With the immediate future occupying the minds of most Manchester City followers right now, the midweek international games threw up four names that will more than likely be making a big splash on the international front in the mid- to long-term future. The obvious bonus of their successful introduction to international football is that all four ply their trade with City and may well form part of the next generation of stars in sky blue.
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In the well-appointed stadium in Barcelos, Northern Portugal, the national team's under-21s conducted an unremarkable and comfortable 2-0 win over their Macedonian counterparts. A crowd of 5,300 watched as Portugal's next generation made light weather of their opponents to move a full six points clear of their nearest rivals in qualifying Group 8 of the under-21 competition.
The game took on extra meaning for followers of Manchester City in the 68th minute of a game already running towards its 2-0 conclusion thanks to earlier goals from Bernardo Silva and Ricardo Esgaio. It was at this point that Marcos "Rony" Lopes entered the fray. Nothing particularly remarkable in that, you might think, but Lopes is only 18 and was born in 1995, when most City supporters began to cringe as the Years Of Hunger and Embarrassment were just kicking off in anger.
How ironic to think that, while the great convulsions that have gripped this club over the last fifteen years were pouring all over us, this latest star in world football's firmament was quite possibly rolling marbles around his living room carpet and enacting some premature dribbling of a totally different kind to that which occupies harrassed defenders lining up against him these days. Lopes has already made his mark on the City faithful and this debut match for Portugal's young hopefuls was notable for a number of typically incisive darting runs, quick accurate passes and explosive shots, one of which took a layer of paint off the Macedonian crossbar. A bright and exciting future surely awaits the young star from Bethlehem (Brazil's Belem).
Further north in Cardiff, South Wales, defensive midfielder Emyr Huws was also making his debut, but this time for the senior Welsh national side in their game against near World Cup qualifiers Iceland. Huws played out a controlled and impressive game in front of the Wales back four in a sweet 3-1 win and, with this accolade coming swift on the tail of his award for Birmingham City's (where he is currently on loan from City) Player of the Month for February, the young Huws has suddenly shot into the football nation's consciousness. Huws has been instructed by his manager at City, Patrick Vieira, himself no slouch in the midfield dominator role, to base his style on Barcelona's Sergio Busquets and take it from there. If only life were so simple for the rest of us.
Another City youngster making his full international debut was Dutchman Karim Rekik, currently out on loan at PSV of Eindhoven. Rekik, a cultured centre-back who is calmness personified, has already played for the City first team and made his bow as a second half substitute for the Dutch in their 2-0 defeat to the French in the Stade de France in Paris. Rekik has played extensively for PSV this season and, despite some defensive errors that have led to goals being conceded, has been a major player in PSV's tilt at the Dutch title.
The fourth and final international newcomer needs little by way of an introduction. Notwithstanding this, the strike that Fernandinho planted into the net from 30 yards out for Brazil against South Africa was perhaps the most noteworthy of all the contributions offered by City's international contingent midweek.
Just days after walking up the Wembley steps to accept his first honour in English football, the little midfield dynamo did his chances of sneaking into Luis Felipe Scolari's World Cup plans no harm by putting on a superb show in Johannesburg as Brazil ran out comfortable 5-0 winners over South Africa.
Despite an obvious richness of choice in midfield, the Brazil coach must now be becoming aware of exactly what Fernandinho has achieved in his first season in England. If he maintains his eye-catching form through to the end of the season, he may well have the double pleasure of adding more domestic trophies to last weekend's Capital One Cup success, while also playing his way into Brazil's attempt to win the most prestigious international trophy there is to be had.