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2026 World Cup: We don’t want excuses, sports minister warns NFF

The Sports Minister, Senator John Owan-Enoh, has issued a stern warning to the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) regarding the Super Eagles’ qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The Super Eagles are in a precarious situation in the race to qualify for the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico after failing to win any of their four qualification matches.

To make matters worse, they are currently in fifth position with three points in a group of six teams, including Lesotho, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Rwanda, and the Benin Republic.

Following Nigeria’s highly disappointing 2-1 defeat to Benin Republic in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Monday, Sports Minister Owan-Enoh summoned the NFF and Super Eagles’ coach Finidi George to a meeting.

“Yesterday, June 13, I met with @thenff and coach Finidi. I directed the Nigerian Football Federation to urgently put in place the necessary framework to ensure Nigeria qualifies for the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” the Minister said.

“That is in addition to addressing issues that have hindered high performance and growth of Nigerian football.

“I also directed the NFF to take proactive and progressive steps immediately, especially touching on various areas including the current coach of the national team, the competence of both the NFF Technical Committee and Technical Department, and discipline of players in the national team camp.

“We further admonished the NFF on the introduction of a new crop of Nigerian players wherever they can be found, to ensure the best legs represent the country at every given time.

“The team of NFF officials and its technical team were given not more than one week to present its comprehensive position indicating the positive progressive steps that have been taken to get the team ready for the next round of competitive matches. We honestly do not want excuses.”

NFF president Ibrahim Gusau, following Thursday’s meeting with the Sports Minister, revealed that the football governing body is working on new measures to ensure that the Super Eagles qualify for the 2026 World Cup.

Gusau had, meanwhile, earlier confirmed that Finidi was given a mandate to qualify Nigeria for the tournament.

“It’s a very sad moment for Nigerian football, we can’t run away from that. But we are working tirelessly in connection with the minister to see that we come out with some holistic measures that will change the face of the entire system so that we can move forward,” Gusau said.

“Qualifying for the World Cup is still possible and I want to assure you that we are going to fight it to the letter, and Nigeria is going to qualify for the World Cup.

“Very soon, you are going to see the major steps that the NFF will come out with. And by the grace of God, those major steps will lead us to qualify for the World Cup.”

Reports suggest there are already talks that the NFF wants to employ a technical adviser under whom Finidi would work. There is a high possibility that the NFF will employ a foreigner.

The Executive Committee, after Thursday’s meeting, also resolved to employ an expatriate Technical Adviser for the Super Eagles in the coming weeks. This will be ahead of the 2025 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, which will kick off in September 2024, and the remaining FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.

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