Points of Conversation: The Super Eagles Squad for the Upcoming World Cup Qualifiers

Finidi George, the Super Eagles’ new coach, recently released the squad list for the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers. Super Eagles’ games will take place on the 7th and 10th of next month against South Africa and Benin, respectively. The team included regulars like Kelechi Iheanacho, Calvin Bassey, Semi Ajayi, Samuel Chukwueze, Alex Iwobi, Frank Onyeka, Ademola Lookman and Bright Osayi-Samuel. Wilfred Ndidi and Victor Boniface also returned to the team after missing out on the 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) due to injuries. Benjamin Taminu of Ihefu SC in Tanzania also made the team again after getting his debut call-up for the March friendlies against Mali and Ghana. Raphael Onyedika, Stanley Nwabali, Paul Onuachu, Alhassan Yusuf and Terem Moffi also made the squad. Fisayo Dele-Bashiru of Hatayspor also made the cut for the second time running as he featured in the March friendlies. Newbies Ibrahim Olawoyin of Çaykur Rizespor, Kenneth Igboke of Enugu Rangers and Sadiq Ismael of Remo Stars were also included. Captain William Troost-Ekong Moses Simon (assistant) and who are recovering from injury missed out on the squad list. Here are areas of discussion concerning the lists:


Maduka Okoye has earned his first call-up for Nigeria since the 2021 AFCON game. Following  his hauler in the Round-of-16 match against Tunisia which cost the team a place in the quarter-final of the tournament, he has been axed from the team. However, due to his impressive performance in the Serie A with Udinese in the just-concluded season, he has regained the confidence of the coach, therefore securing his spot among the goalkeepers. His rise from 3rd choice to 1st choice at his club side was not only remarkable but also pivotal as it helped his team survive relegation. His team’s position in the league does no justice to his performances as he has saved 60 out of the 85 shots faced, which translates to a save percentage of 70.58%.  His sharp and instinctive reflexes qualified him for the spot formerly occupied by Francis Uzoho whose performances have not been convincing over the years. He will compete with Ojo Olorunleke of Enyimba FC and fan favourite, Stanley Nwabali who has been tested and proven. It will be an uphill task for him to displace Nwabali from the starting lineup because of Nwabali’s composure, ability to build play from the back and commanding presence. His performance at the just concluded AFCON and the friendlies against Ghana and Mali doesn’t make Okoye’s situation less tight.  The competition for who will be the 1st choice goalkeeper will be an interesting one and one to keep an eye on.  It must be said that this headache is a very good one given the troubles we’ve had in the position since the departure of the goalkeeping legend, Vincent Enyeama.

From L-R: Maduka Okoye; Stanley Nwabali. Source: Afrik-Foot.


Ever since Gernot Rohr was Nigeria’s Super Eagles coach, Nigerians have complained about the absence of home-based players in the team. They talked about Stephen Keshi’s regime when local players formed an integral part of the team. However, the situation did not change as the same continued during Jose Peseiro’s tenure. Now that a Nigerian has taken over the position, Finidi has invited 4 local players – Ojo Olorunleke, Benjamin Taminu of Ihefu SC (who started at Bendel Insurance), Kenneth Igboke (who recently replaced Victor Osimhen because of his injury) and Sadiq Ismael. We hope these players justify their invitations.


In the game against Mali and Ghana, Nigeria played using the 3-5-2 formation, which happens to be the same formation his ex-boss, Jose Peseiro, employed in the last AFCON. This didn’t sit well with many Nigerians, especially given the fact that the team performed so poorly in the second half against Ghana and for the entirety of the game against Mali. When asked, Finidi said that he used the formation because he didn’t want to disrupt a style that the players had already become conversant and comfortable with. This is justified, basically because at the time, he was just an interim manager, whose future wasn’t certain so the idea of going by what the team was already familiar with was not out of place. Now that he’s the head coach, and following the squad list which includes 7 attackers, Nigerians are very optimistic that we’d see him play his natural football which recorded successes at Real Betis B team and the people’s elephants (Enyimba).


