Finidi George: Front Runner to Doubts

Finidi George: Front Runner to Doubts

When Super Eagles interim manager, Finidi George led Nigeria to defeat the Black Stars of Ghana, he was praised to high heavens with some asking the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, to confirm him on permanent basis for the Eagles top job. However, it turned out to be ‘come easy, go easy’ for the Enyimba of Aba sweat merchant after his team collapsed four days later against Mali and it was the sound of ‘crucify him’ that rented the air by the same hosanna’ hailing lot

Amidst the uncertainty following Jose Peseiro’s departure as Nigeria’s  coach, this month’s friendlies represented an opportunity for erstwhile assistant, Finidi George to stake a claim for the national team job.

The Enyimba coach is, according to reports, one of as many as 30 applicants for the Super Eagles role on a full-time basis.

The 52-year-old was placed in charge for games against Ghana and Mali, with the view that a good pair of results would bolster the former international’s chances.

The outcomes in Morocco, however, were mixed – with the 2-1 win over the Black Stars followed by a 2-0 defeat by Mali.

Public reaction swung from positive to negative over the space of four days, with critics saying George is not ready for the top job.

However, veteran defender Kenneth Omeruo is keen for the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations winner to be handed the reins.

“One difference is he wants us to play good football and I like that. I actually think he knows what he is doing, and he deserves to be given the job,” the 30-year-old told BBC Sport Africa.

George blamed the team’s loss to Eagles of Mali on the unavailability of some of his strikers in the warm-up game onTuesday night.

Speaking with NFF TV, Finidi whose win over Ghana boosted his chances of becoming the substantive Eagles Coach said lack of option in the attack forced them to play wide leading to their loss to Eagles of Mali.

“I think just few mistakes cost us the match. It was not a bad game, good intensity we had some good chances but didn’t score.

“And in a game like this if you fail to make use of your chances and make mistakes you will be punished for it.

“This is a team that keeps the ball very well but if we had our injured strikers available, we would have changed the one on the pitch immediately. Losing two strikers forced us to play wide and as aggressive team, we did all we can. And you know football is all about victory.

“Lost one and won one and we were not outplayed in the two matches gives me joy as a coach of the Super Eagles. I would have loved a different result in this game but that’s not the case but if we look at the performance of the players, it’s commendable,” he concluded.

Former Real Sociedad midfielder, Mutiu Adepoju has however thrown his weight in support of Finidi to be named the Super Eagles substantive head coach.

As caretaker coach of the Super Eagles, Finidi led the national team to a 2-1 victory over Ghana last Friday, before suffering a surprise 2-0 loss to Mali four days later.

Finidi was praised by many after that win over the Black Stars. Still, the manner of the Super Eagles’ defeat to Mali, where Nigeria failed to muster a single shot on target in 90 minutes, has left some in doubt of his ability to coach the three-time African champions.

However, Mutiu does not want Finidi to be assessed only by the Super Eagles’ display against the Malians.

Adepoju contends that coaches do not have to win all the time, especially in friendly matches, and believes Finidi will work hard on improving the team when fully entrusted with the reins.

Citing errors made by some fringe Super Eagles players against Mali, Mutiu is convinced that the absence of key stars played its part in the loss to Les Aigles.

“With only two games under his (Finidi’s) belt, his record of one win and one loss is not bad at all,” Mutiu said.

“He has a lot of room for improvement. I firmly believe that these Super Eagles will prosper under his leadership if he gets the job.

“It would be a serious mistake to judge Finidi solely on our defeat against Mali. When José Peseiro was the coach of the Super Eagles, did he win every game? Finidi deserves our trust so that he can cultivate the confidence necessary to build on our current base. “I expect improvements in all aspects of the game. This is a friendly match and the first two matches under Finidi’s direction. I think he has identified the areas that need correction.

“We were victorious against Ghana, but unfortunately we suffered a defeat against Mali. This means that we have achieved a victory in two games, which, in my opinion, is not a bad result for the Super Eagles in general.

“During the match against Mali, we showed greater possession of the ball in the second half, and the players exhibited more determination.

“Furthermore, the absence of Victor Osimhen and some of our regular players was noticeable.

“However, I wouldn’t downplay the contribution of the players we fielded. They put in a commendable performance, but the first goal we conceded against Mali was a costly mistake that should have been avoided. It’s a lesson they must learn.”

For Adepoju, the time is right for a local coach to take the national team on another successful adventure.

The former Real Madrid B star argues that no one is better positioned to lead that charge than Finidi, who enjoyed a trophy-laden career, winning the Champions League title, three Eredivisie titles, two Dutch Super Cups, and a European Super Cup with Ajax Amsterdam.

“If we don’t trust our team, how are they going to gain valuable experience? Offering Finidi a permanent position would not be a bad decision on the part of the Nigerian Football Federation,” Mutiu said of Finidi, who guided Enyimba to the Nigerian Professional League title in 2023.

“Finidi is not a stranger to the team, as he was part of the coaching staff at CAN and has a distinguished career as a player at the highest level. In addition to his ability as a coach, his extensive experience as a player will undoubtedly be very valuable. I firmly believe that he has a lot to offer.”

The Nigeria Football Federation is expected to appoint a new head coach for the Super Eagles before Nigeria face South Africa and the Benin Republic in June in their bid to qualify for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Among those who have applied for the vacant post include 1994 African Footballer of the Year, and former Tanzania coach, Emmanuel Amuneke who however remains the most popular choice amongst sporting Nigerian fans.

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