Finidi: South Africa, Benin Republic Clashes Are Must-win for Super Eagles  

Femi Solaja

Super Eagles Head Coach, Finidi George, has described Nigeria’s upcoming fixtures in the qualification race to the 2026 FIFA World Cup as must-win ones for Nigeria. 

Nigeria have match-day three and four fixtures against South Africa and Benin Republic at home in Uyo and away in Abidjan respectively in June.

In Eagles first two games, the three-time AFCON winners drew against Rwanda and Lesotho, claiming only two points to stay third on the log behind Rwanda and South Africa who are on four and three points respectively.

Speaking on AriseNews Television programme yesterday, Finidi insisted that Super Eagles players have no choice but get decent results from the two matches to stay on course to picking the group’s lone ticket to the Mundial.

“These are must-win games for us to be comfortable in our group. I believe we will win both games,” stressed Finidi who won the 1994 AFCON before going ahead to an illustrious club  football career, winning the UEFA Champions League with Ajax Amsterdam.

“We have to believe we can win, the (2023) AFCON is gone, we now have to put in the effort of our efforts to win again,” he noted.

Nigeria will take on South Africa on the 7th of June before travelling to Ivory Coast to play against Gernot Rohr’s Benin Republic three days later.

Finidi disclosed that a 35-man provisional squad list to be released shortly, will cover the growing list of injured stars, who will not be available for the two World Cup qualifiers.

Meanwhile, the world-governing body, FIFA, has made changes to the officiating team of the 2026 World Cup qualifying match between Benin Republic and Nigeria which is scheduled for the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in the Ivorian capital on Monday, 10th June 2024.

The changes have sent packing Ethiopian official Bamlak Tessema Weyesa, who was originally designated as referee for the encounter scheduled to kick off at 4pm. In his place, Gabonese official Pierre Ghislain Atcho will now be the referee.

Weyesa’s compatriots Temesgin Samuel Atango and Tigle Gizaw Belachew have been retained as assistant referee 1 and assistant referee 2 respectively. However, another Ethiopian, Tewodros Mitiku, earlier designated as fourth official, has been thrown out, replaced by Cameroonian Antoine Max Effa Essouma.

The Super Eagles are in Group C of the African qualifiers along with  Rwanda, Lesotho, Benin Republic, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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