March is already upon us, meaning the football season is getting towards the business end for many players – especially those in Europe.
With the World Cup edging ever closer, form is going to become more crucial as players hope to nail down a place in their respective national team squads.
Of course, there are still plenty of teams yet to confirm their participation in Qatar, so some cannot take qualification for granted.
But that won't stop certain individuals from dreaming about getting themselves into contention and ultimately playing a starring role on the big stage.
Back in November, Stats Perform began their one-year countdown to the biggest show in football by identifying 11 uncapped players who could potentially break into their respective national squads before Qatar 2022 gets under way.
Of the original 11, we've already had one success story in Cade Cowell, who was capped by the United States in December, but with an international break approaching at the end of March, it's time to look at how our XI fared in February…
Luis Maximiano (Portugal) – 23, goalkeeper, Granada
After a somewhat shakier period between December and the end of January, Maximiano is again impressing in LaLiga. Granada's unconvincing defence is really making him work hard for his wages, with his 23 saves nine more than any other LaLiga goalkeeper in February – only three boasted a better save percentage than him (76.7). But where his improvement really stands out is with Opta's 'goals prevented' metric – he prevented 3.4 more goals than the average goalkeeper would have expected based on the quality of chances faced, by far the best record last month.
Jonathan Clauss (France) – 29, right-back, Lens
February wasn't the most productive of months for wing-back Clauss in terms of creation, given he only laid on five chances and none were assists. However, he scored twice – one a clinical finish from outside the box and the other a freak cross that went straight in – and remained a useful option in terms of getting the ball into the box, with his 39 such passes second only to Frederic Guilbert (58) among defenders.
Bremer (Brazil) – 24, centre-back, Torino
Despite signing a new contract in early February, Bremer continues to be linked with a move to one of Europe's elite. It wasn't a good month for Torino, who lost three and won none of their four league games – though Bremer's record of 13 interceptions was only bettered by one player (Mattia Caldara, 14) despite playing 91 fewer minutes.
Sven Botman (Netherlands) – 22, centre-back, Lille
Botman has not been quite the imperious presence he was in the previous period we examined, with his duels success dropping from 76.5 per cent to 47.4. He also played the full game – and scored – as Lille lost 5-1 to Paris Saint-Germain. However, they have kept three clean sheets since in Ligue 1 and the Dutchman has been an ever-present.
Angelino (Spain) – 25, left-back, RB Leipzig
Leipzig have enjoyed a real resurgence under Domenico Tedesco, though Angelino had a quiet February. Over the previous period we looked at (December and January), Angelino's 3.0 expected assists was the best in the Bundesliga, and his 16 key passes was bettered by only five, but in the past month he has created only four opportunities, his xA sitting at 0.4 – 12 defenders can better that.
Riqui Puig (Spain) – 22, midfielder, Barcelona
Unfortunately for Puig, the outlook seems to be getting bleaker by the week. He did not play a minute of LaLiga football in February, instead sitting on the bench four times. It was thought Xavi's hiring would help him, but if anything he's been even more of an outcast.
Christopher Nkunku (France) – 24, attacking midfielder, RB Leipzig
With a couple of friendlies to come at the end of March, there's surely a great chance of Nkunku getting a belated first call-up. He continues to be a vital weapon for Leipzig, with his five goals (only one was a penalty) the joint-best in the Bundesliga last month, while only five players set up more chances than him (10).
Alan Velasco (Argentina) – 19, winger, FC Dallas
The new MLS season is underway, though Dallas fans are being made to wait for his debut. The teenager began training with the club on Tuesday, so his debut could come soon.
Cade Cowell (United States) – 18, forward, San Jose Earthquakes
Cowell was a little quiet in San Jose's first game of the season, a 3-1 defeat by New York Red Bulls on Saturday, registering only 21 touches before his withdrawal in the 65th minute. However, he did lay on a joint team-high two key passes. He'll want to be a little more involved over the next couple of weeks if he has designs on getting back into the USA squad for the next qualifiers.
Amine Gouiri (France) – 21, forward, Nice
February was a quiet month for Gouiri, perhaps going some way to explaining Nice's struggles. They only won once and got just a single goal over their four games, and Gouiri was not very influential in attack, failing to register a single key pass and he managed just three shots. He did dazzle with an incredible assist and also a goal in Tuesday's 2-0 Coupe de France win over Versailles, but they are a fourth-tier side, so let's not put too much emphasis on that.
Matias Arezo (Uruguay) – 19, forward, Granada
After arriving in Spain in January, Arezo is understandably still settling in. The young forward has made a couple of appearances – including a debut cameo against Real Madrid – amounting to 82 minutes, and in that time he has racked up three key passes. Nevertheless, he was an unused substitute in Granada's two most recent games.