8 Eagles Striving To Step Up From Fringe To Regular Key Role Players

8 Eagles Striving To Step Up From Fringe To Regular Key Role Players

With the Super Eagles heading to crucial 2026 World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin this June, the team knows that nothing but the six points will be a perfect way to start Finidi George’s reign as Head Coach.

However, some players are aware that these games will afford them the chance to win their way into Finidi’s heart and they are working hard to impress and step up from being fringe to regular key role players.

Completesports.com‘s AUGUSTINE AKHILOMEN highlights the topmost eight talented but bit part players now striving to impress Finidi, aiming to become part of the mainstay of the Nigeria’s national team.

Terem Moffi (OGC Nice)

Having had an impressive campaign in Ligue 1 with OGC Nice, Moffi will be hoping to replicate his goal-scoring prowess under the watchful eyes of Finidi George as Super Eagles Head Coach in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Benin, respectively.

Also Read – 2026 WCQ: We Expect South Africa To Come For Revenge –Ndidi

Moffi, who has been playing second fiddle to Victor Osimhen, has netted four goals in 16 appearances for the Super Eagles. However, with the absence of the Napoli striker, Moffi knows he has the opportunity of grabbing the headline with his goals and a convincing all-round performance.

Fisayo Dele-Bashiru (Hatayspor)

With the Super Eagles’ lack of creativity in the midfield, Dele-Bashiru may probably want to prove his worth if given the chance to start against South Africa and Benin.

Known for his pace, energy, and passes, the Hatayspor star though knows he has a fight on his hands, with Alex Iwobi still recognised as the Super Eagles’ first-choice player in the midfield.

This is his another invitation to the senior national team after the previous one in March 2024, and he will be eager to win the heart of Findi in training.

Maduka Okoye (Udinese)

Okoye is one goalkeeper that will be keen to show the technical crew that he has that confidence to stand between the sticks for the Super Eagles after his impressive performance for Udinese in the Serie A this just-concluded season.

Recall that this is Okoye’s first call-up since October 2023, when he was invited for friendlies against Saudi Arabia and Mozambique. He did not feature in any of those games. He also has not played for Nigeria since the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Although Chippa United shot-stopper Stanley Nwabali has been Nigeria’s number-one goalie since the 2023 AFCON, where the Super Eagles finished as runners-up, Okoye will be hoping to get his chance under Finidi’s watch.

Also Read: 10 Interesting Facts About Super Eagles Vs Bafana Bafana

Nwabali is likely to continue in that role despite the return of Okoye to the national fold.

Benjamin Tanimu (Singida Black Stars)

In the absence of William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo, and Leon Balogun, the Tanzania-based Tanimu’s chances of starting in the defence against South Africa and Benin appear to be bright. And he knows he must impress critics who have questioned the invitation of Tanzanian league player.

Having played under Finidi in the Super Eagles’ 2-1 over Ghana in the former Ajax star’s first game as an interim coach of the team last month, Tanimu could well get another opportunity to man that position.

Ibrahim Olawoyin (Caykur Rizespor)

A late-minute replacement for Bayer Leverkusen winger Nathan Tella, who withdrew from the squad for family issue reasons, Olawoyin will also want to grab the opportunity of earning his way into the Super Eagles after an impressive season with Caykur Rizespor in Turkey.

He is also Nigeria’s highest-scoring midfielder in Europe, with only Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi close to him with his four goals and five assists in 32 appearances for the Championship winners.

Olawoyin made 38 appearances, scored eight goals, and bagged three assists in the Turkish League.

Ismail Sodiq (Remo Stars)

Regarded as one of the best left-backs in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) with Remo Stars, Sodiq, like every other player, will be hoping to catch the attention of the Super Eagles Head Coach.

The right-back has been handed his maiden invitation to the Super Eagles for the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and the Benin Republic.

Also Read: 7 Eagles Who Became Champions Overseas In 2023/24 Season

Sodiq, alongside Olorunleke Ojo and Kenneth Igboke, are the only home-based players in the squad for the current Super Eagles’ assignment.

Alhassan Yusuf (Royal Antwerp)

Yet to establish himself in the Super Eagles midfield despite playing for the team at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, Yusuf will also be hoping to make a statement of intent under Finidi.

With lack of serious competition in the Eagles’ midfield, the Antwerp star may not be deterred by this, as he hopes to find his way straight into Finidi’s game plan ahead of Nigeria’s clashes against South Africa and Benin.

Paul Onuachu (Trabzonspor)

Despite his goal-scoring form for Trabzonspor in Turkey this just-concluded season, Onuachu will be desperate to warm his way into the heart of Finidi George.

Although Onuachu is not a stranger in the senior national team, he has always played bit part role, under the shadow ls of Victor Osimhen, whenever both were invited.

This may just be Onuachu’s chance to convince the Super Eagles’ ne Head Coach that he can be called upon for goals if given the opportunity to play tangible role against South Africa and Benin.

