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Man of the moment, Lookman headlines Finidi’s 23-man squad for his first competitive outing 

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Nigeria’s Head Coach, Finidi George, has picked rave-of-the-moment Ademola Lookman, African Player of the Year Victor Osimhen and safe hands Stanley Nwabali among a crop of 23 players who will do battle with South Africa’s Bafana Bafana and the Cheetahs of Benin Republic in upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.

George also selected goalkeeper Maduka Okoye, England-based defenders Calvin Bassey and Semi Ajayi, midfielders Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi and Alhassan Yusuf, and forwards Kelechi Iheanacho, Victor Boniface and Terem Moffi.

Remo Stars’ hard-as-nails defender Sadiq Ismael is called for the first time, with Turkey-based midfielder Fisayo Bashiru, Bayer Leverkusen of Germany’s Nathan Tella and lanky forward Paul Onuachu also called.

Nigeria confront South Africa at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo on Friday, 7th June starting from 8pm, and then fly to Abidjan to tackle Benin Republic at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny on Monday, 10th June starting from 4pm CIV time (5pm Nigeria time).

EAGLES FOR BAFANA, CHEETAHS BATTLES

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Goalkeepers: Stanley Nwabali (Chippa United, South Africa); Maduka Okoye (Udinese FC, Italy); Ojo Olorunleke (Enyimba FC)

Defenders: Chidozie Awaziem (Boavista FC, Portugal); Bright Osayi-Samuel (Fenerbahce FC, Turkey); Sadiq Ismael (Remo Stars FC); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England); Calvin Bassey (Fulham FC, England); Benjamin Tanimu (Ihefu SC, Tanzania)

Midfielders: Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Raphael Onyedika (Club Brugge, Belgium); Alhassan Yusuf Abdullahi (Royal Antwerp FC, Belgium); Frank Onyeka (Brentford FC, England); Alex Iwobi (Fulham FC, England); Fisayo Dele-Bashiru (Hatayspor, Turkey)

Forwards: Nathan Tella (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany); Victor Osimhen (SSC Napoli, Italy); Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, England); Samuel Chukwueze (AC Milan, Italy); Paul Onuachu (Trabzonspor FC, Turkey); Ademola Lookman (Atalanta FC, Italy); Victor Boniface (Bayer Leverkusen, Germany); Terem Moffi (OGC Nice, France)  

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

World Cup

BREAKING! Finidi George formally resigns

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Nigeria Super Eagles’ coach, Finidi George has resigned from his post as Super Eagles’ coach, two days after the Nigeria Football Federation announced it was going to employ a foreign technical adviser.

A source close to Finidi told Sports Village Square that Finidi sent his resignation letter to Ibrahim Gusau “3o minutes ago.”

 Finidi was said to be livid that the NFF leadership met with the sports minister two days ago, but failed to mention that players reported late to the camp and that they didi nothing to mobilise Nigerians in Cote d’Ivoire to come out to support the Super Eagles in last Monday’s match with Benin Republic.

“He complained that the NFF heaped all the blames on him”, said the source.

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  Calls to NFF officials to verify the information were not answered.  

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World Cup

UPDATE: NFF may spare Finidi George

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Under fire Super Eagles’ coach, Finidi George may excape sack afterall. A source close to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) told Sports Village Square that Finidi may not be sacked.

 He would however work under the foreign technical adviser that the football governing body is planning to hire in the next few weeks.

  The source who was privy to the Wednesday’s ‘hybrid mode’ meeting of the NFF informed that Finidi George will be designated as ‘Chief Coach’ while the expatriate will be the technical adviser.

It is however unclear how the NFF will foot the wage bill of the technical adviser, who may also come with his personal crew as Finidi George  also already have his own foreign assistants.

There is also no word on the loud absence of Daniel Amokachi who was designated as Finidi George’s assistant, but failed to show up at the Super Eagles’ camp leading to the ill-fated World Cup match day 3 and 4 encounters with South Africa and Benin Republic.  

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Mali sack head coach Eric Chelle

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Africa Cup of Nations - Round of 16 - Mali v Burkina Faso - Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium, Korhogo, Ivory Coast - January 30, 2024 Mali coach Eric Chelle REUTERS/Luc Gnago/File Photo

Mali have fired head coach Eric Chelle, the West African nation’s soccer federation said on Thursday.

In a statement, reported on national television, it gave no reason for the decision but the sacking comes days after Mali were held to a goalless draw by 10-man Madagascar in a Group I World Cup qualifier in Johannesburg.

“The executive committee of the Malian Football Federation, meeting in extraordinary session today unanimously decided, with the agreement of the supervisory authority, to end the collaboration between the coach of the National Team Senior, Mr. Eric Sekou Chelle and the federation,” the statement said.

Chelle, 46, born in the Ivory Coach to a French father and a Malian mother, was brought up in France. He played at club level mostly in France and for Mali at the international level where he made five appearances between 2004 and 2006.

He was appointed as Mali’s head coach in May 2022 and led the team to the quarter-finals of the 2023 African Cup of Nations held in Ivory Coast earlier this year.

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Before managing Mali, Chelle’s previous coaching experience was at Martigues and Boulogne in the French lower divisions.

-Reuters

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