Zirkzee misses out on Dutch Euros Squad, could door open for Nigeria?

Dutch striker Joshua Zirkzee‘s name was noticeably absent from the 30-man shortlist for the European Championships revealed by Ronald Koeman on Thursday. This omission comes despite Zirkzee's impressive season with Bologna, who secured Champions League qualification for the first time in their history.

The 22-year-old forward enjoyed a breakout campaign in Italy, spearheading Bologna's attack with 11 goals and 4 assists. However, his efforts failed to convince Koeman, who will announce his final squad on 7 June.

While Zirkzee's recent form has been undeniable, a lingering injury may have played a role in Koeman's decision. This opens an unexpected window of opportunity for the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) to potentially lure Zirkzee, who is eligible to play for the Super Eagles, into their national fold.

From Bavarian treble to Euro snub

Zirkzee's career trajectory has been intriguing. He burst onto the scene with Bayern Munich in the 2019/20 season, contributing to their historic treble under Hansi Flick. However, he struggled to replicate that success at the club once more. The Dutch Nigerian was then sent on loan spells to Parma and Anderlecht, before finally landing a permanent move to Bologna in 2022.

Zirkzee's first big break came on loan at Anderlecht in the 2021/22 season. He finished the campaign as the Belgian club's top scorer, registering 16 goals and nine assists in 38 league appearances.

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This season's resurgence with Bologna had many expecting a call-up to the Dutch national team, especially considering the Euros squads have been expanded. However, Zirkzee's name missing from the shortlist throws a curveball, leaving both the player and fans wondering what went wrong.

With the door closed (for now) with the Netherlands, the NFF sees a potential opportunity. Zirkzee's talent and recent form are undeniable, and the chance to represent Nigeria at international level could be an attractive proposition

Can Joshua Zirkzee play for Nigeria?

Despite flying high with Bologna and propelling them to Champions League qualification for the first time ever, 22-year-old striker Joshua Zirkzee finds himself in international purgatory. Born to a Dutch father and a Nigerian mother, he's climbed the Dutch youth ranks (U-15 to U-21) but remains on the outside looking in for the senior team. Now, with Ronald Koeman keeping mum on final selections, Zirkzee's international future hangs in the balance.

“My dream has always been the Dutch national team. However, the European Championships is not necessarily a crossroad. If that doesn’t happen then, I’ll look further. I’d be grateful if it did happen and if not, I have to make sure they call me. You hope to be there one day,” the former Bayern Munich man said in quotes revealed by Algemeen Dagblad.

A change of Nationality isn’t out of the question for Zirkzee, although he admitted it’ll be difficult too, as Nigeria has some of the finest strikers on the planet in Victor Osimhen and Victor Boniface.

“It’s not easy to say. If the Netherlands aren’t calling, then I’ll choose Nigeria. Are they even calling? Maybe. Nigeria is not a country that you just choose because you cannot play for your homeland. The competition there for attackers is perhaps just as great as in the Dutch team. Nigeria has Boniface from Leverkusen and Osimhen from Napoli. And they have many more attackers,” the 22-year-old added.

Danjuma: A short Oranje career but no way back

Everton's Arnaut Danjuma Groeneveld, born in Nigeria but raised primarily in the Netherlands, finds himself in a different predicament than Zirkzee. Capped for the Netherlands in October 2018, Danjuma enjoyed a short but impactful stint with the Oranje. 

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However, unlike Zirkzee who remains uncapped at the senior level, Danjuma's participation in a competitive fixture for the Netherlands has permanently tied his international allegiance to the Dutch team. This closes the door on any potential switch to the Nigerian national team, the Super Eagles, despite his Nigerian heritage.

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Toyosi Afolayan

Toyosi Afolayan is a sports journalist who breathes life into the games we love. He loves to combine insightful analysis with historical background, creating a richer understanding of sports. Afolayan's expertise ranges from captivating narratives to live broadcasts, captivating audiences across platforms like Ojbsport, AllNigeriaSoccer, TVC Entertainment, Bounce Networks, Kwara TV, ICIR, EaglesTracker, and NFF TV. His background in History and International Studies adds depth, revealing the connections between sports, politics, and national identity.