6 outsiders looking to force themselves into Finidi’s squad for World Cup qualifiers

Nigeria are one of the finest football nations in the world with no shortage of talent and quality. 

As the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin beckon, Finidi George has many Nigerian players dreaming of glory.

These players have a few days to prove to the Super Eagles manager why they deserve a place in his team.

There are, of course, players who can be confident about making the cut, but others find themselves on the fringes and will be hoping to stake their claim before Judgement Day.

A host of players are still waiting to receive their first cap for Nigeria, but have showed signs that they could still break into George's team by the time the final squad is announced.

A lot can change in a matter of days, and the following six players will be keen to force their way into George's thinking.

Below, we list six outsiders who could be in contention to secure a place in the Super Eagles squad.

Maduka Okoye

Perhaps less of an outsider and more of a likely candidate, Maduka Okoye has the Serie A alight with Udinese this season.

The 24-year-old has ousted Udinese's first-choice goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, and made the position his own.

Okoye, since taking over the goal post, has made 19 appearances, conceded 24 goals, and kept four clean sheets. He has made the Serie A Team of the Week on two occasions.

Since the conclusion of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, Okoye seems to have taken a hiatus from the national team.

Following Nigeria's elimination by Tunisia, Okoye, formerly of Sparta Rotterdam, faced extensive social media criticism, prompting him to temporarily deactivate his social media accounts and step away from international duties.

Maduka Okoye @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

Despite being physically fit and eligible for selection, both Okoye and the national team management agreed to his absence from the squad during the recent AFCON in Ivory Coast, where Nigeria finished as runners-up behind the hosts.

Insanely efficient at the basics, partial to the odd moment of supernatural heroics and impeccable when distributing the ball, this could be the perfect moment for Okoye to make a return to the Super Eagles.

Since his debut in 2019 in a friendly against Brazil, Okoye has represented the Super Eagles on 16 occasions.

Gift Orban

The one area of the team where George would feel he doesn't need a bigger selection headache than he already possesses is in attack.

Victor Osimhen, Victor Boniface, Ademola Lookman and Moses Simon. Nigeria are already stacked at that position.

Gift Orban's ability to play on both flanks, as centre-forward and second striker provides a level of versatility that would be an asset within any squad.

But it will be tough for the Olympique Lyon forward to surpass the established forwards in the current Super Eagles setup.

Earlier hailed for his impressive goal-scoring record at Gent, where he netted 18 goals in 33 appearances the previous season, hopes were high for Orban to make a significant impact at Lyon. However, his transition to the new club hasn't been without its challenges.

Despite flashes of brilliance, Orban has found consistent playing time hard to come by in Lyon's competitive attacking lineup.

Gift Orban @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

With stiff competition for starting spots, he has often been relegated to a substitute role, limiting his opportunities to replicate his scoring prowess from his Gent days.

Narrowly missing out on the 2023 CAF Young Player of the Year accolade, Orban's nomination among other gifted African footballers underscores his immense potential and bright future.

Due to his outstanding performances for Gent, Orban was widely expected to secure a spot in Jose Peseiro's final AFCON 2023 squad after being initially named in the provisional squad. However, he was ultimately overlooked for selection.

He was called up by Peseiro for an AFCON 2023 qualifier against Sao Tome & Principe, but was unable to play due to an injury sustained in a league game before the match held in Nigeria.

Could George finally hand the 21-year-old his dream Super Eagles debut?

Elijah Adebayo

Luton Town have not had the rosiest debut season in the Premier League, but they have had some stand-out players, one of whom is striker Adebayo.

Luton's season — which may well see them relegated, anyway — would have been much worse without Adebayo's ten goals (a fifth of the entire team's total), even if those double digits get him no closer to making his senior England debut at age 26.

Compared to some of the others on this list, Adebayo feels like low-hanging fruit, the sort that Nigeria only needs to reach out and pluck.

