Battle of Eagles: Can Finidi make it two straight wins?

After guiding the Super Eagles to a victory over Ghana in the ‘Jollof derby’, interim coach Finidi George will hope to make it two wins from as many games as Nigeria face Mali in a battle of the Eagles at Stade de Marrakech on Tuesday (today), The PUNCH reports.

Both nations will be facing off for the eighth time in history, eight years from their last meeting in 2016.

In a bid to make a strong case for the Eagles’ job, Finidi will hope to continue Nigeria’s dominance over a side they have only lost to once.

Nigeria have won four of their last seven meetings, losing one with two draws.

 

The last meeting between both teams was the only friendly match played between them, and Mali lost 1-0, with Kelechi Iheanacho scoring the only goal of the game and his first-ever for the country at the Stade Robert Diochon in France on May 27, 2016.

Eagles’ win over the Black Stars on Friday, Nigeria’s first win over their archrivals in 18 years, helped put an end to the team’s poor results in international friendlies, as they lost six of eight exhibition matches under immediate past coach Jose Peseiro.

Finidi will, however, anticipate building on the result as another victory over Mali today will give the former winger a legitimate claim at the job permanently, with the Nigeria Football Federation currently going through applications for the role.

Duo Calvin Bassey and Frank Onyeka have been ruled out of the game as both players have already made early returns to their respective clubs.

The former Ajax star made seven changes to the team that lost 2-1 in the Africa Cup of Nations final to Ivory Coast with Cyriel Dessers, Chidozie Awziem, Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Bruno Onyemaechi all returning to the team while it was a debut start for Benjamin Tanimu.

Ahead of today’s game, the Enyimba’s head coach has promised to make more changes to the team.

“Definitely, we are going to see new players. Definitely, we cannot overload the players. Some will come in, and we will see the areas where they can help,” Finidi said per NFF TV.

On their part, Mali, who gave a good account of themselves in their first match since the quarter-final exit at the 2023 AFCON, defeating Mauritania 2-0, will play with the intent of extending their unbeaten record in any game that has gone the full 90 minutes since the turn of the year, having played seven matches, including five at the las AFCON tournament.

<<Punch>>