A Big Test for NFF’s VIP Scouting Plan


Joshua Zirzee

Since coming to office, the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick has never hidden his plan at ensuring that players of Nigerian root doing well abroad are encouraged to star for the Super Eagles, in what he termed VIP Scouting. He will, however, be facing a litmus challenge in the federation’s attempt to scout Bayern Munich kid sensation, Joshua Zirzee, especially with recent calls for his inclusion in Holland’s upcoming international friendlies

Super Eagles manager Gernot Rohr embarked on a scouting mission to Germany last weekend and the Franco-German tactician was among the 30,150 spectators that witnessed the Bundesliga clash between Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich at the PreZero Arena.
Bayern Munich teenage sensation Joshua Zirkzee went the distance on his full German Bundesliga debut and Rohr must have been impressed by what he saw of Zirkzee, with the Bayern Munich number 35 scoring 15 minutes into his debut.

The onetime Bayern Munich central defender monitored the player with a view of a possible call-up to the Super Eagles in the nearest future.
Born in Schiedam, on the outskirts of Rotterdam, Jushua, whose middle name Orobosa denotes is of Edo State origin. His parents are both Nigerians.

It was therefore no surprise that Zirkzee has been included in the Bundesliga Team of the Week after his impressive performance against Hoffenheim.
The youngster, who is eligible to play for Nigeria or the Netherlands at international level, scored a goal in the 15th minute of last Saturday’s league tie to give his team a 3-0 lead.

Bayern Munich went on to secure a comfortable 6-0 win on the road with the Nigerian descent playing for the duration.
Zirkzee, scorer of three goals in four Bundesliga games this season led the Bavarians’ attack in the absence of the club’s leading scorer Robert Lewandowski.

Giving reasons for selecting 18-year-old Zirkzee ahead of Lewandowski against Hoffenheim, Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick said: “Things worked really well in the Chelsea game, so I wanted to change things as little as possible in the team,” Flick was quoted as saying
“By doing that, the understanding between the players and automations are still there. Joshua’s trained well, and he’s showed in training that he’s got good quality and is a good finisher.

“He can hold the ball up well and has the physicality to do so, which is important when things are tight up top. So that was our thinking, to make a like-for-like replacement for Lewandowski. It was good.”

Meanwhile, Netherlands legend Willem van Hanegem is convinced that the Bayern Munich super kid deserves to be promoted to the Dutch senior squad and has urged Dutch coach Ronald Koeman to invite the striker for the upcoming international friendlies against United States and Spain.

“I hope that Ronald Koeman will really summon that boy for the upcoming international matches against the United States and Spain,” Van Hanegem told Algemeen Dagblad, according to voetbalprimeur.

“I saw at Bayern how Thomas Müller gets to work with him. He plays with Zirkzee, makes him really grow.
Zirkzee is only 18, but already deserves a chance at the Oranje. I think it will be soon with him.”
The 18-year-old Zirkzee became provisionally cap-tied to the Netherlands when he made an appearance off the bench in a European U-17 Championship qualifier against Hungary in October 2017, and has also been capped at U-15, U-16, U-18 and U-19 levels.
Without Lewandowski there were concerns that Bayern Munich would struggle without their main source of goals, but they had no reason to worry. Academy player Zirkzee looked right at home.

Just 120 seconds in and the teenager’s instinctive touch set Bayern on their way to their first goal. Five minutes later, his blocked shot led to Bayern’s second. It wasn’t long after that the teenager making his starting Bundesliga debut scored one of his own. Like much of his so far young career at Bayern, Zirkzee didn’t need any time at all to make his impact.

Without Lewandowski, there were concerns Bayern’s great run under Hansi Flick would start to stutter. Could Bayern pose the same problems in attack, where would their goals come from, and would Hoffenheim secure another upset against the defending champions?
Bayern needed just a quarter of an hour to silence any concerns. Flick’s side were as ruthless as they have been all season, pressing and pushing for more in a manner that Bayern haven’t really done since the Pep Guardiola years. This was a demonstration of power, a reminder of who the real sheriff in Bundesliga town is, and a young Dutchman was at the heart of it.

At 1.93m, Zirkzee is a bigger figure than Lewandowski. He used that strength to hold off Sebastian Rudy before turning the former Bayern and Germany midfielder around. Keeping his composure, the 18-year-old simply waited for the space to open up in the box. When it did, he didn’t hesitate to use his weaker foot to apply the necessary finish.

Bayern’s hosts played their part, but Bayern also did more than accept the invitation. They took the vibe to another level. Philippe Coutinho went from looking down and out to scoring two goals, while Thiago continued to conduct proceedings with his usual mastery. Bayern were so relentless that they scored one minute after the restart and even at the arrival of the hour mark, they looked desperate for more.

The Dutchman never forced the issue because he didn’t need to. He was in rhythm with Bayern’s beat. His touch and feel for the ball looked like those of a more experienced player. Zirkzee ran, he passed, he slipped in and out of the channels, he even delivered a crunching tackle on the edge of the box he was attacking. He was everywhere.

After scoring the winner against Freiburg with his first touch off the bench on his debut in December, Zirkzee needed just three minutes to break the deadlock against Wolfsburg three days later. In Sinsheim, the teenager needed a quarter of an hour to prove that he is at home at this level.
Just a day after Bayern Munich celebrated their 120th birthday, the real gift for Bayern wasn’t another rousing performance but the long-awaited unleashing of an academy talent in a position they so desperately need depth in.