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Finidi George: Nigeria coach faces crucial 2026 World Cup qualifiers

Written by on June 3, 2024

Born in the city of Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria, George is widely considered one of the country’s greatest ever footballers.

He belonged to the famed class of 1994 which won the Nations Cup title and made an impressive debut at the World Cup in the United States later that year, reaching the last 16.

⁠⁠The 53-year-old made his senior international debut in 1991 and earned a total of 62 caps, with six goals to his credit.

After stints with three clubs in Nigeria, George moved to Dutch giants Ajax in 1993 and won three consecutive Eredivisie titles alongside the 1994-95 Uefa Champions League under Louis van Gaal.

“He was a down-to-earth and hard-working player,” former Super Eagles team-mate Mutiu Adepoju told BBC Sport Africa.

“He had good dribbling skills and speed to overcome defenders on the wings.”

The winger was often Nigeria’s man for the big moment, scoring the crucial goal which sealed the country’s maiden qualification for the World Cup finals.

George provided the assist for Rashidi Yekini to net the country’s first ever goal at the tournament, against Bulgaria, and then found the target himself against Greece in a 2-0 win which ensured the Super Eagles finished as group winners ahead of Argentina and the Bulgarians.

George left Ajax in 1996 and spells in Spain, with Real Betis and Real Mallorca, and in England with Ipswich Town followed.

Former Ipswich midfielder Jim Magilton recalls a sense of excitement at Portman Road when the club signed the “world class” Nigerian in 2001.

“Finidi must be in the top 10 African players that have graced the game,” Magilton told BBC Sport Africa.

“The Ipswich public could not believe we had signed a player of his stature.

“Finidi was quiet in the changing room but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a leader. He was more of a man of action rather than a man of words.

“He was tall, but he was so athletic and he had this wonderful way of being able to move.”

George featured for Nigeria at four editions of the Nations Cup, also finishing as a runner-up in 2000 and with a bronze medal in 1992 and 2002.

“He’s an accomplished footballer who will be respected by the players,” former Nigeria defender Sam Sodje told BBC Sport Africa.

“Finidi has a chance with the quality of players available in the team but he’ll need support from the NFF and the players to succeed.

“He knows what the fans expect from him and he has the capacity to deliver that.”

George’s backroom staff includes Daniel Amokachi, another star of the 1994 side.

The former Everton striker returns to the Nigeria set-up after working as an assistant to the late Stephen Keshi during the victorious Nations Cup campaign in 2013.

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