The journey to Haa-land: Erling Haaland's rise to fame
If you ask any defender who is the striker they would not want to face at this moment, it would not be Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar or Kylian Mbappe. The answer would be Erling Braut Haaland. The 19-year-old Norwegian wonder kid has become the worst nightmare for the defenders within months of bursting into the fray. Son of former Premier League veteran Alf-Inge Haaland, Erling started making headlines early this season when started scoring hattricks for fun and was making a joke of the Austrian teams in the Austrian Bundesliga.
As doubters often like to do it, they tried to dismiss his potential by saying that it is easy to score in the league. But then Haaland came to play the UEFA Champions League where he did not just become the highest scorer of the group stage but reached 10 goals in just seven games! Here, his victims were defending champions, Liverpool, Italian giants Napoli and FC Genk.
Now at Borussia Dortmund, the youngster is simply unstoppable and his very name is terrorising defences out of the match. He has already scored eight goals in just five games in Bundesliga for Dortmund.
What is it actually that makes him so lethal?
Erling Haaland is a player of the rarest kind. In the age of false nines and shadow strikers, there are very few pure number nines. Although the teams have target men in their ranks, a number nine is way more than just that. Alf-Ing has probably taught his son all the tricks of all the strikers he has ever faced in his career.
Haaland is gifted with exceptional movement both on and off the ball. He has great close control on both his legs. Standing at 6'4", he can command the aerial balls easily and therefore can function as a target for crosses with effortless ease. His long limbs give him a headstart over most of the defenders around the world.
While physically, he was born to be a striker and his attitude is something that makes him stand out from other teenagers. Haaland can both attack the post from the front and also hang back for cut-backs during attacks. His ability to poach goals is unparalleled for teenager while his second goal against PSG proved his ability to blast the nets from distance. Haaland also drops deep to help building attacks. All this with an innocent smile on his face.
Furthermore, his spatial awareness is one of his biggest treasures. One of the most dominant features of his runs is he steps back to stay onside and in behind the defensive lines. This makes it hard for the defenders to pick him up when he makes the runs. He has immense faith in his ability to shield the ball from onrushing defenders and for that he can hold on to the ball if needed. His first goal against PSG shows his ability to anticipate a ball inside the box. While the shot was being made, Haaland took a step back to stay inside and then suddenly sprang to life on the rebound and slotted it home before the defenders could take a step.
All these traits show that he is more than just a wonder-kid going through the form of his life. He has all the qualities to become the best in the world. Right now, all we can do is to just sit back and take a trip to the Haa-land!
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Thomas Kienzle