Nigeria vs Ghana: What can Ademola Lookman offer Super Eagles? | Dailytrust

Nigeria vs Ghana: What can Ademola Lookman offer Super Eagles?

Ademola Lookman delighted about Nationality switch
Ademola Lookman delighted about Nationality switch

In February 2022, the world football – governing body, FIFA, cleared Leicester City FC player, Ademola Lookman, to represent Nigeria at the international level.

Lookman, who played for England U19, had rejected to switch allegiance to Nigeria on three occasions before now.

And on March 4 when the technical adviser of Nigeria’s national men’s football team, Augustine Eguavoen, released the Super Eagles’ provisional list of 32 for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 play-off round against the Black Stars of Ghana, Lookman’s name made it to the list.

He was picked ahead of 2021 AFCON forwards, Taiwo Awoniyi and Peter Olayinka, who could only make the seven-man standby list.

Lookman has been in fine form for his English club side recently and some analysts feel Nigeria would have done better at the 2021 AFCON finals in Cameroon if the former England youth player had participated in the soccer fiesta.

Nigeria is blessed with potent attackers who are currently hitting the net all over Europe. A peep into the list released by Eguavoen reveals the strength of the team’s attack.

The list has Ahmed Musa (Fatih Karagumruk, Turkey); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Victor Osimhen (Napoli FC, Italy); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Sadiq Umar (UD Almeria, Spain); Odion Jude Ighalo (Al-Hilal FC, Saudi Arabia); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England) and Emmanuel Dennis (Watford FC, England).

One now wonders why the change of allegiance of Lookman means so much to Nigeria more so that the country had tried to poach him on three different occasions without success.

Who is Lookman?

Lookman was born in Wandsworth, South West London to Nigerian parents.

He joined Charlton Athletic’s academy in 2014 after signing from Waterloo, a youth football club based in the London Borough of Lambeth.

His goalscoring record for Charlton’s U18 and U21 teams led to him making a rapid ascent through the Charlton academy ranks and he made his first-team debut for the Addicks on 3 November, 2015.

Lookman signed a four-and-a-half-year contract with Everton on January 5, 2017 for an undisclosed fee, reported as an initial £7.5m and potentially rising to £11m with add-ons.

He made his debut for the club ten days later in a 4–0 victory over Manchester City, replacing Ross Barkley in the 90th minute and scoring the team’s fourth goal.

Lookman made his first European appearance for Everton in a 1–0 win over MFK Ružomberok in the Europa League third qualifying round first leg.

The player joined the Bundesliga club, RB Leipzig, until the end of the 2017–18 season. In his first game with Leipzig, Lookman scored the winning goal in the away game against Borussia Mönchengladbach after coming on as a late substitute.

On 25 July, 2019, Lookman returned to RB Leipzig on a five-year deal, a year and a half after a successful loan spell at the German outfit scoring 5 goals in 11 appearances. But on 30 September, 2020, he joined Premier League side Fulham on a season-long loan.

Then, on 31 August, 2021, Lookman joined Leicester City on a season-long loan.

On the international scene, he received his first international call-up when he was named in the England U19 squad for Mexico. He was subsequently named in the squad for the European U19 Championships that summer. In early 2017, Lookman turned down the opportunity to switch allegiance to Nigeria after an approach from the national coach, Gernot Rohr.

He was selected in the England under-20 team for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup and scored three goals in the tournament.

England beat Venezuela 1–0 in the final, to achieve the country’s first victory in the final of a global tournament since the 1966 World Cup.

Ademola Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin while playing for England

Ademola Lookman and Dominic Calvert-Lewin while playing for England

Lookman received his first call-up for the England under-21s for European Championship qualifiers against the Netherlands under-21s and Latvia under-21s in September 2017. He made his debut in the first match and set up Everton teammate Dominic Calvert-Lewin for England’s goal in a 1–1 draw.

Lookman turned down Nigeria again in early 2018 after meeting with the president of the Nigeria Football Federation. He subsequently rejected Nigeria’s approaches for a third time in September 2018, after England senior manager Gareth Southgate convinced him that he was part of his plans.

Despite his caps and success for England at the youth level, and having previously rejected Nigeria’s approaches, in January 2020 the NFF announced that Lookman would be switching his international allegiance to Nigeria.

Style of play

A scouting report on Lookman shows that the attacker uses his balance and ability to turn quickly to disorientate defenders and put them on the back foot.

His dribbling ability means he is effective out wide and as a striker. However, it is difficult to see many players with his body structure play as the main striker, especially when he cannot provide any aerial threat.

Also, he looked very comfortable playing on the left of the U-20 England team, his ability to drift wide and cut inside of the opposing backline proved crucial for his team and paved his way to contribute with goals.

That being said, with Moses Simon and Samuel Chukwueze making the flanks theirs already, Lookman could be deployed behind the striker(s) to run at the opponents. He could also be deployed as a false No 9 in a match where the Super Eagles decide to use a defensive approach.

Strengths
Lookman has great technique and quick speed of thought. His fearlessness and his instinct to make a defining impact are skills young players usually lack. He looks so comfortable running directly at defenders and is able to contribute with goals anywhere in attack through his clever movement.

He uses his pace with a low centre of gravity alongside his great agility and quick feet to twist and turn to get away from opponents. All football fans want to watch this type of player and Lookman’s direct running, skill and powerful finishing ability with both feet can get the crowd off their seat.

The Super Eagles have been yearning for a player that can link the midfield with the attack over the years. Alex Iwobi has been deployed in the number 10 position for a while without success. Now, Joe Aribo is trying to be that missing link but Lookman could be the easy fit. His pace and dribbling ability would easily help the team to turn defence to attack in a matter of seconds.

He also showed an eye-catching willingness to track back and help his defence during the U-20 World Cup; his pace helped him create a great balance for his side, an attribute that coach Eguavoen can only welcome with open arms.

Weaknesses
Lookman can be a little bit lightweight which can make him to be pushed off the ball at times by stronger players.

He obviously needs more than his trickery and agility to make sure his voice is heard in the Super Eagles as African football is more physical when compared to that of Europe.

Lookman will have to prioritize building up his physique as well as making better use of his body on the ball. He will also need to work on his ball delivery in the final third to be more consistent.

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