• Monday, July 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Super Eagles: Three tough tasks ahead of Finidi

Following the appointment of Nigerian legendary winger Finidi George as the new head coach of Super Eagles, the former Ajax star is faced with tough tasks in his new role and many Nigerians are demanding that he gets the national team back in shape and winning ways.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) amid pressure from millions of football-loving Nigerians and the Sports Ministry bowed to pressure by appointing a Nigerian to head the Super Eagles against the choice of a foreign coach.

“The Board of Nigeria Football Federation on Monday approved the recommendation of its Technical and Development Committee to appoint former ace winger Finidi George as Head Coach of the Senior Men National Football Team, Super Eagles,” NFF said in a statement.

Now the Port Harcourt-born star must convince Nigerians and prove critics wrong about his choice of leading the Three-time African champions.

His predecessor, Jose Peseiro guided Nigeria to a second-place finish at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast and the Finidi must aim to surpass the Portuguese record and perhaps win the 2025 AFCON.

Also, Nigeria’s qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup hangs and Nigerians want to see their darling Super Eagles compete with the biggest teams at the next football carnival.

Finidi’s coaching acumen has already been demonstrated by guiding Enyimba FC to win the Nigerian Premier Football League (NPFL) title last year. However, the international arena presents an entirely different challenge – one that will test his tactical strength, man-management skills and ability to forge a winning mentality in the Nigeria dressing room.

Here, BusinessDay identifies three critical expectations that Finidi must accomplish as he drives to revive the Super Eagles’ old glory and reach the late Stephen Keshi’s record.

Qualifying Nigeria for the 2026 World Cup

Qualifying the Super Eagle of Nigeria for the 2026 World Cup is paramount, especially after the disappointment of missing out on the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The upcoming tournament, hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico, presents an opportunity for redemption.

Nigeria’s journey in the qualifying campaign has begun with less-than-ideal results, earning just two points from their first two group matches. In Group C, where only the group leader secures a direct spot, Nigeria currently trails behind Rwanda and South Africa, emphasizing the need for significant performance improvement.

With the task at hand, the 53-year-old Rivers-born tactician has a crucial role to play. In June, he will be presented with the opportunity to make a mark by guiding Nigeria to victories over South Africa and the Benin Republic.

These upcoming matches are deemed “must-win” by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), recognising their importance in shaping the team’s path to qualification. Finidi’s leadership will be tested as he aims to navigate the Super Eagles through the challenges posed by Group C and secure their spot in the prestigious tournament.

“The immediate task for George will be to lead the Super Eagles to triumph in two 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against South Africa and the Benin Republic, scheduled in Uyo and Abidjan respectively, within a little over five weeks,” a statement from NFF reads

“These matches are crucial, with the Super Eagles currently trailing behind in third place in Group C of the African campaign, trailing Rwanda and South Africa.”

The following fixtures against Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho, as well as return matches against South Africa and the Benin Republic, will carry significant weight.

Effectively manoeuvring through these games and ensuring Nigeria’s qualification for the World Cup would firmly establish Finidi’s status as a cherished Nigerian coach.

2025 AFCON title

Next year’s African Cup of Nations promises to be a battle royale, with champions Ivory Coast, Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal and hosts Morocco all vying for glory. Nigeria’s recent form, however, shows they can be among the favourites to lift the AFCON.

The Super Eagles have the bundle of talent to soar in Morocco but the question from football pundits is if Finidi’s men can claim the coveted AFCON trophy.

Integration of home-based players into Super Eagles

Players from the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) are buzzing with excitement and plenty of expectations after Finidi’s appointment. Unlike his predecessor, Finidi – who coached Enyimba FC – has a keen eye on domestic talents. Nigerian fans are clamouring to see exciting youngsters in the domestic league break into the Super Eagles, and Finidi is charged with the responsibility of integrating them responsibly.

Recognising their potential, Finidi is on a mission to strengthen the Super Eagles with homegrown stars and blend them with established internationals.

During his illustrious career, Finidi George earned 62 caps for Nigeria, showcasing his talent on the international stage. He played a pivotal role in Nigeria’s campaigns at the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cup finals, leaving a lasting impact with his performances.

Additionally, Finidi’s success extended to the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournaments, where he achieved remarkable feats. He secured gold, silver, and bronze medals from the 1992, 1994, 2000, and 2002 editions of the AFCON, further solidifying his legacy as one of Nigeria’s footballing greats.

Former international Mutiu Adepoju has expressed confidence in Finidi’s abilities as the new head coach of the Super Eagles, urging Nigerians to rally behind him and support his efforts.

In a statement shared on his official social media handle, Adepoju emphasised that he sees Finidi’s appointment as the beginning of positive developments for Nigerian football.

He extended his best wishes to Finidi and called for support from all quarters to ensure his success.

Adepoju also stressed the importance of backing Finidi, highlighting that his success would ultimately benefit Nigeria and the Super Eagles. He urged everyone to unite in supporting Finidi, expressing optimism that his tenure would bring success to the national team.

“This is a beginning and I believe that it is going to be the beginning of good things for Nigerian football.” Mutiu posted on his official X (formerly Twitter) handle.

“I want to wish him all the best, I want to wish him all the support. I solicit support from everybody, all quarters to support him to succeed because his success is a success for Nigeria and the Super Eagles, so I call on everybody to support him and I believe that success will be for the Super Eagles.”

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