most bizarre things - on and off the field.

Of course, this appetite for self-destruction makes him compelling viewing for us neutrals but also maddeningly frustrating for his colleagues and coaches for both club and country. Indeed, the 21-year-old forward has been dropped by Italy because of ongoing concerns over his discipline.

However, one suspects that coach Cesare Prandelli is merely trying to give Balotelli the kick up the backside he so badly needs and, so great is his ability, it would be a major surprise if he is not recalled by the time Euro 2012 rolls around – particularly if Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano remain unable to travel because of their respective ailments.

CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN | Denmark

Read more on Eriksen
PROFILE
Date of Birth
14/02/1992
Position
Attacking Midfielder
Club
Ajax
INTERNATIONAL STATS
Caps
20
Goals
2
Ajax know a thing or two about identifying world-class potential at an early age, so a lot of people sat up and took notice when the Dutch outfit paid €1 million for the 16-year-old Eriksen in November 2008. As expected, the Dane has developed wonderfully well in Amsterdam and was named Dutch Football Talent of the Year last May, earning high praise from none other than Johan Cruyff for his performances during Ajax’s title-winning campaign.

Eriksen was the youngest player on show in the 2010 World Cup but he was utilised only as a substitute, coming on in the games against the Netherlands and Japan. However, as he underlined with his man of the match-winning display against England 12 months ago – a gane in which he outshone another member of our list, Jack Wilshere - he is now the key player in his country’s starting line-up and, with the Danes set to face Germany, Netherlands and Portugal at Euro 2012, he will have ample opportunity to prove himself as a genuine world-class player.

MARIO GOTZE | Germany

Read more on Gotze
PROFILE
Date of Birth
03/06/1992
Position
Attacking Midfielder
Club Borussia Dortmund
INTERNATIONAL STATS
Caps
12
Goals
2
Germany, of course, have their own precociously talented attacking midfielder in the shape of Mario Gotze. A product of the Borussia Dortmund youth team, the teenager inspired his club to the Bundesliga title last season with a string of scintillating displays.

At international level, he has been forced to play second fiddle to Mesut Ozil, but as his virtuoso showing against Brazil last August proved, it is only a matter of time before he nails down a place in Joachim Low’s starting line-up. Quite simply, Gotze is a rare talent that cannot be ignored: he has already caught the interest of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid, and it seems just as inevitable that he will be recognised as one of the world's elite playmakers sooner than later.

EDEN HAZARD | Belgium

Read more on Hazard
PROFILE
Date of Birth
07/01/1991
Position
Winger
Club
Lille
INTERNATIONAL STATS
Caps
25
Goals
1
At the age of just 21, Hazard is one of the most coveted players in Europe. Signed by Lille from Belgian outfit Tubize in 2005, the winger, who can also play in the 'hole', spent a couple of years in the French side’s youth team before making his debut in a Ligue 1 game against Nancy in November 2007. Hazard really came to prominence the following season and by 2009 it was being widely reported that a number of Europe’s top clubs were tracking the player.

That speculation has only intensified over the past three years, with Hazard inspiring Lille to a surprise title success last season, and he recently confirmed that he will make a multi-million euro move to England this summer. It seems like the perfect time for the attacker to test himself in one of Europe’s top leagues and the hope must be that the switch will also benefit Belgium, who have yet to see the best of Hazard at international level.

PHIL JONES | England

Read more on Jones
PROFILE
Date of Birth
21/02/1992
Position
Centre-back
Club
Manchester United
INTERNATIONAL STATS
Caps
3
Goals
0
According to reports, Arsenal offered Blackburn approximately €9.4m for Phil Jones in January of last year. Rovers demanded €11.8m, so Arsenal abandoned their interest. How Arsene Wenger must regret that decision now. Jones ultimately ended up joining Manchester United last summer for €19.5m and promptly set about establishing himself as one of the most exciting young defenders in the world.

The 20-year-old is by no means the finished article but so good is he on the ball that he is just as comfortable in midfield as he is at the back; so highly is he now rated by manager Sir Alex Ferguson that he has already been entrusted with the captain’s armband.

Former England boss Fabio Capello has already admitted that he sees something of Franco Baresi in Jones and while that seems a tad hyperbolic, there is no denying the defender’s immense potential as a future leader for both club and country.

