Baptism of fire in debut! Finidi George set to face Bafana without influential players – But who are they?

KICKER: The former international is set to face the South Africans in Uyo on June 7 without several of the team's lethal players.

Newly confirmed Nigeria coach Finidi George has a mammoth task of steering the Super Eagles past South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in Group C of the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier to be played at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.

His predecessor Jose Peseiro started the campaign with unconvincing results against Lesotho and Zimbabwe respectively, matches the West Africans posted an identical 1-1 scoreline.

Despite helping the Super Eagles secure a silver medal in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations which the hosts Ivory Coast won, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) opted against extending the Portuguese’s contract.

It explains why George has named a rather interesting squad to play Bafana Bafana – a team they beat in the 2023 AFCON semi-final, since he is aware of what is at stake.

Among the exciting faces that were included are Udinese goalkeeper Maduka Okoye who played 21 Serie A games and kept five clean sheets in the process. The custodian was dropped from the team by Peseiro owing to cheap mistakes.

Bayer Leverkusen attacker Victor Boniface – who was crowned the German Bundesliga Rookie of the Year Award after scoring 14 goals and providing 8 assists for his team, is part of the Super Eagles arsenal.

Defender Sadiq Ismael of Remo Stars has been given his first call up which he will be aiming at capitalizing on.

The 2023 Afcon star Troost-Ekong among the overlooked players, what is George cooking?

Troost-Ekong

The Super Eagles assistant captain William Troost-Ekong did not make the 23-man squad for the games against South Africa and Benin respectively. 

The 30-year-old PAOK defender scored three goals enroute to making the team of the tournament, but went under the knife owing to an injury sustained. He was ruled out for the remainder of the season and the game came too soon for him.

“I will be there in Uyo as well when they arrive. Some of the players are coming to support the charity game and I’ll try and hang around for the match to try and give them moral support, and try and do my best to share some of my experiences with some of the younger players,” Troost-Ekong confirmed to Arise TV.

It will be interesting to see how Nigeria will cope without their influential center-back.

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Moses Simon

The FC Nantes attacker has been a real deal for the Super Eagles but his season was cut-short in the most recent international break in a friendly game against Mali.

The 28-year-old collided with the Eagles goalkeeper in the aforementioned game, breaking his fibula in the process.

It is an injury that needs a significant period before healing completely. However, the exploits of Ademola Lookman – who scored all three goals as Atalanta beat Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League final. might be all that George needs.

Zaidu Sanusi

The FC Porto left-back was a rock for the Super Eagles in the 2023 Afcon. His runs while initiating attacks and defensive interceptions were on point. 

Unfortunately for him and the entire Nigeria unit, the defender suffered a nasty anterior cruciate ligament injury in February while on club duty. 

Surely, George hopes Sanusi will get back to his best once he recovers to help in future international assignments.

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The Osimhen & Tella blow, how worse can it get for George?

Napoli striker Victor Osimhen is one forward who most coaches wish to have in their squad thanks to his attitude while on the pitch. He is always hungry for goals and has an unmatched desire to push for a win.

The 25-year-old suffered a muscle injury with two Serie A games remaining to conclude the season. Osimhen missed the Fiorentina clash but was introduced with 26 minutes to go against Lecce.

He overstretched in his bid to get the ball in the back of the net and in the process aggravated the already done damage. 

The forward – who scored 17 goals and provided two assists for his team, had no option but to pull out of the squad which might pave the way for the Bayer Leverkusen attacker Boniface.

Nathan Tella is another player who will be missed by Nigeria. The 24-year-old Bayer Leverkusen player cited family reasons as the cause of his absence.

The midfielder had five goals and two assists in the 24 Bundesliga games he played for his club.

Baptism of fire in debut! Finidi George set to face Bafana without influential players – But who are they?
Willis Sob

Willis Sob is an experienced journalist who has been in the game since 2009, covering major assignments around the continent.
His hunger for African football is unmatched, always getting the best angles and facts to feed the fans and quench their thirst.