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Enyimba coach and 1994 AFCON winner, George Finidi, who also doubles as assistant coach of the Super Eagles, talks about coaching the most successful club in Nigeria as well as the chances of NPFL players in the senior national team, in this interview with ABIODUN ADEWALE

Your team Enyimba are second in Group A at the end of the first stanza. How would you rate your performance this season?

We are in a very tough group where we have most of the best teams in the country. But at the moment, we are second and I think so far so good, the boys have been responding and we hope to keep the momentum. It’s not going to be easy; every team wants to be in the top three, and our aim is to make sure we are among them. Hopefully we will achieve that.

How would you also describe your first season as a coach in the NPFL?

First season, I will say that is gone. I will say we didn’t get what we wanted in terms of classification, but I think we played some good football. However, if the objective was not achieved, then you must say it was a bad season, but we all learnt from that and try to be better this season and get the job done.

Which NPFL team has given you a tough time since you took over Enyimba?

I can’t really say a team has given us a tough time. We have competed favourably even in matches that we lost. We have not been outplayed when a team played Enyimba and won the match. We have lost some matches as a result of little details and concentration, so we will try and put that into our training programme before the second stanza, so that we don’t commit  those little errors again.

You played in the NPFL as well, looking back, what are the advancements and areas that still need improvement in the Nigerian league?

From my time to the present state, there’s been a lot of improvement. I think particularly with the teams and some facilities. There are other areas that need improvement but I think overall we are getting there.

As one of the assistant coaches of the Super Eagles, would you beat your chest for some of the NPFL players to be included in the national team?

As assistant coaches of the Super Eagles, our job is to contribute and help the head coach. He needs our support and we will give him. If there are players that are good enough that we see and can make it, not just to go to the camp and come back, but go there and make an impact, we will give him that advice and we will make sure we get the best out of the players. We are all watching, not just me, and we are looking at bringing one or two or even five players into the fold. There are lots of good players in the league, but we will see who is ready to go. Once we see that, we will be able to do what is necessary.

Eagles play Guinea Bissau in an AFCON qualifier this month and a lot of people think the coaches don’t have to invite overseas-based players. Do you feel the same way?

For the game against Guinea Bissau, if it’s necessary, we have to mix the team, bring some home-based players and overseas-based players and see how we can get the result. But this notion that no player abroad should be invited is not totally a good idea. I will always say that if we see players that are capable of going there and making an impact, we will give them that opportunity. It’s always nice to mix the players, we will see how everything goes.

It’s been 10 years since Nigeria last won the AFCON. How important is it for you to win it for Nigeria again, as a member of the technical crew?

I must tell you the AFCON is the toughest tournament to play and win. Most people feel AFCON should be won every two years, but if it was that easy, no one would cherish it anymore. It’s been a long time but we will work towards it and see if we can win the next edition.

Ex-Eagles coach Clemens Westerhof had a huge impact on Nigerian footbal. What lessons have you picked from him now that you are a coach yourself?

Personally, I think Westerhof did a good job in his time with Nigeria. At the same time, I have worked with so many coaches that have impacted my way of life and my career. From Westerhof to every coach I played under, even the ones I played under from Louis Van Gaal to Guus Hiddink and Shuaibu Amodu, I’ve learnt a lot and I try to imbibe one or two things into my own way as well.

What were your highest and lowest moments while representing Nigeria?

The highest moment in my Super Eagles days was winning the AFCON in 1994, while the lowest I will say will be not beating Italy in the second round of the World Cup in 1994 as well.

At club level, you won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax as well as other titles in Europe. If you place them side-by-side with your national team medals, which one is the most precious?

If I have to pick between all the titles I’ve won for club and country, I would say the AFCON medal is the most valuable while I will call the Champions League precious.

Finally, what is it going to feel like to lead Enyimba to another CAF Champions League glory in the nearest future and do you have plans of returning to Europe anytime soon?

For Enyimba, it’s one step at a time. Our focus now is getting to the Super Six, once that one is achieved, we will compete for the Top Three and then we can begin to talk about what to do on the continent. But yes, it will be great to achieve everything achievable with the club. I’m in Nigeria at the moment, I don’t know if I’m going back. But as a coach, you can find yourself anywhere. I don’t know what the future holds for me but I will try and enjoy my time here at home and whatever happens in the future will depend on the result I can achieve here. So, I will keep working hard to be better. I’m thinking about what I can do today and who knows what will happen tomorrow? I’m not thinking about going back to Europe, I’m just focused on my job here.

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Jose Peseiro, Super Eagles Head Coach

Three sports journalists based in Abuja on Sunday urged the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to relieve Jose Peseiro of his Super Eagles Head Coach job before it is too late.

They made the call following the Eagles’ 0-1 loss to Guinea Bissau on Friday in a 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier at the Moshood Abiola Stadium in Abuja.

Romanus Ugwu, a sports writer and an Assistant Editor with the Sun Newspaper, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that retaining Peseiro was like holding on to expired drug.

