'Were not getting the crosses' - Finidi explains why he changed the positions of Bassey, Osayi-Samuel, Tanimu

Published: June 11, 2024
'Were not getting the crosses' - Finidi explains why he changed the positions of Bassey, Osayi-Samuel, Tanimu

Finidi George, usually a journalist's delight, was not his jovial self in the aftermath of the Super Eagles embarrassing 2-1 loss to Republic of Benin on matchday four of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, played at Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan on Monday evening. 

Nigeria, Africa's third most successful team at the World Cup in terms of points accumulated, are in danger of missing out on the 2026 edition after failing to register a single win in the ongoing qualifiers. 

Club Brugge midfielder Raphael Onyedika put Nigeria ahead in the 27th minute when he gave himself a bit of space and delivered a brilliant shot that sailed into the net, but a goal apiece from Jodel Dossou and Steve Mounié saw the Cheetahs take a shock 2-1 lead heading into the interval. 

Nigeria started the game against Benin with a defensive lineup featuring Semi Ajayi and Calvin Bassey as the center-backs, Osayi-Samuel at left-back, and Benjamin Tanimu in a right-back role. 

Finidi made a number of positional changes before the second half started, with Osayi-Samuel deployed at right-back and Bassey taking over at left-back, while Benjamin Tanimu replaced the Fulham man at centre-back. 

Although the Super Eagles searched in vain for an equalizer, it was a much more improved performance from the three-time African champions in the second half. 

Explaining why he made these changes, Finidi said at the post-match press conference: "They were not getting the crosses as early as possible, so we felt Osayi-Samuel, a right-footed player playing on the left side was not doing that perfectly, we had to bring in Bassey over there. We brought Tanimu in the middle.

"The first half was good, only that those two goals that we conceded, which was not the best. The second half we pushed but they defended deep and defended well so you have to give them credit for that." 

After four matches in Group C of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, the Super Eagles are on three points, four less than table-toppers Benin, before South Africa's clash with Zimbabwe later today. 

Ifeanyi Emmanuel


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