adplus-dvertising
Sports

“I’m not scared of anything” – Finidi George outlines plans for Super Eagles, retains team captains

GORhTIAXoAAqHPY

Yesterday, a new chapter in Nigerian football was unveiled in the tranquil and opulent surroundings of Eko Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria, Soccernet.ng reports.

The atmosphere buzzed with anticipation as Finidi George, the newly appointed coach of the Super Eagles, stepped forward to address an eager crowd of journalists and media personnel.

With the World Cup qualifiers and the 2025 AFCON tournament on the horizon, George who took over from José Peseiro after the Portuguese manager led Nigeria to a second-place finish at the AFCON 2023 tournament in Ivory Coast, laid out his vision for the Super Eagles in the long-term, blending his profound football philosophy and experience with a commitment to team harmony and the slow but steady integration of home-based players.

As cameras flashed and recorders whirred, the former Ajax winger captivated the audience with his apt and articulate response to the questions thrown at him.

Philosophy and Plans

During his playing days, Finidi was an athletic winger and was once described as the best crosser of the ball in the world, and without a doubt, he wants to continue by imbibing his playing style into the Super Eagles.

At the AFCON 2023 tournament, the Super Eagles scored eight goals from seven games, conceding four. While they were not prolific up-front, they were solid at the back, but the style of play was far from entertaining.

“I like to play attacking football. My best time [as a footballer] was in Holland, and we know that the football Manchester City plays today is the Dutch style, total football. You try to keep possession, but once you lose the ball, you try as much as possible to get it back immediately, but that is defence too,” Finidi said at his press conference yesterday.

It was a sad day for Nigerians on the 22nd of March, 2022, after they lost to their rivals Ghana on away goals.

The loss confirmed that the three-time AFCON winners missed the 2022 FIFA World Cup tournament in Qatar after participating in the previous three editions. Hearts sunk.

For Finidi, a return to Football’s biggest tournament is paramount, and that’s what he’ll strive to do as a coach. Speaking about his target with the Nigerian team, he said;

“There are two things here: the NFF’s and my personal targets. I’ll tell you, I’m not scared of anything. Sometimes I might say things that look unreal, but my target is to win. To qualify first for the World Cup and win the next AFCON. We already have a silver medal, I have to do something bigger.”

Integration of home-based players

One of the standout points of the session was Finidi’s innovative approach to integrating home-based players into the national team. The former Real Betis man is no stranger to the Nigeria Professional Football League, as he lifted the league title with his beloved Enyimba last season.

With six games left to spare this season, Finidi was appointed as the head coach of the Nigerian football team, with Enyimba just four points below Enugu Rangers who occupy first place. Should they miraculously usurp Fidelis Ilechukwu’s men, the Super Eagles coach will get much credit for a job well done.

In recent years, home-based players have not been a core part of the national team. Apart from Sunday Mbah’s brilliant goal against Burkina Faso in the AFCON 2013 final, Nigerians have a faint memory of home-based players donning a Nigerian jersey, but the new coach wants to change the narrative.

“I think there a lot of good players in the league, but they’ve not had the opportunity to showcase what they have. I’ve been around for almost three years. I think there are lots of good players in the league, but they’ve not had the opportunity to show what they have in their Arsenal. With me as a coach, that opportunity will come. I’m in Nigeria, I’m not abroad. Definitely, they would have their time, like our players in Europe. Friendly games will be the best time to integrate them and watch them. I plan to go around and watch games,” the 1994 AFCON winner said.

This move, he believes, will not only strengthen the team but also boost the morale of aspiring footballers across the nation.

Time with José Peseiro

Finidi didn’t shy away from discussing his relationship with the former Super Eagles coach, José Peseiro. Rather than distancing himself from the past, he spoke of the mutual respect they have for each other. He acknowledged Peseiro’s contributions and expressed his intention to build on the foundations laid by his predecessor, ensuring continuity in the team’s progress.

“When I joined the Super Eagles about two years ago, he didn’t know why I was there, thought I was coming for his job, but when he saw that I was there to help, our relationship got closer. We still have a cordial relationship. When he was leaving he told me he hoped I’d be the next Super Eagles coach, and when I was appointed, he called me and congratulated me,” the coach told journalists at the media parlay in Lagos.

Captain selection 

In Ivory Coast, Peseiro appointed Ahmed Musa to be Nigeria’s captain, although he didn’t play a single minute of football. The other team captains were William Troost-Ekong and Kenneth Omeruo. Ekong played six games, while Omeruo started just one, subsequently coming off the bench to help Nigeria hold on to their slender leads.

According to some reports, Finidi is not a fan of Ekong before the AFCON tournament, and now that he’s coach, he might move on from Ekong and hand over the armband to someone else. Finidi debunked the rumours and even took it a tone higher, absolving himself from meddling with captaincy issues.

“Looking at the present squad, we have to see those that are older and capable. We’re not stripping Ekong of captaincy according to some reports. I cannot do that. Ekong is our captain, Omeruo also is our captain, as well as Musa. If they’re not around, we’ll look at those that are available and the players will agree on their captain, not me as a coach. They have to be comfortable with that person, my duty is to make sure the team has a good frame of mind and good tactics,” the former Super Eagles captain said, quelling the rumours.

Ahmed Musa is currently without a club and Troost-Ekong is yet to play a game since the AFCON 2023 final due to surgery he had to repair the ruptured biceps femoris in his right leg.

A new dawn?

After an insightful session, I discussed with other journalists in the house, asking them about their expectations from the coach, and their hope was palpable. Off the cuff, most of them were happy because a Nigerian, who has made the country proud from his playing days is taking the reins again. He knows the country, knows the local league and the familiarity gave them reason to trust.

Finidi George’s appointment heralds a promising new era for the Super Eagles. With his strategic plans and heartfelt dedication, fans and players alike have much to look forward to as Nigeria prepares to reclaim its place on the global football stage.

The Super Eagles will play against South Africa on the 7th of June at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium Uyo, 8 pm WAT, before travelling to The Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Ivory Coast to face Benin Republic on June 10th.

WATCH NOW

DOWNLOAD NOW