Why Finidi George deserves to be Super Eagles coach after Ghana win

Finidi off to great start as Super Eagles win Jollof derby over Ghana

After the heartache of losing the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final, the Super Eagles could not have warmed the hearts of fans any better than with a resounding 2-1 win over fierce West African rivals Ghana in Marrakech on Friday evening, marking the beginning of Finidi George’s stint as interim head coach.

The 52-year-old was announced last week to manage the team he earned 62 caps with as a player with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) continuing their search for a permanent manager after Jose Peseiro’s contract expired at the end of February.

In just a few days of being announced as interim boss, Finidi’s presence and impact is already being felt with the Super Eagles playing some refreshing brand of football that was not really seen during the AFCON 2023 finals. The players made better use of ball with crisp passes and some brilliant attacking moves.

It was no surprise that the lead came from the penalty spot which was converted by Rangers forward Cyriel Dessers in the first half. Even when Ghana tried to impose themselves in the second half despite being down to 10 men after Jerome Opoku was given a straight red card, it did little to deter Nigeria’s spirit as they contained Ghana’s threat and had AFCON 2023 hero Stanley Nwabali making some great saves.

Ademola Lookman doubled the Eagles’ lead and though Jordan Ayew’s late penalty tried to raise some tension, Finidi’s men held firm for the ‘Jollof Derby’ win, ensuring Nigerians had the bragging rights once more.

It might just one game at the helm for George, a friendly for that matter but it is not just against any random opponent and he is already showing he has what it takes to be the permanent Super Eagles manager.

For a start, a lot of fans have clamoured for a local-based coach to lead the national team rather than a foreign coach. Who better then than the manager of the the country’s most successful club, Enyimba.

Finidi George was appointed in 2021 and took a very huge gamble. He left Spain where he spent a good chunk of his playing days to come into an environment in Aba that was not known for patience. Enyimba’s level of success down the years gives little room for mediocrity. Any slight blip, and a manager or player could be shown the exit door faster than they imagined.

George came in at a time when Enyimba were struggling financially. They could not attract top players, neither did they sign enough to be able to challenge for the title. To make matters worse, the club hierarchy owed backlog of salaries to both players and coaching staff.

The People’s Elephants obviously suffered with poor results on the pitch but Finidi showed top man management skills in keeping the dressing room intact and led them to a seventh place finish on the table.

Not many believed in Finidi’s ability to manage Enyimba but he proved those doubters wrong when he led them to a record-extending ninth title last year, and are in the mix for a milestone 10th crown this year as they are just one point away from the top in third place in the current standings.

All these show that Finidi has what it takes to manage the Super Eagles. The job is tough and comes with the kind of things he has faced in Enyimba such as non-payment of salaries, top figures in the NFF trying to make life difficult for the manager and facing impatient fans.

Finidi has seen it all during his playing days and being one of the key faces of what is considered the golden generation of the Super Eagles makes him further tick the box. After all, many have clamoured for someone from that era to be the manager.

There has been Augustine Eguavoen but he has not warmed the hearts of fans, neither has he shown he can lead the national team on a permanent basis.

We have had Stephen Keshi and Sunday Oliseh but they are two parallels. Keshi was a celebrated manager before he became Nigeria coach with his achievement of leading tiny Togo to their first-ever World Cup in 2006 while Oliseh was equally talented but was never going to put up with the shenanigans of the NFF and it led to a short-lived stint with the team.

In Keshi’s case, he was able to put with the shenanigans but was more or less able to leave with his hands held high after leading the Eagles to their third AFCON title in 2013.

Although another ex-international Emmanuel Amunike has also been muted as a possible candidate after impressing with the U-17 team at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile where Victor Osimhen was born on the global stage, while also impressing with the Tanzania senior national team, Amunike does not seem to have the patience to put up with the NFF and might only end up like Oliseh. Any manager that wants to last with the Super Eagles must be able to weather his way through immense chaos and walk inside dirt.

George has walked through chaos and dirt as a player and manager, he is a revered ex-international and is an NPFL manager.

He was even assistant to Peseiro hence is no novice in the coaching space with the national team. He clearly ticks, all the boxes and the NFF should not waste time in doing the needful with him.

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