Under Fire Boss Finidi George Reacts To Nigeria's Disappointing 1-1 Draw At Home To South Africa In The 2026 World Cup Qualifiers.

  • Nigeria's Super Eagles head coach, Finidi George reacts to his team disappointing 1-1 draw against South Africa at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on Friday night.
  • The result leaves Nigeria winless in Group C for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers after three draws in three matches.
  • They stand a risk of missing out of the 2026 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, Canada and USA, having missed that of 2022 held in Qatar.

Nigeria are in absolute danger of not qualifying for the 2026 World Cup, following a 1-1 draw with South Africa on Friday night.

The three-time African champions entered the encounter knowing that they needed a win to go top of Group C, while Bafana Bafana, who were beaten on penalties by the Super Eagles in the semi-final of the last Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) seemed for a revenge.

Nigeria conceded first on the night as Themba Zwane scored a brilliant goal for the visiting Bafana Bafana boys in the 29th minute having received an exquisite pass from the midfield.

The Mamelodi Sundowns attacker dribbled past two Nigeria defenders Calvin Bassey and Sami Ajayi before firing the ball past Chippa United goalkeeper Stanley Nwabali.

Nigeria returned for the second half with a perfect response as they levelled the scoreline through Fisayo Dele-Bashiru in the 46th minute, that was the first international goal for the Hatayspor midfielder.

There was no comeback, as the game ending that way.

The result leaves the Super Eagles in fifth place with three points, while South Africa are fourth with four points closing the gap on leaders Lesotho who has five points after a win and two draws. 

Rwanda and Benin, who Nigeria face next, follow in that other with four points each in Group C.

South Africa will return home to host neighbours Zimbabwe, while up next for Nigeria is a travel to nearby Cotonou to engage Benin Republic at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium, Abidjan on Monday.

Nigeria were held to a 1-1 home draw by Lesotho in their Group C opener, before coming from behind to draw again with Zimbabwe in their second match.

These two matches were under Jose Peseiro who left his role as head coach immediately after the AFCON final defeat to host country Cote d'Ivoire, and he was replaced by former international Finidi George.

The last time the Super Eagles qualified for the World Cup was in 2018 in Russia, and were missing in 2022 when it was held in Qatar after losing one of Africa's five tickets in a two-legged play-off against fierce rivals, Ghana. The first leg in Kumasi ended goalless. In Abuja, the Black Stars held on for a 1-1 draw.

If Nigeria want to play in the World Cup again, they have to win all the remaining seven games in the group.

Finidi told reporters after the game that his  side were sloppy at the beginning of the game.

“We started sloppily in the first half, we took over the game immediately, we scored in the second half,” He said.

“We missed chances, overall it was not a bad second half for us. The players reacted well in the second half, but it was not the best result we wanted.”

He added that they must now put behind them Friday’s result, and concentrate on the upcoming match against Benin Republic.

“We have to get our heads up and work for the next game (Benin Republic). I am not happy about the point.”

Finidi also explained why he didn't feature Victor Boniface, leaving the Bayer Leverkusen forward on the bench for the entire duration of the game despite being widely expected to start following Victor Osimhen's injured.

“Allow us to do our jobs... He told reporters.

“We wanted to introduce Boniface and Moffi, but Semi had a knock and we had to take him off and introduce Moffi and Onyedika.

“The fans and media would shout for different players, if they don’t perform well, the shout will be, take him off. Allow us to do our jobs.”

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