Finidi George

2024 has been quite the year for the Super Eagles of Nigeria. After a defiant 2023 Africa Cup of Nations campaign ended with a runner-up place, the ensuing months have spiralled into chaos on and off the pitch.

Jose Peseiro, who oversaw a change of system that revived their fortunes during the tournament, saw his contract run out which kickstarted a long assessment process to secure his replacement. 

Finidi George, one of Peseiro’s former assistants, stepped up as Interim coach and led the team to a 2-1 victory over Ghana, their first against their arch-rivals since AFCON 2006. Despite a 2-0 friendly defeat to Mali only four days later, that win against Ghana seemed to seal Finidi’s fate.

The former Ajax winger was surprisingly handed the reins ahead of top contender, Emmanuel Amunike, amidst doubts over his lack of experience.

Betway Nigeria

Yet, Finidi led the team to a 1-1 draw against South Africa before losing 2-1 to Benin Republic which leaves them fifth in Group C of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Nigeria missed out on the 2022 World Cup and they will probably miss the next edition in the USA, Canada and Mexico given other teams in Group C are performing better at the moment.

The last defeat was their first ever against Benin and the fact that famous victory was inflicted by Nigeria’s longest-serving coach – Gernot Rohr – only added insult to injury.

On that occasion, Raphael Onyedika’s effort in the 29th minute opened the scoring but Nigeria’s lead was wiped out in the first half through Jodel Dossou and Steve Mounie.

The Super Eagles lacked real intensity or a technical identity and there were clear moments of miscommunication as they tried to find a way back into the game. 

As the game wore on, the lack of rhythm looked as though the players had never played together before, when majority of the squad had reached the AFCON final only four months ago, with Finidi as assistant coach.

The less-fancied Benin are now top of Group C with six games remaining, and although it is mathematically possible to still reach the World Cup, three points from every single game are now required.

What was already a tense situation has turned gloomy and the risky appointment of Finidi George at such an important has quickly unraveled. It begs the question whether hiring the 1994 AFCON winner’s was a belated move or perhaps the wrong one at the right time.

Save for his role at Enyimba which culminated in the 2022/23 Nigeria Premier Football League title, Finidi had not managed a senior team. The only notable change in the Super Eagles was the switch to a 4-3-3 shape – which Fisayo Dele-Bashiru and Raphael Onyedika will have been pleased about, having both scored their maiden international goals – but the gross result was a weaker backline and a disjointed team. 

Perhaps an indigenous candidate with more experience would have been more suitable at this crucial time in the National Team.

Crisis Talks 

The team’s alarming decline necessitated a three-hour meeting between the Head Coach, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the Minister of Sports, John Enoh. Eventually, the committee came to the conclusion to hire a foreign tactician with Finidi reverting to his post as assistant. 

This is seen as the required course of action before the World Cup qualifiers resume in March 2025 with matches against Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

Finidi George and Victor Osimhen

Meanwhile, the fallout from the disappointing results in June had seen Victor Osimhen receive intense criticism elsewhere due to rumours he had faked an injury to be absent from the games. 

The reigning African Player of The Year went on a jaw-dropping rant on his Instagram live feed during which he explained private conversations with his then-coach about his injury and slammed relentless critics.

It was an extraordinary tirade that saw the team’s star player angrily calling out his own manager. 

Meanwhile, news of Finidi resigning from his post with the NFF were already circulating and former Eagles media officer, Colin Udoh, cleared the air on the matter in a social media video after speaking with Finidi. 

“Finidi confirmed to me that he resigned his position indeed,” Udoh said. “The reason being that he met with the NFF on Thursday and they had a very good conversation. “They spoke about the things they need to do going forward and he (Finidi) asked if he will be back. At no point during that meeting did anyone tell him they were going to appoint a foreign technical adviser,” 

“The NFF board had met on Wednesday and made that decision. But it was when Findi landed in Port Harcourt after that meeting that someone called him and informed him.

“He [Finidi] had to park his car and read the link to see that it actually was true,” he continued. “They spoke about the things they needed to do going forward, and he (Finidi) asked them, the NFF, if he will be back, if they were going to back him. Now, at no point during that meeting did anybody tell him that they were going to appoint a technical adviser. “Now, here’s the most important part, the NFF would have met on Wednesday, and decided they were going to get a technical adviser which they were going to communicate to him. But at that meeting on Thursday, Finidi said, nobody told him. 

“And so when he landed in Port Harcourt after he had meeting with the NFF, someone called him and told him this is what was going on. So he, Finidi, had to park his car to actually read the link to see if it was actually true, this is what had happened. 

“And so, Finidi, waited for two days to to see if anybody would contact him. So, nobody contacted him. So he felt, if that was the case, then, they didn’t wanted him anymore. So, that was why he decided to turn in his resignation.” 

This embarrassing episode is in line with the poor decisions that have come from the NFF board who are yet to adequately replace Gernot Rohr two years on. 

Indeed, the leadership must get its house in order and appoint the best heads that can lead the team for the must-win battles that lie ahead. Failure to reach consecutive World Cups will be detrimental to the country’s entire football pyramid, and the desire to avoid this must be apparent in the remaining games of this series.  


Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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