Benin Republic vs Nigeria: Is it too early to ‘judge’ George Finidi? 

Benin Republic vs Nigeria: Is it too early to ‘judge’ George Finidi? 

Joba Ogunwale 13:08 - 11.06.2024

Finidi George is under immense pressure despite only taking over as the coach of the Nigeria men’s national team in March. 

If Finidi George thought his transition into the Super Eagles managerial role would be easy, he needs no one to tell him now that he was wrong.

The former Ajax star is already finding out that managing the Super Eagles is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.

Finidi George's Super Eagles timeline

Finidi was brought in to take over the affairs of the Nigeria men’s national team in March after Jose Peseiro had left the role after leading the three-time African champions to a second-place finish at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. 

Initially, Finidi was appointed on an interim basis, taking charge of the games against the Black Stars of Ghana and Eagles of Mali before he was appointed on a permanent basis. 

While there were some murmurs in a few quarters over his appointment, the consensus was that Finidi’s appointment made sense since the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) wanted a local coach to take over from Peseiro. 

Finidi George and Kelechi Iheanacho
Finidi George's (l) appointment as Nigeria's coach did not go down well with some Nigerians | Imago

The former Ajax man had served under Peseiro during the Portuguese tactician’s tenure, so he was familiar with the team set-up and players. 

But while it was an appointment that made sense on paper, Finidi is already finding out the hard way that the Super Eagles managerial role is not a job for the faint-hearted. 

The ex-Ipswich player is already facing calls for his sack after winning just one of his first four games. 

Finidi did start on a good note, beating arch-rivals Ghana in March before the Super Eagles lost to Mali a few days later. 

While the loss to Mali could be forgiven as it was a friendly match, the results in the qualifiers over the last few days were unforgivable. 

Finidi George's Super Eagles position rightly questioned

In Finidi’s first competitive match, the Super Eagles played a 1-1 draw against South Africa at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium before the three-time African champions suffered a stunning 2-1 defeat at the hands of Benin Republic three days later. 

The two results have now left Nigeria’s 2026 World Cup hopes in serious danger, leading to calls for Finidi’s dismissal. 

The Super Eagles suffered a disappointing loss against Benin after playing a draw against South Africa || Image credit: Imago

In fairness, it is hard to begrudge fans who want Finidi gone even though he has only managed four games. 

Given the team missed out on the last World Cup in Qatar, fans are not prepared for the Super Eagles to miss out again on another set to be hosted by the USA, Mexico and Canada in 2026. 

The two matches against South Africa and Benin presented Finidi with a great opportunity to show fans his readiness for the job. 

Also, he was aware that Nigeria could not afford to drop points in those two games, having played a draw against Lesotho and Zimbabwe in their first two group matches. 

However, what followed were two results which put Nigeria’s qualification hopes in jeopardy. In fairness, the team did play well in the second half of the game against South Africa. 

In fact, one could argue that it was the most exciting the Super Eagles had played in recent years, even though they were open at the back. 

However, because football is a result-based business, the performance against South Africa did not matter as it did not help Nigeria’s position on the table. 

Finidi’s cause was also not helped by the disappointing defeat three days later at the hands of Benin, managed by former Super Eagle coach Gernot Rohr. 

However, what annoyed Nigerians was that, unlike the second half of the game against South Africa, Nigeria did not play well against their neighbours. 

Aside from the first 15 minutes of the match, the Super Eagles were lethargic for most parts of the game. 

They played with no vigour while their attitude was lacking. The players played like there was nothing at stake, especially after Benin took the lead. 

If the second half against South Africa showed that Finidi knew what he was doing, the game against Benin countered that claim. 

The Super Eagles played like a team without an identity, while his substitutions were questionable. 

With the Super Eagles trailing, Finidi took off Alex Iwobi in the second half, which was surprising, considering Iwobi was the team’s most creative player in the middle of the park. 

Also, his decision to play a four-man defence was questioned because the personnel at the back were more comfortable in a three-man defence. 

These decisions coupled with the results and players' attitude eventually led to calls for Finidi’s dismissal after the game. 

And in fairness, it is hard to argue that the fans do not have a case. Even Finidi George’s former teammate, Mutiu Adepojo admitted that the fans were right to judge and criticise the ex-Real Betis man.

“Well, definitely there’s going to be criticism until the team starts winning. That’s just part of the game but definitely people will not be happy because the team did not win,” Finidi told Pulse Sports. 

Nonetheless, Finidi is still in the job, at least, for now. But that could change in the next few months, with the qualifiers not resuming until next March. 

With the Super Eagles in need of divine intervention, the NFF may be forced to act to ensure the three-time African champions qualify for the next World Cup.