• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

2026 World Cup qualifier: Finidi confident Super Eagles will defeat Bafana Bafana 

Finidi-George-new (2)

Super Eagles coach, Finidi George, has expressed optimism about Nigeria securing a crucial victory against South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Friday night at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo.

The Super Eagles, who currently sit fourth in Group C with just two points from their first two games, are under pressure to deliver a win to appease their passionate supporters.

Despite a slow start to the campaign and several late arrivals to camp, Finidi remains confident in his squad’s ability to secure three points.

The team will be missing key players due to injuries, including Africa Player of the Year Victor Osimhen, and defenders William Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo, Jamilu Collins, and Zaidu Sanusi. This has forced Finidi to rely on experienced forward Kelechi Iheanacho and young talents Victor Boniface and Ademola Lookman to lead the attack.

In their first competitive match under Finidi’s guidance, the Super Eagles aim to capitalise on their strong home record, having lost only one competitive game at the Uyo stadium since its opening a decade ago.

Notably, that sole defeat was against South Africa in June 2017 during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers. However, Nigeria bounced back to finish ahead of South Africa in the campaign and later defeated them in the AFCON quarter-finals in Egypt.

South Africa have posed challenges for Nigeria in the past, including a 2-2 draw in Uyo in November 2014, which prevented Nigeria from qualifying for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. Despite these setbacks, the Super Eagles are determined to overcome past hurdles and secure a win.

Captain Wilfred Ndidi emphasised the team’s resolve, stating, “Nobody needs to tell us that we didn’t start the campaign well enough. The opportunity has arisen to take our fate in our hands and rise to strong contention in our pool. We will approach Friday’s encounter with the right mental attitude.”

Ademola Lookman, who scored a hat-trick in the European Cup final for Atalanta, is in excellent form and aims to continue his goal-scoring streak.

He scored three crucial goals during the recent Africa Cup of Nations, contributing significantly to Nigeria’s second-place finish. Victor Boniface, who had a successful season with Bayer Leverkusen, and Kelechi Iheanacho, along with Wilfred Ndidi, are also key players expected to make an impact.