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Finidi To Unleash Iheanacho, Lookman, Boniface on Bafana

“We will approach Friday’s encounter with the right mental attitude.” said Wilfred Ndidi ahead of the match against South Africa.

Nigeria are determined to put their best foot forward in aiming for all three points when they go headlong against South Africa in Friday night’s 2026 FIFA World Cup African qualifying series Day 3 encounter at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo.

The Super Eagles know nothing but victory will assuage the feelings of football-passionate Nigerians, who are still unhappy at their sluggish start to the campaign, with two points from a possible six in their opening two games, and a rash of late arrivals to camp this time, though not entirely of the concerned players’ making.

The absence of Africa Player of the Year, Victor Osimhen due to injury, and injuries to defenders William Ekong (this year’s AFCON’s Player of the Competition), Kenneth Omeruo, Jamilu Collins and Zaidu Sanusi mean Head Coach Finidi George will scratch the bottom of the barrel for rearguard service against the AFCON bronze medallists.

Finidi George, in his competitive match in charge of Nigeria, is most likely to throw the experienced Kelechi Iheanacho and youngsters Victor Boniface and Ademola Lookman into the fray with the objective of getting the goals early enough on, on a turf that Nigeria has lost only one competitive game since it was opened 10 years ago.

Incidentally, that one competitive loss was to the Bafana (0-2 defeat at the start of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers) on 10th June 2017, but the Eagles rallied in the campaign and eventually finished ahead of the Bafana to qualify for the finals in Egypt, where they also defeated the Bafana in the quarter-finals on the way to a third-place finish.

The Bafana may also count as triumph their 2-2 with the Eagles draw at the same venue on 19th November 2014, which prevented Nigeria from qualifying for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

However, the Super Eagles are always one to rise above monsters of the past and do their thing, and captain Wilfred Ndidi said on Thursday that the three-time African champions will give their very best on Friday evening.

“Nobody needs to tell us that we did not start the campaign well enough. The opportunity has arisen to take our fate in our hands and rise to strong contention in our pool. We will approach Friday’s encounter with the right mental attitude.”

Lookman, who became only the sixth man in history to score a hat-trick in a European Cup final when he led Atalanta of Italy to victory in Dublin on 22nd May, is in a great form to continue where he left off after the Africa Cup of Nations, where he netted three crucial goals to steer Nigeria to a second-place finish. He also netted an important winner for the Eagles against Ghana in a friendly in Morocco three months ago, which helped Nigeria to a first triumph over Ghana in 18 years.

Boniface also had a marvelous season, winning the German League and Cup double with Bayer Leverkusen and reaching the Europa Cup final, where Lookman was the big obstacle.

Iheanacho, and midfield enforcer Wilfred Ndidi, are pumped up after helping their English club Leicester City back to the Premiership after one season in the Championship.

The Eagles will enter the pitch on Friday night recalling that South Africa has mostly been second best against them, and that their last encounter, in the semi-final of the AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire, ended in a penalty shootout victory for Nigeria.

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