Russia 2018: Junior Lokosa in the squad, why not?

Russia 2018: Junior Lokosa in the squad, why not?

Who is the Nigerian striker with highest number of goals in 2018 anywhere on planet earth?

Let me go through your minds for the answers that popped up. In-form Odion Ighalo? The injured Obafemi Martins who was really on song before his unfortunate injury? New sensation Simeon Nwankwo? Who else? Erm Fanendo Adi, Junior Ajayi???

Well, the answer is not far-fetched, and like the popular adage in our local parlance: “What you seek for in Sokoto (a far city) is right at the edge of your sokoto (trouser).” With sixteen goals in eighteen league appearances in 2018, JUNIOR SEWANU LOKOSA is unarguably the most prolific Nigerian striker in 2018.

As impressive as this piece of statistics looks, Lokosa’s efforts have somehow been naturally undermined by the less fancied rating of Nigeria’s Professional Football League and anything that may come out of it. The league’s many imperfections seem to have taken its toll on what has been an unprecedented performance by Lokosa.

Ironically, Confederation of African Football (CAF)’s alternate continental competition – African Nations Championships (CHAN) – set out to give locally based players the chance to play for their countries and stake a claim for places in the main team has seemingly provided a foreclosure on the players’ chances, limiting them to CHAN.

However, with CHAN already decided for the year and not holding until the next twenty months, what do we do with the compelling achievement of this Kano Pillars prized asset who has, in his own way, raised the bar for the art of goal scoring in the league with an incredible return of goals?

At a time when goal scoring has proved to be an Achilles heel for most Nigerian teams from club to the national team level, the goal scoring return of Lokosa is not normal and I argue thus that it should be just enough to earn him a place in any national team he is qualified to play for.

What has he done?
Junior Lokosa has scored sixteen goals in the first half of the Nigerian league season – the most by any player ever in the first half of the league. That is staggering considering that the return was enough to win the season’s golden boot few years ago. It is not just the numbers but how it has been done that should also interest football followers.

Lokosa is yet to score a hattrick this season for Pillars who are second on the league table which means he has found the net on a fairly consistent basis. His sixteen goals have come from thirteen out of the eighteen matches he has featured in, scoring a brace three times.

Only three of the 24-year old’s goals have come from the penalty spot and his return of four goals away from home is already more than what the duo of Tony Okpotu and Stephen Odey (last season’s top two scorers) manage – three away goals apiece.

It is worth remembering that Lokosa scored on his NPFL debut after joining Kano Pillars during the mid-season transfer window last year. He would go on to score five goals in the second stanza of his maiden season in the top flight but has now stepped it up to become the most talked about name in Nigeria’s league football this season.

His style of play
Standing at 1.69cm, the former First Bank of Lagos player is not known for an imposing figure upfront, something which many managers in the league demand from their centre forwards. This it was reported saw him rejected by many clubs in the league before Kano Pillars coach Ibrahim Musa took a gamble on him last April.

His impeccable movement off-the-ball has consistently freed him from his markers inside the penalty box and his composure in front of goal has been second to none. Precisely, a large chunk of Lokosa’s goals have come from inside the box – at least thirteen of his sixteen goals -.

As a typical Nigerian-bred who grew from playing barefooted on the hard surfaces of the creeks of Lagos, Lokosa who represented Nigeria at the 2015 African Beach Soccer Championship is a handful for defenders with his power and burst of pace and can not only lead the line but also play off a strike-partner.

Any chance in the present Eagles?
Many have argued that life is not fair. To some, they get all they need to give what they can but to some they get nothing but still give a good output. It can be left to be pondered what could have happened if Junior Lokosa were to be playing in one MLS club or a Serbian league side with this kind of goals return?

At a time when the National team has just one recognisable centre forward – Odion Ighalo – whose record for the national team ironically reads four goals in fifteen matches, inviting an exceptional top scorer from the local league should have been no rocket science but that is not the case here.

The current Super Eagles side expected to participate at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia are overloaded in midfield, on the flanks and perhaps in the defence but same cannot be said with the attacking position. After Ighalo comes Kelechi Iheanacho who has not convinced in his forward role and perhaps an erratic Ahmed Musa.

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