National team clash and ongoing reflections: Okafor’s strange recent period

By Oliver Fisher -

It has been a strange few weeks for Noah Okafor, who was hoping to use the European Championship as a launching pad after an up and down season with AC Milan.

Okafor made 28 league appearances for Milan in his first season at the club after his summer move from Red Bull Salzburg but most of them were off the bench. Despite this, he amassed six goals and two assists.

The impact he did make in the limited minutes available had the forward hoping for a starring role at Euro 2024, for which you can find information on tickets, but instead things have not gone to plan.

The coach’s warning

Switzerland were drawn in Group A and they faced a tough task to get through given they have Germany and Hungary. They ended up finished second in the group, above Hungary and the disappointing Scotland.

Okafor’s national team coach Yakin has spoken about how he seems in the week before the tournament in Germany and he seemed to criticise Milan’s use of him.

“Every move also involves great risks, he is rarely a starter with his club. Especially for a striker, it is important to play and his limited playing time is certainly not optimal,” he said.

“His role? I don’t see him much as a number 9 who has to play with his back to goal. He is at his best when he starts from the outside and cuts inside, his speed is enhanced when he has space in front of him. At the moment he lacks a bit of timing in his movements, some mechanisms need to be oiled.”

Practicality and reality

The reality of the facts is that in the 3-4-2-1 system he uses, Yakin struggles to find a role for him. Pure wingers are not deployed and he is not really an attacking midfielder as the coach wants in the two behind the striker.

Of course the feeling was that Okafor could be a solution to unlock games off the bench, but Switzerland have never found itself in the position of having to make big changes so far, while Ndoye, Vargas, Duah and Embolo all performed well.

Finally, a detail that should not be underestimated is the attitude shown so far. From what filters out from the Swiss training camp, Okafor has not yet shown an attitude in the sessions that will make the coach change his mind.

Why did he call him up, then? Essentially to have more solutions in attack, and because Embolo’s condition and the unknown Duah suggested that having Okafor’s experience could be beneficial.

Moreover, La Gazzetta speaks of ‘ongoing reflections’ at Casa Milan regarding the future of the Swiss player, with the possibility that a new deputy striker like Tammy Abraham could arrive.

Tags AC Milan Noah Okafor
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