2026 World Cup Qualifiers: Despite winless streak, all hope is not lost for Super Eagles

AFCON 2023 Exclusive: Super Eagles ignorant of Nigerians’ feelings after defeat – Ezeji

Three games gone and the Super Eagles have only collected three points so far in the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

Such outcome is not sitting down well with passionate fans whose demand for success is insanely high.

It is much worse when one considers that relative minnows Lesotho are topping Group C of the qualifiers while the Super Eagles are currently second from bottom.

Super Eagles fans

It is really difficult to process such a thought and that is why new manager and ex-international Finidi George got a lot of stick during the last game against South Africa in Uyo on Friday. It was a game the Eagles needed to win but only ended up making things difficult for themselves.

Of course, it brought into question Finidi’s tactical prowess especially as he failed to utilise Victor Boniface in the game but rather left him on the bench. The former Enyimba coach however gave his reason why the Bayer Leverkusen forward was an unused substitute.

“It was a tactical decision, we thought about bringing him [Boniface] in and he was supposed to come in but when we had [Semi] Ajayi complain about a knock and could not continue, we had to reverse that decision,” he said.

Finidi Super Eagles

While the game against South Africa left a lot to be desired, especially seeing how Bafana Bafana were left with so much space to roam the full length pitch at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, one cannot rule out the fact that a number of influential players were missing due to injury.

Also, Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, who scored a brilliant first international goal, left a void when he had to go off injured. His goal and presence raised the tempo of the game with the Super Eagles mounting more pressure on the South Africans.

It is also worth noting that substitutes Samuel Chukwueze and Terem Moffi all had glorious chances that could have won the game for Nigeria.

When all these are factored in, the fault cannot solely be on Finidi. It was not an entirely woeful game from Nigeria as there are signs the team can get results if they get their acts together.

Monday presents another opportunity as they will be in Abidjan to take on Benin managed by former Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr and Finidi clearly knows the task at hand and what is at stake.

β€œWe’re very much aware of why we are here and what we have to do. The players want to go to the World Cup and they have resolved to give their all in every game going forward,” he said ahead of the game.

“We had our opportunities against South Africa on Friday and should have won, but that is gone and we face another challenge now.

β€œWe have resolved not to look too far ahead in this race. The essence is to take it one match at a time. Benin Republic is in our front now, and we must deal with that squarely.”

Only two points separate the Super Eagles and current leaders Lesotho. It might be absurd to see that as the current reality but it should not be forgotten how things can change very fast. Victory at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium will put Nigeria back on course and will ease some nerves.

Yes, the quest to qualify for the 2026 World Cup in Canada, the United States and Mexico will be tough owing to the fact that only the top team from each group will qualify automatically for the finals.

Nigeria however has the quality, ability and capacity to make it stick, with the current squad being close knit, which was a key factor in reaching the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final against all odds.

Super Eagles

The Super Eagles have never failed to qualify for two consecutive World Cups since their debut in 1994 and that realisation is what could be a driving force in avoiding that from happening.

There are still seven games to go, starting with Monday’s game with Benin. Hence, it might be too early to paint a worst-case scenario for Finidi’s team but rather see possibilities from a team that has a well-documented history of rising above adversity.

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