“There is nothing we can do unless the NFF takes action, but if you ask me, I will automatically ask for the sack of Peseiro because he has not given us anything.

“Subsequently I will have to decide whether to watch Super Eagles match. I can’t be devastated like this all the time after Super Eagles match.

“I have learnt not to invest emotions in the team because I know that certainly they will disappoint.

“I am not surprised with the outcome of the game but I expected that after we lost the World Cup ticket to Ghana, that we are going to see something else.

“All of a sudden, we are seeing thunder striking twice at the same place,” Ugwu said.

For Ndubueze Chidoka, Chairman of a faction of the FCT Chapter of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), noted that everything about the country’s football was on the decline.

“I am disappointed that the Eagles could not fly considering the fact that we are nursing the pain of not qualifying for the World Cup when Ghana came to deny us the ticket at this same venue.

“And many football fans were looking up to the Super Eagles to make up in subsequent matches.

“It was unfortunate that the Super Eagles lost to Guinea Bissau barely 42 hours after the under-23 team drew against Guinea.

“This is a humiliation. The worst would have been a draw. For Guinea to come here and defeat us means that we don’t have a team and a coach.

“Everything about our football is going down drastically and something urgent must be done,” Chidoka said.

A former chairman of FCT SWAN, Victor Iroele, on his part said a lot of factors contributed to the team’s lacklustre performance in recent times.

Iroele noted that weather and the pitch could be contributing factors to the poor show of the team.

But he added that the technical crew had a lot of work to do if they would be retained

“NFF needs to apply the big stick if necessary, to save the country from further embarrassing outings and to ensure the country did not miss the AFCON ticket, the way it missed the World Cup ticket.” (NAN)

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Midfielder Alex Iwobi says the Super Eagles are eager to redeem their image in their reverse fixture against the Wild Dogs of Guinea Bissau on Monday. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Super Eagles on Friday lost 0-1 to Guinea Bissau in a 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier. Iwobi admitted that he and his team mates failed to capitalise on the numerous goalscoring chances they created in the match played at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja. He however added that he was confident that they would beat their opponents convincingly in the next game. “We tried to play as a team and created so many chances in the game. I think Guinea Bissau probably had only about three opportunities, if you check the stats. “So, it is one of those games we want to term as ‘bad luck’. We created so many chances, it just wasn’t for us today (Friday). “I am sure if we play them again, luck will definitely be on our side and we will beat them convincingly,” Iwobi said. The Everton Football Club midfielder however pleaded with Nigerians not to relent in their support for the team. He assured that they would give their all in the next game to redeem their image and make the country proud. “First and foremost, as players and the technical crew, we have to react, look at the game and analyse where we need to improve. “So, the only thing I want to say to our teeming fans is that they should stick by us and support the team as we are ready give a 100 per cent and fight for not just ourselves but the nation. “Everytime we come here to represent the country we fight for so many people and count ourselves privileged and honoured to wear the national colours. “We assure you all that in our next game, we are going to do our best to make sure we get it right and make our nation proud,” Iwobi said. NAN reports that the Wild Dogs will play hosts to the Super Eagles in the reverse fixture of the qualifiers in Marrakech, Morocco on Monday. Guinea Bissau have Morocco as home venue for now as they do not have a Confederation of African Football (CAF)-approved playing turf. Guinea Bissau currently top Group A of the 2023 AFCON qualifiers, with seven points from three matches, while Nigeria with six points are in the second position. The Leone Stars of Sierra Leone are in third position with two points, while Sao Tome and Principe are with one point and sit at the bottom of the log.

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The world football governing body, FIFA, confirmed on Tuesday that the 2026 FIFA World Cup would retain the four-team group’s format as seen in the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Initially, the plan was that there would be 16 groups of three teams at the 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. This is because the tournament has been expanded from 32 teams to 48 teams for the first time in the tournament’s history.

However, the world football governing body changed its mind since the Qatar 2022 World Cup’s four-team format was a success.

This decision was made at the Fifa council meeting in Rwanda on Tuesday.

The expanded edition of the World Cup starting in 2026 means that the number of matches will increase from the anticipated 80 to 104, including a new round-of-32 stage.

The top two teams and the eight best third-placed teams, according to Fifa, would advance to the round of 32.

“The revised format mitigates the risk of collusion and ensures that all the teams play a minimum of three matches while providing balanced rest time between competing teams,” FIFA announced on Tuesday.

Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, announced in December that the association was considering a format change after the group stages in Qatar saw several exciting games.

The four-team group system has been in use since the men’s World Cup’s expansion to 32 teams in 1998, with the top two teams moving on to the knockout rounds.

Under the new round-of-32 format, teams will need to play eight matches to win the competition, up from seven at the 2022 World Cup.

Based on the new schedule that Fifa approved for men’s international games from 2025 to 2030, the Fifa World Cup 2026 final will take place on Sunday, July 19, 2026.

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