The Manchester United youngster may become the first of many English-trained imports who choose to play for this country
In the space of 20 scintillating second-half minutes at the Stadium of Light, Adnan Januzaj, Manchester United's 18-year-old Belgian, not only served notice of his talent but sparked a wide-ranging debate about nationality, football and citizenship.
"There's no doubt that he's a real talent and we have our eyes on him but a lot will have to be discussed," said Roy Hodgson. "He's been with United for a long period of time and of course that discussion will have to be seriously debated before we start naturalising players."
Having set that hare running and sent others scurrying for the rulebook, it has emerged that the earliest Januzaj could turn out for England would be just in time for the 2018 World Cup – and only then if he applied for a British passport, did not play competitively for any other country in the meantime and the Football Association chose to tear up a gentlemen's agreement with the other home nations.
In that sense, the Januzaj debate is not far removed from that which has surrounded players such as Carlo Cudicini, Edu, Steed Malbranque, Louis Saha and Mikel Arteta in recent years, all players who would have qualified on residency grounds and had yet to win a competitive cap for the country of their birth. In each case, the FA would still have had to revisit the home nations' agreement.
But while on that basis Januzaj is still more likely to end up playing for Albania (the country of his father's heritage) or Belgium (where he was born, joining Anderlecht at 10 before signing for United in 2011), his case has also generated a wider debate about whether England could benefit from the influx of overseas youngsters into the academy system.
What has changed is the number of young players already in the system. Under an agreement between the home nations, if a player has spent five years in education in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, they become eligible for that country. It is understood that the FA, while not running a formal database, is confident that its extensive scouting network extends to all of those in the academy system who could take advantage of that rule.
While in the past it has tended to be the English FA that has watched as players have signed for other nations, now it is far more proactive than before. That would include making players aware of the eligibility rules before they make a choice on which country to represent at senior competitive level.
The more stringent approach is seen as one element of the rigour brought to the age-specific representative teams under the new structure that has the director of elite development, Dan Ashworth, the new England Under-21s coach, Gareth Southgate, and the newly appointed head of talent identification, Mike Rigg, at its apex. Watford's Jonathan Bond, for example, switched his allegiance to England in May despite the goalkeeper representing Wales at under-17 and under-19 level. Young players can switch nationality all the way through the age groups, until they have played a senior competitive international.
The debate around eligibility has polarised opinion in just about every other major sport over the past decade. As players born abroad have taken up pivotal positions for the home teams at Lord's, at Twickenham, at the Olympic Stadium and beyond, the debates about where the line should be drawn have raged. The toxic debate around "plastic Brits", with its xenophobic undertones, that flared on the eve of the London Olympics was an example of what happens when the debate turns nasty. Yet many who believed Team GB's triumph to be a victory for multicultural Britain still felt uneasy at British Wrestling's policy of importing eastern European athletes as training partners and then fast-tracking them into the team as soon as they became eligible.
In each case, a complex and emotional mixture of factors surrounding family, identity and nationality are at play. In contrast to other sports, which tend to defer to national laws around citizenship, Fifa has toughened football's eligibility rules over the past decade.
Employing typically emotive language, in 2007 Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, said: "If we don't stop this farce, if we don't take care about the invaders from Brazil towards Europe, Asia and Africa then, in the 2014 or the 2018 World Cup, out of the 32 teams you will have 16 full of Brazilian players." Aware that countries in Africa and the Middle East in particular were offering citizenship to overseas players to help their cause, Fifa moved to act. Togo had fielded six naturalised players in their 2003 qualifying campaign for the African Cup of Nations.
Besides the obvious examples, such as when one country such as the former Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union has split into several due to war or geopolitical changes, the record books illuminate several fascinating oddities. In a coda to an international career in which he scored 84 goals in 85 games for Hungary, Ferenc Puskas played in the 1962 World Cup for Spain after fleeing his homeland following the 1956 uprising.
Under the laws as they have now evolved, a player must either have a parent or grandparent born in the country in question, or have lived there for at least five years. There is an added layer of complexity as far as the home nations are concerned, which removes the clause regarding residency entirely. Instead, there is the clause relating to players having spent five years in full-time education in their adopted country, under which the English-born Andrew Driver became eligible to play for the Scotland national team in June 2012.
Yet it remains an irony of the continuing debate around youth development in England, in light of a long overdue call to arms from the new FA chairman, Greg Dyke, and the hoped-for progress under the new elite player performance plan, that the influx of foreign talent into Premier League academies could ultimately have some knock-on benefits for the national side after all.