The Sweden forward won over many observers with a scintillating showing against Slovakia on Friday
Of all of the African-origin players competing at the 2020 European Championships, perhaps none has caught the eye quite like Sweden’s Alexander Isak.
Admittedly, Paul Pogba was excellent against Germany, Nelson Semedo gave Portugal another dimension against Hungary, and Romelu Lukaku dispatched Russia emphatically, but Isak has arguably outshone them all.
The striker, who is of Eritrean origin, was in magnificent form on Friday as Sweden dispatched Slovakia 1-0 to boost their prospects of reaching the knockout stages of the European Championships.
Coupled with their opening 0-0 draw against Spain, Sweden appear on course for a Last 16 showing…making up for their first-round exit in France five years ago.
Isak was at the centre of much of what was good about Sweden’s victory, as his movement with the ball, hunger and athleticism gave the Blue and Yellow the kind of cutting edge that many teams have lacked in this competition so far.
At one point, he almost scored a contender for Goal of the Tournament when he took possession near the halfway line, slalomed past a series of challenges, each time almost looking as though he would lose the ball, before his finish was pawed away by Martin Dubravka.
Isak’s agility, turn of pace and touch have set him among the most eye-catching forwards at the Euros so far, and certainly—against Slovakia at least—he’s helped Sweden forget about the absent Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who misses out due to injury.
This is a modest Sweden team, workmanlike and without much flair, but Isak’s imagination and execution helps transform them into a side who could yet reach the Last Eight in this competition.
Critically, although he failed to net against Slovakia—having sent an earlier header over the bar—he boasts a cutting edge as well.
The attacker netted 17 times in La Liga for Real Sociedad this season, and has 33 goals across his last two campaigns in the Spanish top flight.
He was one of the big talking points on the latest episode of African Football HQ, where the team focused on the African-origin players competing at the European Championships.
Certainly, it’s a tournament with considerable African interest—at least 25 African countries are represented—but Isak, still only 21, might be the pick of the bunch.