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  • If fully fit and flying, we all know the surefire likely starters under Head Coach Finidi George. These include the likes of Osimhen, Lookman, Iwobi, Ndidi, Ekong, Aina and possibly Iheanacho, unless of course any of them has a misunderstanding and almighty fallout with Finidi.

    But, who are the regular substitutes likely to push their way into the Super Eagles starting 11 in the next 2 years if all are fit? I too beam my starting 11 search light on 8 such players:

    1) Terem Moffi: the long term formation used by Finidi might favourably swing the pendulum Moffi’s way. Playing 2 strikers up front greatly enhances his chances even if the likes of Boniface, Awoniyi, Onuachu, Dessers, Iheanacho and Umar are all fit. His runs, communication, selflessness and movements make him a viable support striker.

    However, if Finidi elects for a lone centre forward, Moffi’s chances of displacing Osimhen is non-existent. In this set up, he may even struggle to displace Onuachu or Awoniyi. Each of these two will fight hard to prove they are a better all round industrious lone center forward with more compelling guile and goals threat.

    Verdict: with 2 upfront, 8/10 starting 11 chance. With 1 upfront, just 3/10 chance. Overall, Moffi will find it tough forcing his way into the starting 11 regularly.

    2) Fisayo Dele-Bashiru: he has a mountain to climb to become a Super Eagles starter in the next 3 years. In the case of a lone attacking midfielder, he will struggle to unseat a fit Iwobi. With 2 attacking midfielders, the likes of Leicester converted attacking midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, Alhassan Yusuf, Frank Onyeka and even Ibrahim Olawoyin. Even Joe Aribo might turn a corner for good and provide credible competition. But, he can actually pack any of these to the side with compelling consistency when called upon.

    Verdict: in a 1 man attacking midfield philosophy, his chances are 0/10. In a 2 man attacking midfield, his chances are 6/10. Overall, Bashiu’s starting 11 status seems slim.

    3) Maduka Okoye: Finidi wants his goalkeeper to be comfortable playing out from behind. I sense he is also seeking leadership from his goalkeeper. Playing regularly in club football is also an added bonus. Current number one, Stanley Nwabili, ticks all the boxes. The only factor working in favour of Okoye is the calibre of league he plays.

    Nwabili’s heroics at the Afcon will live long in the memory but Okoye’s mistakes in the Super Eagles lives longer.

    Verdict: unless Nwabili experiences a dip in form, the chances of Okoye reclaiming his slot is 5/10.

    4) Paul Onuachu: he will always feel he has done enough to deserve an automatic starting 11 slot. But, with a lone centre forward philosophy, Osimhen reigns supreme. Osimhen’s raw pace, bruising style, all action ubiquitous approach is unmatched.
    With 2 strikers up front, Onuachu’s chances are greatly enhanced. He can give Awoniyi, Moffi, Dessers, Umar, and Iheanacho a run for their money. But all these other options appear to cover more blades of grass and offer more gravitas than Onuachu.

    Verdict: his chances as a lone centre forward are 0/10 but as a Support Striker, 5/10. Overall, his lack of pace and limited centre forward flair severely curtails his Super Eagles starting 11 ambitions.

    5) Sodiq Ismail: all eyes would be on how he contributes to attacking initiatives, the quality of his pullouts and his defensive No-nonsense approach. If he gets a chance and plays his cards well, the left back has a genuine chance of overthrowing Zaidu Sanusi, Bruno Onyemaechi and Jamilu Collins, all of whom have delivered below-the-weather displays at left back for the Super Eagles lately.

    Verdict: a strong impression will cement his starting 11 slot despite being homebased. 7/10

  • 6) Alhassan Yusuf: but for injury and a change of approach by former coach Peseiro in the Afcon, Yusuf was set to be a revel in the Super Eagles attacking midfield. His ambitious runs, deadly driven passes, cunning crosses and all round disciplined positional play caught the eye. But he struggled after returning into a more defensive centre midfield role.

    Going forward, he now has the likes of Aribo, Iwobi, Dele-Bashiru, Olawoyin, Onyeka and Ndidi to contend with.

    Verdict: in a centre midfield approach, his starting 11 chances are 0/10. With 2 attacking midfielders, his chances are 5/10.

    7) Benjamin Tianimu: I honestly think that his starting 11 chances are supremely negligible. It is inconceivable to see him displace any of Ekong, Ajayi, Bassey or even Awaziem. Then the likes of Akpoguma, Torunariga and even versatile Ebuehi are staying at the wings. All these other options are more hugely experienced with high level scanning, position, tackling and interception skills.

    Verdict: his starting 11 chances look dire. 1/10.

    8) Ibrahim Olawoyin: should he bring his A game to the fore when called upon with physicality and intelligence with the use of the ball, then he might just be an unlikely starter under any conceivable midfield constellation.

    Verdict: his starting 11 chances are 5/10.

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