With the World Cup set to kick off in just a few short months, the chances of players forcing their way into international recognition are becoming increasingly slim, lets looks at the names who are making a final push for inclusion this summer.
Competing with the likes of Mousa Dembele, Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini, Axel Witsel and Dries Mertens (to name just a few) for a spot in midfield is no easy task, but Radja Nainggolan’s form in Serie A has dragged him into the mix for Belgium ahead of this summer’s World Cup.
With only four caps to his name, the 24-year-old has plenty of ground to make up on some of his more experienced compatriots. However, he has caught the eye since joining Roma in January which will have helped his cause and Marc Wilmots could very easily throw caution to the wind and bring Nainggolan into the fray come June.
Rafinha does not ooze glamour and creativity like some of his Brazil counterparts, but his 35 appearances in a Bayern Munich shirt already this season show he has sufficiently impressed one of the best coaches in the world in Pep Guardiola.
The right-back’s efforts have also alerted the attention of Luiz Felipe Scolari, who called up the one-time capped defender – his first appearance came back in 2008 – for the Selecao’s friendly versus South Africa on March 5.
Maicon is currently second choice to Dani Alves for the full-back berth, but given his age and injury record Rafinha has a real chance of selection this summer
Radamel Falcao’s chances of featuring for Colombia this season have dwindled significantly following his serious injury in January but, out of nowhere, Adrian Ramos has made a compelling case to be his replacement.
The Hertha Berlin forward, 28, has 14 goals in the Bundesliga this season – just one behind leader Robert Lewandowski, who he is rumoured to be replacing at Borussia Dortmund.
Ramos’ form has forced Colombia coach Jose Pekerman to name the striker – who has 22 caps for his country – in his squad for the first time ahead of their friendly against Tunisia this week.
He’s the only player chosen not to have been involved in qualification but, if he can prove himself in the clash, he will have a huge chance of being the team’s No.9 in June.
England has no shortage of quality left-backs in Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines, but Luke Shaw’s performances for Southampton this campaign have dragged him into contention.
The 18-year-old was named in Roy Hodgson’s squad for the first time last week, suggesting the Three Lions boss will be judging his mettle ahead of the World Cup.
He still unquestionably has a long way to go before earning a starting spot in the nation’s XI, but his talent is there for all to see and more quality performances before June could be all he needs to sway Hodgson’s mind.
Fourteen goals in 25 games in one of the top divisions on the planet is hard to ignore, even for France coach Didier Deschamps.
Antoine Griezmann’s performances for Real Sociedad have been superb this season and the 22-year-old has been handed his first call-up to the national set-up as a result.
Les Bleus could do with a regular goalscorer at international level, having looked bereft of goals for much of their World Cup campaign. If the attacker can continue his La Liga form and impress Deschamps this week then there is no reason why Brazil is beyond him.
Germany have an embarrassment of talent across their squad, but where they are shallow in depth is up front. Miroslav Klose’s legs are tiring, Mario Gomez is yet to find form after regaining his fitness and Stefan Kiessling looks destined to be ignored.
Uncapped striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s call-up to the squad to face Chile as one of only two strikers (alongside Klose) shows Joachim Low is open to alternatives with the World Cup looming.
The 22-year-old, on loan from Hertha Berlin at Hamburg, has 11 goals to his name this season in 17 appearances – a ratio that, if continued, deserves to see him in international contention at the tail-end of the season.
Italy boss Cesare Prandelli named his latest squad on Sunday and Ciro Immobile was one of three debutants – and the strongest candidate to force his way into the Azzurri’s summer plans.
The 24-year-old has netted 13 times in Serie A for Torino this campaign to register on Prandelli’s radar. Mario Balotelli aside, Italy’s attacking options have not been fluid in recent years and there is nothing to suggest the Juventus loanee cannot oust a familiar face if he keeps scoring this season.
Ajax have a rich history of producing technically exciting players. The latest in the long line of talent to emerge from Amsterdam is Davy Klaassen, whose performances for the Dutch giants in 2013-14 has captured the attention of Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal.
The uncapped attacking midfielder, who turned 21 last month, will have the chance to impress in pre-World Cup friendlies and could well do enough to earn a spot on the plane to Brazil in June
Ramon Azeez’s showings in midfield for Almeria this season have seen him thrust into Nigeria contention ahead of the World Cup.
The former Super Eagles Under-20s captain has been a constant figure in the Spanish side’s XI since October and could offer cover for the experienced likes of John Obi Mikel.
He is in line to make his senior debut on March 5 against Mexico, should Stephen Keshi choose to play him, and if he grabs that opportunity then he could feature at the World Cup.
Six goals in eight starts for Real Madrid in 2014 have seen Blancos fans call for Jese Rodriguez to be considered for a World Cup spot.
The forward has been a brilliant deputy on the left, right or in the centre of Carlo Ancelotti’s attacking trident in the absence of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo at various points this season.
So far Vicente del Bosque has resisted any urge to call him up. However, should he help the Blancos to lift La Liga this season it will be difficult to resist taking the in-form 21-year-old.
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