Running away from Peseiro and 2 other mistakes Finidi George made in Benin Republic defeat

Finidi George and Wilfred Ndidi in the post-match press conference of the World Cup qualifier defeat to Benin Republic || Image credit: Imago

Running away from Peseiro and 2 other mistakes Finidi George made in Benin Republic defeat

Faruq Ibrahim 23:28 - 10.06.2024

A Pulse Sports assessment of Finidi George's missteps in the 2-1 CAF World Cup Qualifiers defeat to Benin Republic.

The Super Eagles had their hopes of qualifying for that 2026 World Cup dented after suffering a shocking 2-0 defeat to the Benin Republic, putting question marks on Finidi George's credibility for the head coach role.

The defeat meant that Nigeria are now four points away from the top of the log and are fifth in Group C after three draws and one loss. 

var widgetLoaderConfig = widgetLoaderConfig || { CDN_URL: '', APP_LINK: 'desktop', API_URL: '', API_KEY: '2f852b4de2f3a5cf3188e74b33087bb4:2c18422f8e826a7d11aeed52edb2449e', LANG: 'en', REQUEST_INTERVAL: 30, ENABLE_BET_SLIP: false, AUTHOR: false, THEME: "light", TOURNAMENT_ORDER: "pulse_nigeria", LINK_OPTIONS_V2: { 'player' : { 'url': '/football/player/{playerId}' }, 'team' : { 'url': '/football/{teamId}' }, 'tournament': { 'url': '/football/competition/{tournamentId}' }, 'match': { 'url' : '/football/match/{matchId}', 'sort': { 'criteria': 'alphabetically', 'direction': 'asc' } }, 'configuration': { 'newWindow': false }, 'standings_tournament': { 'url': '/football/competition/{tournamentId}/standings' } } }; if (!document.querySelector('script[src=""]')) { window.setTimeout(function () { let scriptCss = document.createElement('link'); scriptCss.href = ''; scriptCss.rel = 'stylesheet'; scriptCss.type = 'text/css'; document.body.appendChild(scriptCss); let scriptTag = document.createElement('script'); scriptTag.src = ''; scriptTag.defer = true; scriptTag.onload = function () { window.setTimeout(function () { new SMPWidgetsLoader(widgetLoaderConfig); }, 200); }; document.head.appendChild(scriptTag); }, 0); } else { new SMPWidgetsLoader(widgetLoaderConfig); }

Although two of the draws came under erstwhile manager Jose Peseiro, Finidi was tasked with steering the ship aright, and now he has even set the Super Eagles further off course. 

So what exactly did the Real Betis legend do wrongly in the 2-1 defeat to the Benin Republic? Pulse Sports evaluates his mistakes. 

Running too far away from Peseiro 

For all of Peseiro’s inadequacies, he managed to bring compactness to the Super Eagles defensive set-up, and Finidi, in distancing himself from the pragmatic approach of his former boss, has undone some of that good work, or at least, has been unable to replicate it in his system. 

Finidi prides himself on giving players freedom on the pitch, and maybe the leeway is a little too much, as the Super Eagles backline lacked any sort of structural compactness. 

Individual players were in sixes and sevens in key defensive situations, as seen in both goals conceded, calling into question the workability of Finidi's laissez-faire approach. 

Super Eagles coach Finidi George || Image credit: Imago
Super Eagles coach Finidi George || Image credit: Imago

Two strikers too soon 

It is somewhat befuddling watching managers try and fail over and over in set-ups that are light in midfield, yet someone else comes along and tries it. 

Taking a midfielder off for a striker in the 80th minute while chasing an all-important goal? Sure. But in the 51st minute? With an entire half of football to play, it calls into question the manager's tactics. 

Only six minutes after returning from the break, Finidi substituted Alex Iwobi for Paul Onuachu as he opted to pair him with Victor Boniface—who replaced Moffi—up front in a two.

Paul onuachu in action for Super Eagles || Image credit: Imago
Paul onuachu in action for Super Eagles || Image credit: Imago

The problem with this was that the wide men Chukwueze and Lookman barely tucked in, nor did either fullback invert into midfield, creating a 4-2-2-2 situation. Wilfred Ndidi and Raphael Onyedika, the two at the midfield base in this formation, as well as the centre-backs—specifically Calvin Bassey—who were tasked with progression, were forced to pelt the ball forward at incredible velocity, avoiding any intricate play in midfield.

This could have worked had Nigerian forwards not been imprecise in their execution; otherwise, as was the reality, it meant the attackers were forced to execute at a high level to truly deal damage. 

A more intricate approach would have allowed the Super Eagles to be positionally dominant, create overloads and consequently increase the margin of error for the attackers. 

One might want to forgive Finidi's choice of substitution, citing game state, but his utility of Iwobi while on the pitch—so high up; almost a second striker—shows it was as much an intentional action from Finidi as it was a reaction to the game state. 

Decisions on personnel 

This subheading is titled so as against a specific case because Finidi made multiple mistakes personnel-wise, and this section addresses them collectively. 

Finidi's comments following the draw against South Africa made it apparent that Boniface's lack of participation was a tactical decision, not an injury, as was feared. Given Onuachu’s underwhelming performance against Bafana Bafana and Moffi’s uninspiring cameo, it becomes a curious decision to start the Le Gym striker against Benin instead of the Bundesliga winner. 

Nigeria's Finidi George.
Nigeria's Finidi George || X

Although Boniface did little to prove he should have gotten more game time when he eventually came on, Finidi's decision-making can be questioned. 

After the Bafana Bafana draw, Pulse Sports' Seye Omidiora suggested that if Finidi insists on starting Iheanacho on the right, Tanimu is not the right full-back fit given his limitations offensively

Although Finidi started Chukwueze, the AC Milan man did not play as a touchline winger, and Tanimu regularly bombed up and down the flanks in the first-half.

When the Ihefu SC defender found himself in dangerous attacking situations on the right flank, his execution was lacking. It begs the question “Why not start actual offensive right-backs?”—Bright Osayi-Samuel(started at left-back) or Ismaila Sadiq—in the position?

Nigeria were found wanting defensively today, and the captain of the team who was the MVP at the AFCON was omitted from Finidi's squad. Ekong said he communicated with the coaching staff that he was fit, yet he was passed over. It is difficult to imagine the Super Eagles looking as disorganised defensively as they did against Benin had the PAOK centre-back been on the pitch.

Related content