BREAKING: Finidi George Gets First Baptism Of Fire

The end of the 2023/24 major European football season, especially the English Premier League, I believe might lead to dearth of issues deserving prioritisation. But this is not so as there are avalanche of issues competing for major attention or be priority at­tention, and deservedly though....Read The Full Story Here ▶

To start with, it was on Friday morning (West African Time) that Dallas Mavericks eliminat­ed Minnesota Timberwolves 124- 103 to breeze through the Western Conference finals in five games. Dallas will play Boston Celtics that swept Indiana Pacers in their Eastern Conference finals on Monday. The NBA finals will start on June 6, with game 1 hold­ing at Boston. Game 2 is on June 9 at Boston, while game 3 holds June 12 at Dallas. Dallas will also host game 4 June 14. If there is no winner, game 5 will return to Bos­ton June 17 before Dallas hosting game 6 June 20. Game 7 will be on June 23 at Boston 8 p.m.

Is this the end of an era? This question becomes imperative if one considers the way and man­ner Rafael Nadal first round exist of the French Open in straight set to Alexander Zverev in the week. This is a player that holds a re­cord 14th win at Rolland Garros. Existing the tournament in the first round leads one to the only conclusion that is the end of era? Is Nadal going the way of Roger Federer, Serena Williams among others?

Now most European clubs are neck dip in preparing for next season. Some clubs like Bayern Munich ended all speculation in the search of a coach that will re­place Thomas Tuchel by signing of former Burnley manager, Vin­cent Kompany. The German club moved for Kompany after a series of rejections in their search for a successor to Tuchel. It is under­stood Kompany has agreed a deal until 2027, with Bayern set to pay Burnley £10.2m in compensation.

Barcelona also moved swiftly to end their search for a new man­ager with the signing of Ex-Bay­ern Munich and Germany man­ager Hansi Flick on a two-year deal. Flick replaces Xavi, who was sacked a month after Barce­lona had persuaded him to stay on as manager, after he initially planned to leave at the end of this campaign. The 44-year-old took the Catalans to the Champions League quarter-finals where they lost to Paris Saint-Germain.

Speculations are rife about players moving from club to the other. But until transfer windows open later this month in Europe, players’ movement remains a con­jecture for now.

The most important football issue now is the 2026 FIFA World Cup Africa qualifying series that resumes next week across the continent. Nigeria Super Eagles are not left out as they will be playing their third game in the qualifiers against South Africa Bafana Bafabna on Friday June 7 in Uyo before taking on Benin Re­public four days later in Abidjan.

What give these games a special colouration is that these games are the first competitive matches for Finidi George as manager of the Super Eagles and they are a must win games for the team. Any result other than winning these games mean Nigeria’s hope of qualifying for the tournament in the USA will remain a mirage.

As if the Super Eagles are con­demned to missing out of the 2026 edition in the USA, they kicked off the qualifiers on a not too im­pressive note drawing 1-1 against Lesotho in Uyo before forcing Zimbabwe into another 1-1 game in Harare. Presently in Group C of the qualifiers, Super Eagles are placed third with two points with Rwanda on four points lead­ing the group and South Africa placed second with three points. With only the winner of the group made up of six teams qualifying for the World Cup, it means that the only path left for the Super Eagles to qualify for the World Cup is winning their remaining group matches, both home and away, starting with South Africa in Uyo on Friday.

It is not an impossible task, though a tough one for the three times African champions. But go­ing by the pedigree of the players at the Super Eagles disposal, it is a possible mission. We are in this situation because the Super Eagles, against all expectations, failed to kick off their qualifiers by winning their first two games, games that are winnable by all sense; hence it is only by beating South Africa in Uyo that will not only restore the confidence back into the team, but ensures that the team desire to qualify for the World Cup in 2026 is on the right track. To place second in the group, South Africa kicked off with a win against Benin Repub­lic before losing away to Rwanda.

But will Finidi start his man­agerial duty with a win? As not­ed earlier, it is not an impossible mission, but it is not going to be an easy one. All the teams in the group only desire are to qualify for the World Cup. So no team in the group, South Africa inclusive will make it an easy journey for Nigeria. Knowing that when it comes to football, South Africa, the only ambition is upstaging Ni­geria, then it behooves on Finidi to take the three points off them on Friday. The rainbow country is seeing itself as being on equal pedestal with Nigeria as far as football is concerned. But the truth is that Nigeria gave South Africa the opportunity to look down on it because of the fail­ure to develop Nigerian football. With the talents abounding in the country, if the country foot­ball administrators have not only harnessed these untapped talents at the grassroots, but has in place programme that would turn these talents into world class players, who is South Africa to equate itself with Nigeria. But because we’ve not done the needful, that is, failed to develop our football, we are now jittery because we are playing South Africa.

For these qualifiers, Africa Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen, is ruled out due to injury so also is William Troost- Ekong and Ola Aina. But the in­vited players have the capacity to take the three points off South Africa in Uyo and Benin Republic in |Abidjan four days later.

In Osimhen’s absence, Finidi might turn to Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface to lead the attack­ing line for Nigeria. There is Ade­mola Lookman, who shone like a million star in the Europa League Cup final last week.

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