Evan Ferguson: Is the Brighton striker the Republic of Ireland’s answer to Kylian Mbappe? | Soccer News
Evan Ferguson marked his first senior international start with his first goal as the Republic of Ireland prepared for their Euro 2024 qualifier against France with a 3-2 friendly win over Latvia.
It’s turning into quite a season for the Brighton striker.
Ferguson scored twice in his side’s FA Cup win over Grimsby to book their place in a semi-final showdown at Wembley against Manchester United – and now he’s ready to take the international stage by storm.
The 18-year-old, who has scored six goals in his last 13 games for Brighton, needed just 17 minutes to open his account on an eventful night in Dublin.
Republic of Ireland fans will be hoping it will be the first of many in an illustrious international career.
It is the misfortune of any promising Irish striker to be compared to the prodigious talent of 17-year-old Robbie Keane, who went on to score 68 goals for his country in 146 appearances after opening his account in October 1998.
A star is born
After his goal against Latvia, Evan Ferguson of the Republic of Ireland became the youngest (18 years, 154 days) Irish goalscorer since Robbie Keane in October 1998 against Malta (18 years, 98 days)
However, Ferguson’s instinctive finish against Latvia to cap off a full and enterprising display in the 73 minutes given to him only underscored why the other home nations are green with envy.
In the same week that Kylian Mbappe was controversially named France’s new captain, the new Irish talisman is set to take on Europe’s golden boy at the Aviva Stadium on Monday.
Sky Sports News journalist Guy Havard watch Ferguson’s rise ahead of the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2024 qualifying campaign which begins in earnest against one of the competition’s most sought-after nations…
Ferguson leading the Irish charge
It’s a really exciting time for Evan Ferguson. He is the Kylian Mbappe of Irish football.
Last time I was in Abbotstown in November, we were talking about whether he would get a few minutes or if he could get a limit. He played three minutes against Norway and he was relatively unknown in the Premier League at the time.
He then played a few more minutes against Malta a few days later, but now he has to start. Stephen Kenny says this guy is now our talisman so he needs to think of ways to get the most out of him.
The players will have to learn to play with Ferguson because he is a real talent. Gary Lineker said in a tweet that he was looking at a true centre-forward – he’s not just a goalscorer, he’s a possessionless No.10.
He’s got everything this young boy has and with a lot of hype surrounding him, it’s understandable why Kenny puts an arm around him to make sure he keeps his promises.
Kenny: Ferguson has shown he’s ready
“His career is in its infancy. He has had a great start to his career in the Premier League and has scored a few goals in the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup.
“We’ve known Evan for a few years now, coming through the system in Ireland with the Bohemians and coming through minor international teams.
“At 18 now, he shows that he is ready to join the team.”
There is a danger that we put too much pressure on his shoulders, but there is no doubt that he is a wonderful talent. Ireland have lacked a big star name in recent years, dating back to the days of Robbie Keane and Roy Keane.
Manchester United and Liverpool had several Republic of Ireland players, but that hasn’t happened in recent years. Ferguson is a player making a splash in the Premier League, something Irish players haven’t done in recent years, and that’s why there’s so much excitement among the fans.
Ferguson’s magical moment…
It was goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher who started the move in the 17th minute from which the teenager opened his international account with Nathan Collins, Jayson Molumby and Smallbone teaming up to give Doherty the chance to cross.
His ball was recycled beyond the far post by Michael Obafemi and Ferguson happily stabbed it past Pavels Steinbors with the help of a deflection from defender Antonijs Cernomordijs.
“The Irish help young players to do the best they can”
After scoring against Latvia, Ferguson said: “Scoring at home in front of your family, I don’t think there’s a better feeling. The crowd, the Irish, they try to help the young players come in and do the best they can.
“Stephen (Kenny) will choose a team that gives us the best chance of beating France. I hope I get the shout out. He just told me to go out and enjoy it. He told me not to do anything. to do something different from what I did back in Brighton and just enjoy it.
“At the end of the day, it’s just a football game. I’ve been playing it for years now, it’s just another game.”
Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny refuses to take anything for granted after Ferguson launched his senior international career in earnest.
Asked if he’s seen a glimpse of the future, Kenny said: “It’s never easy with players. Injuries can take their toll on young players. The demands are high in the leagues they are in and it happens sometimes.
“What we have now is a high number of players who have passed, unprecedented in our history, the number in a short proximity. It has given us depth in our team.
“Evan, it’s his first start and he scored a goal. You can’t predict things going forward. He’s still learning the game and he took it all in his stride.”
De Zerbi’s warning: it’s not enough to score goals
Ferguson joined Brighton in January 2021 from Bohemians, progressing rapidly from the Under-18s to the Under-21s, before making his senior debut in the Carabao Cup against Cardiff City in August of that year, then under Graham Potter.
Ferguson has gone from strength to strength under current coach Roberto De Zerbi, who didn’t need much time to be convinced of his striker’s abilities.
It was on his 18th birthday that Ferguson signed his first professional contract until June 2026. De Zerbi said: “I am very happy to see Evan committing his future to Brighton.
“I’ve only worked with him for a few weeks, but I clearly see his potential. I’m really looking forward to working with him and helping him grow.”
After his brace against Grimsby, the Italian added: “Ferguson is a special striker. I’m working, and my staff are working, to make him not just a No.9, not just a striker, but in terms of understanding. ” the game, receiving the ball or attacking space and not just one thing: complete the player, complete the guy.
“He’s a very good guy and I think if you work with a smart guy it’s good because he understands immediately and he gets better day by day.
“He’s a fantastic striker, his quality is to score goals. But, in the Premier League, at the highest level he can get, it’s not enough to score goals. You have to play, you have to understand the game.
“You have to play like a midfielder when you’re away from the goal area and like a striker in the last 20 yards.”
So how good can Ferguson get?
Mbappe has been named France’s new captain by head coach Didier Deschamps, with the 24-year-old taking over from Hugo Lloris in the role following his retirement from international football.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker became France’s biggest star after being part of the World Cup-winning squad in 2018 as a teenager. He scored 36 goals in his 66 international appearances and became the second player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final when France lost to Argentina in Qatar last year.
Mbappe remains a young man but with an old head on his shoulders. Ferguson is only six years younger than him, but he is the perfect symbol of Kenny’s youthful evolution.
Former Republic of Ireland defender Stephen Kelly says Aerial sports: “You almost don’t want to talk about him too much because you don’t want to put any extra pressure on his shoulders.
“I’ve watched every U21 game he’s played and we’ve been covering him locally here for some time, and there’s no doubt he’s a fantastic talent.
“We’re so lucky to have a young player like him playing at the highest level and he’s only getting better. You just don’t want him to go away and the pressure to get too much for him, but he seems like the type of kid who can handle it, can get in front of the big stage and deliver for us.”
The home defeat to Luxembourg in Qatar’s qualifying campaign is considered one of the worst defeats for the Republic of Ireland. They failed to reach double points for the first time since Euro 92.
But the conviction is now returning that qualification for a first major tournament in eight years can be obtained. Ferguson is ready to answer Ireland’s call.
Follow the Republic of Ireland’s live blog against France in Monday night’s European Championship qualifiers on the Sky Sports website and app from 7pm, kick-off 7.45pm.