TONI KROOS | Germany

Read more on Kroos
PROFILE
Date of Birth
04/01/1990
Position
Midfielder
Club
Bayern Munich
INTERNATIONAL STATS
Caps
24
Goals
2
Another one of Germany’s fantastically exciting crop of youngsters, Kroos wasted little time in announcing himself as a star of the future by creating two goals for Mirsolav Klose on his Bayern Munich debut as a 17-year-old in September 2007. It was during a one-year loan at Bayer Leverkusen, though, that the midfielder came of age and he forced his way into the Germany squad for the 2010 World Cup on the back of his performances at the BayArena.

However, since returning to Munich in time for the start of last season, Kroos has established himself as a regular in the Bayern line-up. And after being viewed by Joachim Low as a useful understudy to Bastian Schweinsteiger, it would now be something a surprise if he does not start alongside his club-mate when the Germans kick off their Euro 2012 campaign against Portugal on June 9.

ERIK LAMELA | Argentina

Read more on Lamela
PROFILE
Date of Birth
04/03/1992
Position
Midfielder
Club
Roma
INTERNATIONAL STATS
Caps
1
Goals
0
More than a few eyebrows were raised when Roma decided to hand over €18m to River Plate for Erik Lamela last summer. His talent had been obvious for a long time but it seemed like an awful lot of money for such an inexperienced and unproven teenager. It was certainly thought that Lamela would at least take one season to adapt to the Italian game.

However, he has been one of Roma’s outstanding performers this season, impressing all and sundry with his clever running and tremendous vision. Indeed, it seems that €18m isn't that much for such an extravagantly gifted midfielder, who has been recalled to the Argentina squad for this week’s friendly against Switzerland having earned just one previous cap for his country, against Paraguay last year.

NEYMAR | Brazil

Read more on Neymar
PROFILE
Date of Birth
05/02/1992
Position
Forward
Club
Santos
INTERNATIONAL STATS
Caps
15
Goals
8
Only just turned 20, Neymar is arguably the most exciting young player in the world today. Since making his Santos debut as a 17-year-old, the Brazilian just has not stopped scoring and his exploits have seen him repeatedly linked with La Liga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona. While he did not get a look-in when Santos went up against Barca in last year’s Club World Cup final, his prodigious talent is beyond dispute, with his jaw-droppingly brilliant solo effort against Flamengo last year was the perfect illustration of his intoxicating mix of his blistering quick feet and explosive pace.

Having committed himself to Santos until 2014, the only doubt over Neymar is whether he can cope with the incredible pressure that has been placed upon his young shoulders to inspire the Selecao to victory at the next World Cup. His record of eight goals in his first 15 appearances suggests he will rise to challenge.

XHERDAN SHAQIRI | Switzerland

Read more on Shaqiri
PROFILE
Date of Birth
10/10/1991
Position
Winger
Club
Basel
INTERNATIONAL STATS
Caps
17
Goals
4
Born in Kosovo to Albanian parents, Xherdan Shaqiri moved to Switzerland as a child. The winger made his debut for Basel as a 17-year-old in July 2009 and went on to play a key role in the club’s double-winning campaign, with his impressive form earning him a place in his adopted nation’s squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. His subsequent displays for his country caught the attention of many of Europe’s elite and he further enhanced his growing reputation with his performances for Basel in this season’s Champions League, the most notable of which saw him create both goals in his club’s historic 2-1 victory over Manchester United at the end of the group stages.

Shaqiri looked set to move to Galatasaray during the January transfer window but the deal collapsed and he will now join Bavarian giants Bayern Munich in the summer. Given the intense competition for places at the Allianz Arena, the move will most likely be the making of him.

JACK WILSHERE | England

Read more on Wilshere
PROFILE
Date of Birth
01/01/1992
Position
Midfielder
Club
Arsenal
INTERNATIONAL STATS
Caps
5
Goals
0
Jack Wilshere is the most talked about young player to emerge in England since Joe Cole; the crucial difference between the pair seems to be that the Arsenal midfielder looks set to live up to the hype. Blessed with a wonderful range of passing and an understanding of the game that belies his age, Wilshere became his club’s youngest ever league debutant when he lined out against Blackburn in September 2008 at 16 years and 256 days old.

However, it was only after a productive loan spell with Bolton that Wilshere really came to the fore, with the Stevenage native collecting the PFA Young Player of the Year award after a wonderful 2010-11 campaign with the Gunners.

It was during this time that Wilshere also broke into the England squad but, tragically, the broken ankle he sustained last September means that his hopes of competing in Euro 2012 have been jeopardised somewhat. However, Wilshere is reportedly in line to make his return to action inside the next four weeks and every true football fan will be hoping that the classy playmaker is back to his best by the time the tournament gets underway.

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