A world-class coach for Super Eagles 

Following the resignation of Finidi George as the Super Eagles coach, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) will soon appoint a new coach to replace him. The NFF should endeavour to appoint a world-class coach for the team. The era of trial and error is gone. George recently lost his job after about two months in the saddle. He replaced former coach, Jose Peseiro, who resigned his position after taking the Super Eagles to the finals of the AFCON tournament in Cote d’Ivoire. The NFF should not waste time in appointing a new coach for the team because of the remaining crucial qualifying matches for the 2026 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States.

George’s resignation was not unconnected with the dismal performances of the Super Eagles since he became the coach. In four matches, two friendlies and two competitive matches, he won only one, lost two and drew one. Unfortunately, George did do well as the coach of the Super Eagles.  Although some critics have argued that two competitive matches were not enough to test the competence of a coach, others think there should be no excuses for the seeming failure of George.

After all, he was employed to win matches. Moreover, he was an assistant coach to Jose Peseiro for two years and knew the team very well. The Super Eagles came second in the 2023 AFCON. Therefore, George did not inherit a struggling team. He had a team with a winning pedigree. The two unflattering results he recorded during the recent qualifying World Cup matches against South Africa and Republic of Benin were unimpressive. It may cost Nigeria the 2026 World Cup ticket.

Many Nigerians were opposed to the appointment of George as the Super Eagles coach based on his lack of experience of coaching a team at global level. Coaching a club is different from coaching a national team like the Super Eagles with players that ply their trade abroad. Though he excelled as the coach of the Enyimba Football Club, where he lifted the Nigeria Professional League Cup, it is a different ball game handling a national team with many talented players.

His regrettable spat with the African Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen, did not help matters. Although Osimhen’s outburst cannot be justified, he has the right to defend himself over allegations of non-commitment. 

Therefore, the NFF should be cautious on how it manages the Super Eagles coaches. The Franco-German coach, Gernot Rohr, who qualified the Super Eagles for the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a game to spare, was relieved of his appointment in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup. With two defining matches to conclude the World Cup qualifiers, he was replaced by NFF for failing to play attractive football, with an indigenous coach, Augustine Eguavoen, who crashed the hopes of over 200 million Nigerians by failing to qualify the team for the World Cup. It led to destruction of property at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja, where the last qualifying match with Ghana took place. 

The inability of the NFF to retain the services of Peserio after the recent AFCON was ill-advised. The NFF should have retained Peseiro. He surpassed the semi-final target set for him for the AFCON. He should have been retained for the sake of continuity, and the World Cup qualifying campaign, where it had already drawn its first two matches with Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

We believe that with his impressive AFCON results, Peseiro would have posted better results than George. It is difficult to reconcile how a team that paraded the best defence at the AFCON suddenly became the team with one of the worst defensive records in its World Cup qualifying group with teams far below it in FIFA ranking. 

The players at the disposal of George were too accomplished for the Super Eagles to languish in the 5th position behind South Africa, Rwanda, Benin and Lesotho. Many of the Super Eagles players had a remarkable 2023/24 European season, winning trophies and personal glories. Their struggle to win matches cannot be justified.

Let the NFF appoint a world-class coach for the Super Eagles. Nigeria should not miss the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The situation of the Super Eagles is precarious. But it is not beyond redemption. Let the NFF employ a new foreign coach to replace George. However, he must be a coach with pedigree.

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