World Cup Qualifiers: Why Boniface was benched against South Africa – Finidi

Nigeria’s head coach, Finidi George, has shed light on his decision not to field Victor Boniface in Friday night’s encounter against South Africa, which ended 1-1.

Despite the promising striker’s potential inclusion from the bench, Finidi explained that the circumstances on the field of play prompted a change in plans.

“We thought about bringing him in; he was supposed to come in, but when we had Ajayi complain that he couldn’t continue, we had to reverse that,” Finidi acknowledged in a post-match interview on Friday.

The coach noted a tactical shift, ultimately leading to Boniface’s exclusion from the match.

However, Finidi was quick to reassure fans that the talented forward’s opportunity may still come.

“We have another game; definitely, if he’s up and doing, he’s going to play,” he stated.

Addressing the criticism and demands from some quarters regarding player selections, Finidi emphasized the importance of on-field performance over external pressures.

“For me, it’s what you can give me on the field of play. Everybody wants this player or that player to play, but at the end of the day, if the player is not performing, you guys will still be shouting to take him off, so let us do our job. We know who is good to go,” Finidi declared.

On Friday, the Super Eagles played 1-1 against Bafana Bafana of South Africa in the third round of the 2026 World Cup qualifier.

Themba Zwane of South Africa opened the scoresheet in the 29th minute of the match played at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

Equalizing after a superb turn, Nigeria’s Fisayo Dele-Bashiru slotted in a low shot to the edge of the post in the 46th minute.

The match ended in a stalemate, however.

The results mean that Nigeria is placed fifth in a table of six teams after three matches in the 10-match competition.

Nigeria, in three matches, has drawn all three.

The group winners will qualify for the 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the United States; the four best-ranked runners-up go into play-offs and the winners enter an inter-continental tournament where six nations will compete for two places.

Meanwhile, the game marked Finidi’s first game as Super Eagles coach.

The Super Eagles will travel to Abidjan to face third-placed Benin on June 10.

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