2026 World Cup qualifiers: 3 things to expect from Finidi’s provisional squad

New Super Eagles coach Finidi George is expected to release his provisional list for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin early next week.

It will be the first time he will be fully in charge of the team after his appointment in April by the Nigeria Football Federation.

This will also be a new era for the team as they begin life post AFCON 2023, where the team lost 2-1 in the final against hosts Ivory Coast.

Finidi George's assistants
Photo by NFF media

Not that the Eagles will have a completely different squad when they resume for official matches, but players like Ahmed Musa (who is club-less at the moment), William Troost-Ekong (who started training last week after coming back from injury), Samuel Chukwueze and Zaidu Sanusi (both injured) will be missing from the latest call-up.

Nigeria will have to dig deep to get their campaign back on track after two successive draws that have left them in a precarious position on the table in Group C.

With Finidi now fully at the helm of affairs, here are three things we should expect from the players the former Ajax Amsterdam star will call up for the latest round of qualifiers.

Maduka Okoye should be back

I reckon we have not seen the last of Udinese goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, who is in line for a return to the national team after a two-year absence.

The goalkeeper asked to be excused from national duties just before residential camping for the Africa Cup of Nations, and has not played for the team since then.

Lecce vs Udinese – Serie A Tim 2023/24
Credit Image: © Giovanni Evangelista/LaPresse)

Issues related to club form and fan abuse made him take a break from the team, but after a stellar campaign with Serie A side Udinese in the second half of the season, he is primed for a comeback to the team with Finidi the head honcho now.

Okoye is firmly established as Udinese's number one right now, and has been in goal in the last 19 straight games with four clean sheets.

It is left to see if he will displace new favourite Stanley Nwabali as the number 1 goalkeeper and most importantly, who between Francis Uzoho and Leke Ojo will make way for him.

Expect more NPFL players than usual

Finidi has not hidden his secret that his regime will accommodate as many Nigeria Premier Football League players who show they can do the business for the Super Eagles.

Making the NPFL softer and safer for teams
Photo by Enyimba media

Coming from the league and with two seasons under his belt, he definitely will be in tune with the best players in the league.

A source at the Nigeria Football Federation told afrik-foot.com that there will be periodical camping for players based in Nigeria by Finidi, and this tows the line the coach took at his press conference saying he will also trust the local-based players.

So, for this provisional list (at least) expect to see fresh faces from the local league in the team, especially in the midfield areas as we scooped.

Same faces, some returnees

Like it always happens after every tournament, a new circle will start and this time it won’t be any different with Finidi’s first official call-ups.

As earlier mentioned, some players will miss out due to injuries and inactivity while some, dropped from the AFCON party will find joy with the anticipated list.

While majority of the squad of the squad that went to Ivory Coast will be invited, some new faces will be in the squad.

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Photo by Icon Sport

Already, Cyriel Dessers, who missed the cut for the AFCON will get his chance, same as Nathan Tella of Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen.

His team-mate, Victor Boniface, who missed the Nations Cup due to injury is also expected to be back.

Expect to see one or two new faces who will be listed for their maiden appearance for Nigeria as Finidi pilots the squad for the first time in an official capacity.

Finidi George is in a race against time

Under former coach Jose Peseiro, the Super Eagles started the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers with two draws.

Lesotho held the team to a 1-1 draw in Uyo, in a game Nigeria had to come from behind to get a point through Semi Ajayi’s header from a Kelechi Iheanacho corner kick.

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Photo by Icon sport

The next game against Zimbabwe in Rwanda didn’t fare any better, as the team was also held to another draw.

This means that with two games played, and just two points from a possible six, Nigeria are now in third place in the group behind surprise leaders Rwanda and South Africa.

Finidi is going straight into the deep end in his first game, as the Super Eagles are condemned to win if they want to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

Any dropped points at home against South Africa will dampen the euphoria that came with his appointment as the Super Eagles coach.

He has to get it right in his first official game in charge.

2026 World Cup qualifiers: 3 things to expect from Finidi’s provisional squad
Andrew Randa

Andrew Randa is a veteran Nigerian sports journalist with over 20 years of experience covering the beautiful game across Africa. Andrew served as a Media Officer for Nigeria's U-20 Men's National Team for three years, offering a unique perspective on the future stars of Nigerian football.

Beyond reporting, Andrew is a pioneer in sports graphics creation within Nigeria. His expertise extends to sports kit design, making him a true multi-faceted talent in the African sports landscape.

Andrew's experience is vast, with collaborations encompassing prestigious names like Kickoff, SuperSport, the NFF (Nigeria Football Federation), and the NPFL (Nigeria Professional Football League)