4 changes Finidi must make for Benin vs Nigeria

Finidi George started his Super Eagles reign with a 1-1 draw with South Africa which feels like a missed opportunity, much like a fumbled pass in a crucial game.

With only 3 points out of a possible 9, the Super Eagles find themselves precariously perched on the edge of the qualification cliff, staring down at a long and treacherous climb back to secure their World Cup berth.

While the second half offered flickers of hope, a bright spark in the otherwise dimming fire of their qualifying campaign, it can't disguise the harsh reality.

Changes Finidi George must make for Benin vs Nigeria
©Justina Aniefiok/BackpagePix

Seven games remain—a gauntlet Nigeria must navigate with renewed focus and strategy.

Their next challenge arrives soon: a trip to Abidjan to face Gernot Rohr's Benin. This match presents a golden opportunity, a chance to break their winless streak and reclaim control of their destiny.

Finidi George, the new head coach, has received his baptism by fire. The initial jitters, the butterflies fluttering in his stomach, are hopefully a thing of the past.

Now is the time for decisive action, a tactical overhaul, and a fresh approach to personnel selection.

Here are four areas Finidi can address to spark a turnaround against Benin.

Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, if fit, should start

Finidi will have to persist with Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, who alongside Benjamin Tanimu was a leading light in the draw against South Africa.

The Hatayspor midfielder's industry and drive helped Nigeria offensively, and he wasn't shy to track back and defend when needed.

He scored a beautiful goal to cap a wonderful first start for the Super Eagles but brought more to the team than just the goal he scored.

Changes Finidi George must make for Benin vs Nigeria
Photo by NFF media

Dele-Bashiru interchanged roles in the hole with Alex Iwobi and was the main creative force for Nigeria for a long stretch despite his defensive output.

While the prognosis is being awaited for the injury that saw him taken off, it will do Finidi a world of good if he starts the 23-year-old against the Squirrels on Monday.

Benjamin Tanimu for all his versatility isn't a right-back

Granted, Finidi started with a 4-3-3 formation, but after 15 minutes it looked more like a 3-5-2. With South Africa on the ascendancy, Tanimu had to man the right side of defence to cut out Percy Tau, which left Semi Ajayi at the mercy of Themba Zwane and other South African attackers.

Calvin Bassey was the designated left center-back, but the balance between the quad (which turned into a trio) didn't work.

Anytime Bafana Bafana broke down the wings, Semi was always at a loss on the space to fill, which basically gave South Africa all their chances at goal, especially in the first half.

Finidi has to sort that out and get the balance right on game day.

Consequently, Tanimu, who was making his second start for Nigeria, has to fill into a more central role to get the best from him and strike a balance.

Changes Finidi George must make for Benin vs Nigeria
©Justina Aniefiok/BackpagePix

The Kelechi Iheanacho dilemma

It was evident after 10 minutes that Kelechi Iheanacho on the left side of a 3-5-2 was not going to work.

Not that he does not have the requisite tools for that role, but he didn't do enough defensively and looked like he would rather be somewhere else on the pitch than where Finidi asked him to play.

A couple of times during the game, the coach had to speak with him to be more aware and keep the balance, but it all came to naught.

It isn't a hidden secret that Iheanacho prefers to play more centrally, but he has to learn to play for the team or risk being dropped. However, that will be Finidi's call.

Finidi George has proven his point

During the post-match press conference, when asked why Victor Boniface, who is in red-hot form and was expected to start, didn't get the nod, Finidi said he started players he felt were in the best frame of mind to start.

This can be interpreted in many ways, but he has made his point. He has shown he isn't afraid to make big calls that might not be popular, but I reckon we need a Boniface-type striker in Abidjan against Benin.

This isn't to say Paul Onuachu, who started ahead of the Bayer Leverkusen striker, had a bad game—far from it.

But we need a bit of running, technique, and physicality against Gernot Rohr's troops, which Boniface will bring to the attack with those attributes.

Finidi once again must make that big call like he did against South Africa. His decisions could define Nigeria's World Cup qualifying campaign and potentially secure their path to the tournament.

With renewed focus and strategic changes, the Super Eagles can still turn their campaign around and achieve their World Cup dreams.

4 changes Finidi must make for Benin vs Nigeria
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)