With over 100 players taken to the world cup and five different coaches, Nigeria’s world cup story is one that holds lots of talking points and crucial learning curves.
The most recent appearance of the Super Eagles at the greatest football Mundial ended in the second round at the 2014 world cup held in Brazil, coached by a local and a former Nigeria international – the late Stephen Keshi became only the second local coach to lead the Super Eagles to a world cup.
Ahmed Musa celebrating one of his goals against Argentina (Getty)
Grouped alongside Argentina for the fourth time in the preliminary rounds, Iran and Bosnia, a team captained by Joseph Yobo struggled to qualify after amassing four points from a 1 -0 defeat of Bosnia. A nervy draw against Iran and feisty 3-2 loss to Argentina.
The Super Eagles gave a spirited fight in the round of 16 eventually losing 2-0 to France after losing star midfielder Ogenyi Onazi to injury during the game.
The 2010 world cup was one to forget, the precedence was very inspiring; being the first world cup to be hosted on African soil in South Africa.
Swede coach Lars Lagerback was employed to replaced home-based coach late Shuaibu Amodu, to give much needed world cup experience and inspiration.
Lars Lagerback led the Super Eagles in 2010 (Getty)
Grouped alongside Argentina, Greece and South Korea, the hopes of a continent could be adjudged to rest on the shoulders of the Super Eagles- a burden Ghana bore before they were ousted painfully in the quarter finals on penalties. Injury to midfield talisman Mikel Obi days to the tournament would go on to represent a bad omen for the Eagles.
Yakubu Ayegbeni’s famous open goal miss that defined the 2010 world cup (Getty)
The only image I remember of the Super Eagles at the 2010 world cup was of Sani Kaita getting sent off after kicking a Greek player in an eventual defeat by Greece, Oh! Yak missed a sitter against Korea!
Once again, the late Shuaibu Amodu had been deemed incapable of leading Nigeria to the world cup, and for the first time, a home based technical adviser led the team to the tourney.
A dejected Taribo West after the match between Sweden and Nigeria
The 2002 world cup was spearheaded by Adegboye Onigbinde, mustering a pitiful showing (elimination from the group stage) but unravelling the likes of record cap holder Joseph Yobo and Vincent Enyeama.
Player fracas and indiscipline among senior members like Sunday Oliseh had set tone for a poor campaign, one in which the Super Eagles faced football powerhouses; England, Sweden and Argentina (First of the 3 consecutive group stage face off against the Argentines)
The 98’ world cup was of course the most hyped in the country. Nigeria boasting one of the deadliest squads in the world; the core of the team being gold medallists from the 96’ Olympics.
Raul of Spain beats Taribo West of Nigeria during the World Cup 1998 (Getty)
However, as always, talents can only get you so far. The team led by Serb Bora Milutinovic possessed youngsters like legendary Nwankwo Kanu and Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha.
Completing a remarkable 3-2 comeback against Spain with a volley from midfield stalwart Sunday Oliseh, Nigeria qualified for the round of 16 after a hard-fought victory over Bulgaria and a defeat to Paraguay.
Sunday Oliseh jubilates after he scored the winning goal against Spain (Getty)
Hopes were high, the last seemed inevitable after Nigeria was drawn to face Denmark. Two goals from Super Sub Abel Sand condemned Nigeria to another round of 16 exit.
With the team coming off a solid preparation like the 94’ world cup, its onus on the team to deliver a spectacle.
The 90’s marked the golden era of Nigerian football, the arrays of great talent on display however created a downward slope when plotted against its returns from the world cup.
Rasheed Yekini iconic celebration for his goal against Bulgaria at FIFA World Cup 1994 (Getty)
The 1994 world cup was Nigeria’s first appearance at a world cup, the team led by self-acclaimed Dutch-gerian, Clemens Westerhof who achieved history by guiding Nigeria to the sole continental ticket ahead of Algeria and Cote D’ivoire.
The Super Eagles captained by Stepehen Keshi – already in his twilight possessed an extraordinary squad with the likes of record goal scorer Rashidi Yekini, Emmanuel Ammuneke, Daniel Amokachi, Finidi Goerge and a young Okocha. Nigeria also created history by topping its group with victories over Bulgaria (an excellent 3 -0 win remembered for the iconic celebration by Yekini) and Greece. A sole defeat to Argentina meant the Green Eagles finished with 6 points.
The Green Eagles qualified topping their group in ’94
Nigeria produced an exhilarating display of football matching its opponent’s skill for skill and boasting superior physicality, voted as the second most entertaining team behind eventual winners Brazil, the team introduced itself on the grand stage to the world.
Personally, that has to go down has the best world cup performance from Nigeria, the 2 – 1 loss to finalist Italy led by legendary coach Arrigo Sacchi resonates the gap between tactics and game management between African teams and the rest of the world during the 90s.