7 biggest misses in Finidi’s Super Eagles squad

Representing the country's national football team is something often taken for granted in Nigeria. The fans dismiss any international football match that is not a tournament, and club managers spend each day nervously waiting for their players in one piece.

Even the players that go as regulars can get caught in the moment and not quite appreciate the gravity of the situation; the national team is the West African country's pinnacle of excellence (more often than not).

Super Eagles manager Finidi George on Friday announced a 23-man squad for the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin.

Regular players like William Troost-Ekong, Moses Simon, Ola Aina, and Kenneth Omeruo missed out on the list due to injury.

Still, there are more than a handful of players who, based on form, ability, and experience, deserve a place in the Super Eagles.

Biggest misses in Finidi's Super Eagles squad

Here are seven players George may want to seriously consider in the future.

Bruno Onyemaechi

There are few (if any) Nigerian footballers more underrated than Bruno Onyemaechi. The dynamic Boavista left-back has carved out quite the reputation for himself.

The 25-year-old has played 24 games for the Portuguese side, starting 23 of them, averaging 83 minutes per game, and providing one assist.

George's squad is currently missing a crucial element: a natural left-back. This deficiency could pose significant tactical challenges and limit the team's defensive stability and offensive versatility. In light of this, the omission of a player like Onyemaechi, who excels in this position, is puzzling.

Modern football demands that full-backs contribute to both defence and attack. Onyemaechi's pace, dribbling skills, and crossing ability make him an offensive threat, capable of supporting the forward line and creating scoring opportunities.

His inclusion would add a new dimension to the squad's attacking play, allowing for more fluid and dynamic offensive movements.

One of Onyemaechi's standout qualities is his versatility. In addition to being a natural left-back, he is also capable of playing as a centre-back.

This dual capability allows him to fill multiple roles within the team, providing invaluable cover in case of injuries or tactical shifts.

His adaptability ensures that the team can maintain a high level of performance even when adjustments are necessary.

A well-balanced squad is essential for competing at the highest levels. The absence of a natural left-back creates an imbalance, forcing players to operate out of position, which can lead to suboptimal performances.

Bruno Onyemaechi @ Icon Sport
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His club may have suffered from inconsistent displays during their campaign, but regular glimpses of the full-back's quality should make him a regular fixture in George's team as the Super Eagles manager.

Onyemaechi has made three appearances for the Super Eagles. He made his international debut for Nigeria on 10 September 2023, playing as a left-back for the full 90 minutes in a 6–0 victory over São Tomé & Príncipe in the final group match of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Joe Aribo

It is kind of unbelievable to think that Joe Aribo has been dropped from the team having been with them at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Southampton man seems to be the only player who featured in AFCON and is neither injured nor clubless, yet failed to make the cut in George's team.

The most basic mentality a player needs to possess in order to earn himself a call-up to the national team entails bettering their club form.

Aribo has undoubtedly achieved that at Southampton this season, to get his Southampton career back underway with goals and assists while married to a nonchalant action style.

As silky as they come, Aribo makes football look easy with his vision and quality on the ball. Yet, the 27-year-old does not earn the public admiration of the Nigerian football community that he deserves.

Joe Aribo @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

It is perhaps due to his perceived lack of direct impact on the scoresheet, but all you have to do is look at his performance on the pitch to be convinced of his prowess.

Capable of playing centrally as No. 8 or on either wing, George could make use of a player who is devastatingly good with his magical left-foot. This unique ability makes him unpredictable for the opposition

Tolu Arokodare

The towering striker has accumulated 15 goals and three assists in all competitions for Genk, yet he still missed out on George's list.

Statistically, Arokodare has performed better than some of the forwards George included in the squad.

The Genk forward is a brute of a human being. He has the physical build and attacking skillset reminiscent of a young Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Tolu utilises his body to good effect to pin and disrupt 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, Arokodare 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.

Tolu Arokodare @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

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.

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.

Cyriel Dessers

Cyriel Dessers has been a standout performer in the Scottish top flight, netting 16 goals this season. His clinical finishing, aerial prowess, and ability to score from various positions on the field make him a formidable forward.

Despite these impressive numbers, Dessers has been left out of George's squad, sparking questions about the criteria used for selection.

George invited the Rangers forward to March's international friendlies against Ghana and Mali. He scored against Ghana but was awful against Mali.

It remains unclear why George has chosen to overlook Dessers, especially given his current form and the need for proven goal-scorers in the team.

His proven goal-scoring records and current form suggest they could add significant value to the team.

Cyriel Dessers @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

Athletically built and brave, the 29-year-old can hold his own against the toughest of centre-backs, but rather than his physique, his guile and intelligent positioning enable him to outwit defenders.

His uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time means Dessers regularly finds scoring opportunities.

Equally comfortable going for goal with either foot or with his head, and never afraid to to miss, it is no surprise that he is the leading marksman in his club.

Dessers would certainly have been a valuable addition to the Super Eagles had he been considered.

Chuba Akpom

Another star who has impressed enough to earn a Nigeria debut is Chuba Akpom. His omission has shocked many Nigerian fans.

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.

Chuba Akpom
Photo by Icon Sport

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

Missing out on George's squad means Akpom will have to wait a little longer to make his Super Eagles debut.

Chidera Ejuke

In the absence of Moses Simon, Chidera Ejuke would have been an ideal replacement. The Royal Antwerp winger has had a decent season for the Dutch club.

The 26-year-old is not shy of taking responsibility to make something happen for his team. Ejuke has the versatility to play on the left, right or centrally behind a main striker.

A blisteringly quick winger, Ejuke has a level of comfort coming deep to get the ball. His crossing is also joy to watch, in particular the way he gets a seemingly absurd amount of whip.

It is rare to find a combination of his pace, trickery, awareness, and power, which is what immediately endears him to the Royal Antwerp faithful.

Chidera Ejuke @ Icon Sport
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With the kind of form Ejuke finds himself in, he would have been a blessing to the Super Eagles team, complementing the efforts of Ademola Lookman on the flanks and making things easier for the likes of Victor Osimhen and Victor Boniface.

Ejuke debuted for the Nigeria national team in a friendly 1–1 tie with Tunisia on 13 October 2020, and has made three appearances for the Super Eagles.

Francis Uzoho

Francis Uzoho, who until recently was the Super Eagles' number one goalkeeper, has faced a surprising exclusion from Finidi George's recent squad announcements.

This decision comes despite Uzoho's superb form for Omonia Nicosia FC and his long-standing tenure with the national team.

Leading up to the recent AFCON tournament, Uzoho had been the established first-choice goalkeeper being displaced by Stanley Nwabali.

However, the return of Maduka Okoye and possibly other factors led to his exclusion from Finidi George's squad.

Despite Uzoho's consistent performances for his club, where he has maintained impressive form, he found himself on the outside looking in.

At just 25, Uzoho still has many years ahead of him in his career. His experience, with 32 appearances for the Super Eagles, makes him a seasoned campaigner at the international level.

Francis Uzoho @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

However, his omission from recent squads may indicate a shift in the coaching staff's preferences or a need for new blood in the squad.

The exclusion of Uzoho from George's recent squad could signify the beginning of a transitional phase for the Super Eagles' goalkeeping department.

While Uzoho's career is far from over, his future role within the national team setup remains uncertain.

His form and determination suggest that he may have more to offer in the coming years, but only time will tell if he can reclaim his place as Nigeria's number one goalkeeper.

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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.