Two attackers will be needed per time if the team continues to play in the 3-5-2 formation. Victor Boniface will definitely be the main striker, following the latest injury to the initially included Victor Osimhen, who’d be supported most likely by Terem Moffi or Kelechi Iheanacho while Ibrahim Olayowin, Ademola Lookman and Samuel Chukwueze will be operating from the flanks. There will be an attacking midfielder who may play close to the strikers of which Alex Iwobi, who’d be the most favoured option, and Fisayo Dele-Bashiru are good fits. Kelechi Iheanacho and Ibrahim could also be deployed in that position if the need arises. All eyes will be on the national team debutant, Ibrahim Olawoyin who replaced Nathan Tella who withdrew from the squad due to family issues. Ibrahim is a versatile player as he can play as a left-winger, a right-winger, an attacking midfielder, a centre midfielder and a defensive midfielder. We can only wait to see where he plays if he makes his debut for the team. Wilfred Ndidi, Alhassan Yusuf, Frank Onyeka and Raphael Onyedika will battle for the remaining two spots in the midfield. Natural full-backs usually play as wing-backs in this formation so Bright Osayi-Samuel, Sadiq Ismael, Kenneth Igboke (the Enugu Rangers left back, who was called as a replacement for the injured Osimhen) and Calvin Bassey (he has played as a left-back on a number of occasions) will likely fill the spots.

The three central defenders will be between Benjamin Taminu, Semi Ajayi, Chidozie Awaziem and Calvin Bassey (if he does not play as a wing-back). If Finidi decides to play with the 4-4-2 system, which is his natural system, he will likely use the wing-forwards, Samuel Chukwueze (RM) and Ademola Lookman (LM) as midfielders. There will be two centre midfielders, one, a holding midfielder and the other, a box-to-box midfielder. It is worthy of note, however, that the former coach, Jose Peseiro, also tried the 4-4-2 formation with Nigeria but did not succeed with it. He could also go with the dynamic 4-2-3-1 formation, also called the 4-3-3 (attacking) which he deployed during his early and later days at the Real Betis B team. This is the most rumoured formation especially given the fact that he called a natural left back as a replacement for Osimhen rather than opting for another attacking option. This formation will see Victor Boniface or Terem Moffi operate as the striker with the likes of Ademola Lookman, Ibrahim, Samuel Chukwueze and Kelechi Iheanacho playing on the wings. The most likely option at the number 10 position will be Alex Iwobi while Ndidi or Onyeka will play as a DM. Raphael Onyedika or Alhassan Yusuf will complete the midfield pairing as a CM which will be given the liberty to go forward and contribute to the attack if necessary. It however, remains to be seen if Finidi will trust Igboke who has had an excellent season with Rangers at left back or he’ll deploy Calvin as his make-shift option.


The exclusion of Ahmed Musa and William Troost Ekong is justified considering that the former has been without a club since 26 Feb, 2024 and the latter has been grappling with injuries. However, can the same be said of Kenneth Omeruo and Joe Aribo? Indeed, Joe Aribo’s presence in the team for about a year has raised eyebrows as he’s been underperforming. Now however,  it must be said that he has recaptured some form as he helped his club side, Southampton gain promotion to the English Premier League. Finidi has been excused as it is seen that he doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. On the other hand, Kenneth Omeruo’s exclusion seems criminal and unforgivable. Due to the wealth of experience he has garnered over the years, he was given the name Uncle K. Though he may not be a starter for the team, his presence as a leader is needed especially following the fact that Troost Ekong and Ahmed Musa won’t be available to give that. The back line of the this squad is quite young and to a large extent, inexperienced, desperate in need of a calm and collected figure in the person of Kenneth Omeruo.

From L-R: Sadiq Umar; George Finidi. Source: Sports Brief.


Finidi called up Umar Sadiq to the friendlies against Mali and Ghana but kept him as an unused substitute in both games, despite the dire need of a striker in those games, leaving Umar frustrated. This happens to be  the same player who left the Eagles’ AFCON camp days before the competition started, claiming he had an injury only to feature in Real Sociedad’s game the following week. It was revealed, in an exclusive publication by Score Nigeria, that Finidi did not pick Umar for the friendlies but the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) pushed for his inclusion. Furthermore, the same press release stated that he brags about the fact that the NFF favours him over his teammates therefore priding himself as the ‘NFF boy’. All these led to the feeling of entitlement which led him to  protest against the potential appointment of Finidi George as the head coach after the friendly matches. He didn’t get his wish and has been given the boot by Finidi. Asides that, the fact that he’s fallen down the pecking order at this club side didn’t help his case in any way.

The list is out and it cannot be changed. Nigeria’s first match will be against South Africa on June 7, 2 pm. We really hope and pray that his tactics will be right as we need to get back on track following our poor start to the World Cup qualifying series. 

Emmanuel Ibitunde.

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