Adebayo has expressed his intention to play for the Super Eagles and could be a new Nigeria striker.

Elijah Adebayo @ Icon Sport
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His sentiments carry emotional weight, as he reflected on the significance of his decision for his family, particularly his mother's pride.

“I would like to play for Nigeria,” he affirmed, emphasising the profound impact it would have on his mother's happiness and pride if he turned out for the Super Eagles.

Speaking on the possibility of playing for England, Adebayo maintains an open stance, stating, “It would be a case of whichever comes first.”

Chuba Akpom

Another star who has impressed enough to earn a Nigeria debut of late, Chuba Akpom could take advantage of Moses Simon's inconsistencies and force his way inro George's squad.

He has been a key cog in Ajax Amsterdam's attack. In 24 Eredivisie games, out of which he has started seven, the 28-year-old has managed to score an impressive 11 goals and provided three assists.

Versatility in attack mixed with his unpredictable skillset makes him an asset for the Super Eagles. His movement, dribbling ability, creativity and finishing skills mean he can be Nigeria's ” ace in the hole” in the attacking areas.

The former Middlesborough striker will be hoping his recent form can earn him a call-up to the Super Eagles for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers next month.

Chuba Akpom @ Icon Sport
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Akpom was primed to be in Nigeria’s provisional squad for the last Africa Cup of Nations but missed out entirely.

However, with Finidi George now in charge, he will hope to finally have a crack at the Super Eagles.

Gabriel Osho

The 25-year-old has shown himself to be a composed and assured presence at the heart of the Luton Town defence.

Osho has a lot of competition at centre-back, but he has the quality to rub shoulders with the established names and it wouldn't surprise many to see him named in George's final squad. 

In the ongoing Premier League campaign, Osho has made 20 appearances and has scored two goals. The goals were against Arsenal and Newcastle United. He is a very important figure at Kenilworth Road.

His absence from the pitch noticeably exposes vulnerabilities in the Luton defence, with the team often struggling to maintain solidity and organisation without him.

There's a palpable difference in the team's performance when Osho is not on the field, corroborating his importance as a defensive anchor and a stabilising force.

Gabriel Osho @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

His absence at the beginning of the season could partly explain Luton's struggles in the league.

Osho does not rush into tackles unnecessarily. He gives a slid presence at the back and can dominate the box. He can also work his way forward and start attacks from the back. Additionally, the Luton defender is not flustered under pressure and clears his lines when necessary.

Tolu Arokodare

Tolu Arokodare is a brute of a human being. He has the physical build and attacking skillset reminiscent of a young Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Genk forward utilises his body to good effect to pin and distrupt defenders when rumbling around the attacking third. He has a good burst and above average speed. While not especially quick, he's more steady and functional.

As a striker, Tolu is a dynamic threat. He can win the ball in the air exceptionally well, heading for goal or trying to hold up play to get others involved.

But he can also play off the last man's shoulder and look for avenues in-behind the defence, or wing wide into the channels to open space for others.

Tolu Arokodare @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

Amidst Genk's difficulties, the towering 1.97-metre striker has demonstrated his talent this season, scoring 15 goals and providing three assists in 48 matches.

Arokodare is devastating in transition and increasingly adept at helping Genk break down deep defences.

His job is made twice as hard, as many defenders will double-up on him to try and keep him quiet, but that only makes the battle intriguing.

A maiden Super Eagles debut in the offing? We await with great anticipation.

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Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu, a Ghanaian sports journalist, brings a dynamic perspective to the field with over a decade of experience. Having contributed to esteemed platforms such as Kickgh.com and Inkandkicks.com. Godfred is recognised for his insightful commentary and in-depth analysis of African football.
His passion for storytelling and commitment to accuracy have established him as a trusted authority in sports journalism in Ghana, captivating audiences with his engaging narratives and unparalleled expertise.
Godfred holds a degree in Integrated Development Studies (Social and Development Administration option) from the University for Development Studies, Ghana.