Ademola Lookman stands on the brink of World Cup glory with a little help from Lionel Messi, Neymar… and Ross Barkley.
The 19-year-old Everton striker has scored three goals to help fire England’s Lion Cubs to Sunday’s Under-20 final against Venezuela.
Lookman loves poring over footage of the Barcelona stars for little hints and tips to help his game. But he also keeps a close eye on club-mate Barkley, himself a veteran of this tournament four years ago, and particularly the technical aspects of his game.
“My favourite players to watch on TV are Messi and Neymar,” said the 19-year-old. “And at Everton, I like to look at Ross in training. He is just technically fantastic – right foot, left foot, he knows how to shield the ball. It’s just the little details.”
The little details from Messi, who won the competition with Argentina’s young ’uns in 2005, featured prominently in a video England boss Paul Simpson showed before the tournament.
Simpson said: “One of the first things we showed them when we got together was the FIFA video promoting the Under-20 World Cup and it has some huge names on it, players who have gone on to have magnificent careers.
“And the challenge I’ve given them is, ‘Can we be on that video in a couple of years’ time? Can we do something that will put our faces on that film when they update it in maybe four, eight years’ time’.”
Lookman and his pals stand on the brink of winning a first World Cup for England in 51 years.
And he is adamant it was the 3-0 victory over Messi’s homeland in their opening group game that set the tone for the tournament.
Lookman said: “The first game was important – in that game we were clinical with our chances and from that moment it gave us the confidence to continue in the way we were doing.
“The mindset in the camp was that we would take every game how it was. Go into every game wanting to win it and not put any pressure on ourselves, just perform in each game.
“It’s the same for the final. Everyone is just focused and looking forward to the game.”
Simpson and his staff have kept the boredom at bay by organising a race night, a quiz night and a racing car simulator night.
And such has been the meticulous preparation that the FA even took along paddling pools — not for the youngsters to play in but for times when there was no access to ice baths.
That planning has paid off, with no injury worries ahead of the match in Suwon, South Korea.
Lookman added: “We are all potential matchwinners. We all have the capabilities to win the game.”
The Lion Cubs are ready to roar.