English-born Nigerians, a Great Addition or Mere Passerbys for World Cup Squad?

English-born Nigerians have been named in the world cup squad lately, yet it remains to be seen whether they are a great addition or not.

Nigeria has been one of few destinations for English-born players who dream of featuring in international fixtures recently. Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) appears to be one of the few national football governing bodies who have been very active in keeping tabs on the talented English youngsters considering plenty of them have Nigerian descent. Some might have been capped by the Three Lions, while some others have not been so lucky. It is even tighter to get a call up for the senior side since England have a deeper pool of talents today.

One recent example is Ademola Lookman, whose decision to switch allegiance was approved by FIFA in December 2021. The former England U20 international was a member of the squad that won the World Cup U20 trophy in 2017. However, he had never been capped by at the senior level. At the same time, he had an offer by NFF on the table. After turning down twice, Lookman eventually agreed and left England side for good. RB Leipzig loanee immediately earns his call up for the African World Cup playoff against Ghana at the end of March.

English-born Nigerians are not always great addition in the World Cup Squad

Called up in the Past

There have always been some English-born players included in the Super Eagles final squad in the last two World Cup editions. In Brazil 2014, Newcastle man Shola Ameobi and Victor Moses were named in the final squad. However, both neither scored nor provided any assists. Ameobi was only a deputy for Peter Odimwinge by coming off the bench in three fixtures whereas Moses featured in the line up three times. His most important contribution was making a clearance against France in the round of 16 before they conceded.

Meanwhile, in Russia 2018, Moses who had cemented himself as a key man in Antonio Conte’s Chelsea was called up again alongside Alex Iwobi. Moses outperformed his counterpart once more. The versatile winger was always named to the starting lineup in all three games, scoring one goal on a penalty kick against Argentina and providing an assist against Iceland, while Iwobi started once and came on as a substitute in the other two games, neither scoring nor assisting.

More to Follow Lookman for Qatar 2022?

Lookman is not the only player of Nigerian descent who has been called up to the squad for the upcoming World Cup playoff. Ola Aina, his teammate, has already made the cut with 17 appearances since 2017, the same year he switched nationalities. In Torino, the Italian club he joined on loan in 2018, he had a more established role. If Lookman performs well in this playoff, he will almost certainly be named to the Qatar 2022 squad alongside Aina.

If Nigeria defeats Ghana to secure a berth in Qatar 2022, NFF may try to entice more players to become the next generation of English-born Nigerians, as there are many talented players in England who are still eligible to switch sides. According to the 2020 FIFA regulation update on this issue, any player can do so as long as they have not yet made more than three appearances in the previous national team, including qualifiers, but outside of the major tournament final round.

Based on that new rule, a number of notable names with Nigerian descent falls into this category. They could be persuaded by NFF to play in the world cup, should England ignore them for their squad. Here are those potential figures :

  • Bournemouth forward Dominic Solanke (24 years old) is one of the most likely one to follow Lookman. He was the best player in World Cup U20 in 2017. This season, the towering striker who was only capped one with The Three Lions in a friendly game has registered 23 goals and 6 assists for the Championship side. What’s more, Solanke has expressed his interest to play for Super Eagles.
  • Tosin Adarabioyo (24) is Fulham centre back and has yet made the cut in England squad. He was once offered to play for Nigeria but refused. This season the former Manchester City loanee has featured in 33 fixtures contributing 2 goals and assists equally.
  • Eberichi Eze (23) is the cultured winger who is still undecided regarding which side to play. He was named in Southgate’s provisional squad for Euro 2020 but then ruled out due to his injury. Eze has been contacted by NFF but no decision has been made yet. Since he has yet made his debut for England, the Crystal Palace man is still open to switch side.Unfortunately, he has only played 6 times in EPL under Patrick Viera so far. It is a lot less compared to 2020/21 season when he featured in 34 games plus made 4 goals and 6 assists.
  • Folarin Balogun (20) is the prolific young frontman in Arsenal U23. He has just been sent on loan to Middlesbrough in 2022 and already registered 2 goals and 2 assists in 12 matches. Balogun has yet earned any call-up in England senior side.
  • Sheyi Ojo (24) has been out and about on loan in various clubs such as Wigan, Wolverhampton, Stade Reims and Glasgow Rangers. The Liverpool loanee is currently in Millwall but does not have his best form this season. However, Ojo has hinted his interest to play alongside Kelechi Iheanacho and Co in the future.
  • Fikayo Tomori (24) is another winning squad member in World Cup U20 2017. He is currently playing for AC Milan with 22 caps this season. The centre back has just made two appearances for England in Euro qualifiers. Despite his commitment to play for the Three Lions, he could change his mind in the future if Gareth Southgate keeps ruling him out of the squad.

It will be interesting to see who of those figures will eventually follow Lookman’s footsteps and how well they contribute in their world cup campaign.

Main Image Credit Embed from Getty Images

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