Super Eagles: 5 changes Finidi George needs to make against Gernot Rohr's Benin

Finidi George's Super Eagles face Benin in a pivotal World Cup qualifying match on Monday (Imago/Shengolpixs)

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Five Super Eagles changes that Finidi George needs to make against Gernot Rohr's Benin (Imago/Shengolpixs)

Super Eagles: 5 changes Finidi George needs to make against Gernot Rohr's Benin

Seye Omidiora 14:09 - 09.06.2024

With Nigeria facing a pivotal World Cup qualifying match against their erstwhile boss, the incumbent Super Eagles trainer could make these alterations after Friday’s 1-1 draw with South Africa.

As disappointing goes, Nigeria’s underwhelming start in World Cup qualifying takes the cake. 

While the Super Eagles’ undefeated run continued, three consecutive draws against Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa do minimal good to a side keen to participate in the 2026 finals after missing out in 2022. 

That eventuality would be viewed as a disaster for the football-crazy nation, who have never been absent in back-to-back finals tournaments since their maiden appearance in 1994.

With progress secured in 2010 after 2006’s absence, it remains to be seen how Finidi George navigates the rest of qualifying after recently replacing Jose Peseiro. 

Fortunately, the Super Eagles have not fallen significantly behind despite their dispiriting start, underlined by their three points being two shy of Group C leaders Lesotho and one behind Rwanda, Benin and South Africa. 

Victory over the Cheetahs on Monday could take the three-time African champions top of the section, even if it would require the sides above them to drop points in the imminent round four games. 

As World Cup qualifying nears its halfway point, Pulse Sports pick five alterations George must make to avoid losing more points against a manager that knows the Super Eagles all too well. 

Drop Benjamin Tanimu

With the full-backs giving typically providing width against South Africa, starting Benjamin Tanimu at right-back meant the Ihefu defender was like a fish out of water due to those responsibilities.

Bright Osayi-Samuel could be moved to right-back with Kenneth Igboke, a natural left-back introduced. The highly-rated Ismaila Sodiq could also be introduced on the right if George persists with Osayi-Samuel at left-back.  

Drop Kelechi Iheanacho

Super Eagles boss Finidi George and Kelechi Iheanacho
Nigeria's FInidi George and Kelechi Iheanacho | Imago

This alteration could be an upshot of whatever George opts for at right-back. If a wide defender inclined to hug the touchline is preferred, Iheanacho could keep his spot in the side given that he plays optimally in central areas with a bias to drive into the right half-space. 

Alternatively, the Super Eagles boss could keep Tanimu in the side and start Samuel Chukwueze at Iheanacho’s expense. While the AC Milan forward is arguably less influential when utilised as a winger, the former Villarreal man would be more suited to that role than the former Leicester City man

Play through midfield. Refrain from a glut of long balls

Supporters complained about the willingness to bypass the team’s midfield in several instances at the Africa Cup of Nations, trusting Victor Osimhen’s tenacity to chase lost causes, and this shortcoming frustrated fans against South Africa. 

George’s men have already shown their potential when they try to play through midfield, trusting their technical ability to bypass an opponent’s press. This was underscored by one of the Super Eagles’ goals against Ghana in March and intermittently evident last Friday. 

Drop Paul Onuachu. Start Boniface or Moffi

While some may view Paul Onuachu as a safety net to avoid risks in their defensive third — due to the towering striker’s presence meaning the team feels inclined to leverage on his physicality — they do not sustain attacks as much and are far more limited. 

Victor Boniface and Terem Moffi combine better with teammates than Onuachu, and starting either over the Southampton loanee offers more options to George’s side. 

Revert to playing three at the back to unlock Lookman

Friday’s alteration to a back four surprised many observers who expected the Super Eagles to continue with the approach that saw them progress to the Cup of Nations final. 

Even though Lookman’s underwhelming execution was more responsible for not finding the back of the net against Bafana Bafana, the Atalanta forward’s menace playing as a forward in several variations of a back three means George should lean on such methods for the time being.