Finidi George’s Interim Coaching Stint: The Ghana, Mali Tests, and His Future With the Super Eagles

Finidi George’s Interim Coaching Stint: The Ghana, Mali Tests, and His Future With the Super Eagles

Ero Samson
updated at March 28, 2024 at 12:03 PM
In this article:
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  • The ideal coach to replace Jose Peseiro at the Nigerian national team remains a huge topic of discussion
  • Ex-assistant to the Portuguese, Finidi George, was recently handed reigns of the team on an interim basis
  • Sports Brief examines his brief stint as Nigeria's coach and his chances of being named permanent manager

Jose Peseiro's abrupt departure as coach of the Super Eagles left the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in disarray.

Despite his initial desire to continue with the team, the Portuguese coach ultimately chose to step down due to a contract dispute with the NFF.

This unexpected move left the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finalists without a head coach just weeks before the final friendly international window of the season, and ahead of the crucial 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification series.

Nigeria, Finidi George, AFCON, Jose Peseiro, Coach, Ghana, Mali, Super Eagles, NFF.
FInidi George was saddled with the responsibility of leading the Super Eagles for the friendlies against Ghana and Mali. Image: @OgaNlaMedia.
Source: Twitter

Facing a tight deadline, the NFF technical committee decided to appoint Finidi George as interim coach while they work on hiring a permanent head coach.

Finidi, who had applied for the position himself, was tasked with leading the Nigerian team in their upcoming matches against Ghana's Black Stars and Mali's Les Aigles.

However, while these fixtures were viewed as mere friendlies, the 52-year-old manager and other stakeholders in Nigerian football circles recognised them as a subtle test for the Enyimba FC coach to demonstrate his ability to lead the Super Eagles.

Nigeria's friendlies with Finidi and his Super Eagles' future

Having been deeply ingrained in the team as coach Peseiro's assistant for 22 months, the former Real Betis star was already well-acquainted with the Super Eagles players, and this strong bond was evident in the match against Ghana.

Employing a 3-5-2 formation, Coach Finidi opted to stick with the strategy that led Nigeria to a silver medal at the AFCON. The players understood the coach's approach perfectly and executed it with great skill and flair.

Nigeria emerged victorious over Ghana with a 2-1 scoreline, earning Finidi George accolades across the Nigerian football communities.

However, in the final friendly against Mali, the coach employed a similar approach, albeit with different personnel. The lineup featured a number of new faces, but what stood out was the decision not to play with a recognised centre forward.

Instead, winger, Moses Simon, and versatile attacker, Kelechi Iheanacho, were deployed as the target men, a move that was widely criticised as the duo failed to deliver for the team.

Nigeria suffered a 2-0 defeat to Mali, a result that has raised questions about Finidi's coaching abilities.

While only friendlies, these matches come amidst reports of a rift within the NFF technical committee. According to OwnGoalNigeria, one faction of the committee is advocating for a Nigerian coach, while the other prefers a foreign manager.

Finidi's mixed results during the international window have done little to resolve this rift, with stakeholders torn between focusing on the positive performance against Ghana or the disappointing display against Mali.

Despite this, the likelihood of Finidi being named permanent coach of Nigeria seems to be increasing. Former Nigerian striker Victor Ikpeba, a member of the committee, recently acknowledged, as reported by Complete Sports, that things are shaping up well for Finidi to take on the role permanently.

However, it should be noted that one person's opinion cannot override the committee's decision on the next Super Eagles coach.

With no friendly fixtures scheduled for the rest of the year, the NFF technical committee seems inclined to stick with Finidi rather than appointing a new coach who would need time to implement his plans and philosophy with the current players of the Nigerian team.

Finidi explains why Nigeria lost

Sports Brief also previously reported that Super Eagles coach, Finidi, explained why Nigeria lost against Mali.

The 52-year-old attributed their defeat to injuries to key strikers, which affected their approach on the night.

The Nigerian team were forced to shape up in a formation for the tie without a recognised centre-forward.

Ero Samson photo
Ero Samson
Samson Ero is a sports journalist with a track record of over five years in the Nigerian media industry. He graduated from Nigerian Institute of Journalism (2021-2023).
Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)