Lamine Yamal: Who are some of football’s youngest internationals?

8 September 2023 0 By Total Football News

Lamine YamalLamine Yamal made his Barcelona debut at the age of 15 last season

Barcelona winger Lamine Yamal could become the youngest player in Spain’s history if he makes his international debut in Friday’s Euro 2024 qualifier in Georgia.

He will be just 16 years and 57 days old for the game – which would smash the record his current Barca team-mate Gavi set in 2021 aged 17 years and 62 days.

BBC Sport looks at some other male players aged 16 and under who have played senior international football.

Wales – Harry Wilson

Harry Wilson and Craig BellamyHarry Wilson (l) made his debut in the final Wales game played by Craig Bellamy (r)

Wales gave a debut to then Liverpool midfielder Harry Wilson before he had even played a club game, against Belgium in October 2013, when he was 16 years and 207 days old.

That broke Gareth Bale’s Wales record by 108 days.

There had been talk that England could have tried to call up Wilson, eligible through a grandfather, until his 87th-minute appearance off the bench.

His grandfather Peter Edwards won £125,000 after betting £50 on Wilson playing for Wales, at odds of 2,500-1 when he was a toddler.

Wilson would have to wait five years for his second cap.

Ireland – Sam Johnston

Sam Johnston, aged 15 years and 153 days, played in Ireland’s first ever international fixture, a 13-0 defeat by England in 1882.

That record has never been beaten – and the then Distillery forward, who died in 1910, is thought to still be the youngest European international.

That team was run by the Irish Football Association, long before Irish independence, and continued to be called Ireland until 1954 when it renamed to Northern Ireland.

Belfast’s Johnston would win five caps between 1882 and 1886, scoring twice. Sadly his team lost all five games by an aggregate score of 41-5.

Norway – Martin Odegaard

Martin OdegaardMartin Odegaard became the youngest player in Norway’s top flight four months before his international debut

Stromsgodset midfielder Martin Odegaard – now the Arsenal captain – made his Norway debut at the age of 15 years and 253 days, playing all 90 minutes in an August 2014 friendly with the United Arab Emirates.

He had played 14 games for his club at that stage.

Later that year he became the youngest player, at 15 years and 300 days, to appear in a European Championship qualifier in his side’s victory over Bulgaria in Oslo.

Now 24, he has won 51 caps and counting.

Brazil – Pele

Pele in action for BrazilPele was a teenage sensation for Brazil, scoring on his debut as a 16-year-old against Argentina

He would rise to global stardom a year later, but on July 7, 1957 the precocious Santos forward Pele made his Brazil debut at the age of 16 years and nine months.

In a sign of the great things that were to come, he scored that day against Argentina at the Maracana.

Pele dazzled at the 1958 World Cup, with the then 17-year-old hitting a hat-trick against France in the semi-finals and scoring twice against tournament hosts Sweden in the final.

He added two more World Cup triumphs with the Selecao, but it was perhaps the feats of the teenage Pele that were the most jaw-dropping of his magnificent career.

Cameroon – Samuel Eto’o

Samuel Eto'oSamuel Eto’o is the second youngest player to feature at a World Cup, aged 17 years and 98 days in Cameroon’s 1998 game against Italy

Samuel Eto’o, then a Real Madrid youngster, made his Cameroon debut the day before his 16th birthday in a 5-0 friendly defeat by Costa Rica in 1997.

The striker, who made his name at Barcelona, would go on to be his country’s all-time top scorer, with 56 goals in 118 caps, and is now president of the Cameroonian Football Federation.

Argentina – Diego Maradona

Diego MaradonaDiego Maradona’s first Argentina goal came in a 3-1 win over Scotland at Hampden Park

Diego Maradona of Argentinos Juniors was 16 years and 120 days old when he made his Argentina debut in a 1977 friendly against Hungary.

His first international goal was two years later against Scotland.

He would go on to become a football legend and captain the country to victory at the 1986 World Cup.

Maradona, who scored 34 goals in 91 caps, managed the national team from 2008 to 2010 and died in 2020.

Northern Mariana Islands – Lucas Knecht

Lucas KnechtLucas Knecht (l) played 11 times for the Northern Mariana Islands. Pictured is a game against Nepal in 2013

The youngest men’s international footballer is supposedly Lucas Knecht, who was 14 years and two days old when he played in Northern Mariana Islands’ 9-0 East Asian Football Championship preliminary round loss to Guam on 1 April 2007.

However the Northern Mariana Islands, a self-governing commonwealth of the United States, is not a member of Fifa.

According to statisticians RSSSF, three 14-year-olds have played for the national team – with Joel Fruit and Kennedy Izuka both making their debuts in a November 2012 game, also against Guam. They only lost this one 8-0.

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