Can the Super Eagles finally progress past the last 16 this time around?
Nigeria’s Super Eagles often enter international competition as one of Africa’s biggest hopes and, once again, this year is no different as they head into the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia as one of the sides from the continent expected to have a decent run.
They have been drawn in Group D alongside two-time world champions, Argentina, who they have met in all but one of their previous campaigns, as well as Croatia and debutants, Iceland.
This time around, German coach, Gernot Rohr is the man entrusted to take the men in green at least past the round of 16 stage, which has proven to be somewhat of a stonewall for the West Africans, as they have yet to advance to the quarterfinals.
The former Bayern Munich defender has extensive experience coaching in Africa, having managed Tunisian giants Etoile du Sahel, as well as the Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso national teams.
At his disposal he’s likely to have the Premier League trio of Chelsea’s Victor Moses, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, as well as Kelechi Iheanacho of Leicester City, while he’ll also be able to call on the highly rated William Troost-Ekong, based in Belgium.
In qualification, the Super Eagles were grouped with neighbours, Cameroon and Zambia, as well as Algeria, in what was Africa’s “group of death”.
They kicked off their campaign in style, with a vital 2-1 away win against Zambia in Ndola, with first half goals from Iheanacho and Iwobi enough to see them through, before an emphatic 3-1 win over Algeria, thanks to a brace from Moses and former Chelsea teammate, John Obi Mikel.
Things got even better for them as they thrashed Cameroon 4-0, with Moses, Mikel and Iheanacho all getting on the score sheet, alongside former Watford man, Odion Ighalo.
The return leg against the Indomitable Lions yielded a one-all draw, right before they completed the double over Zambia with a 1-0 win, which saw them qualify for Russia with a game to spare.
The dead rubber encounter against Algeria ended in a 1-1 draw, with Yacine Brahim converting a rather controversial late penalty to cancel out John Ogu’s opener.
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After decades of near misses, Nigerian football experienced somewhat of a resurgence in the early 90s, under Dutch coach, Clemens Westerhof, who took over in 1989 just after they had failed to qualify for the 1990 World Cup.
The Super Eagles finally had their breakthrough when they qualified, rather emphatically, for the 1994 FIFA World Cup held for the first time in the United States.
They were placed in a tough Group D, where they slugged it out with 1986 champions and runners-up in the previous edition, Argentina, a Bulgarian side in its famous golden generation, as well as minnows, Greece.
With it being their first ever appearance in the tournament, they were not given much of a chance to progress past the group stage, with the South Americans expected to skate through without so much as a struggle, possibly followed by the European side.
But the West Africans would announce themselves immediately, as they brushed aside Bulgaria, with goals from Rashidi Yekini, Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amunike contributing to a convincing 3-0 scoreline. In the other fixture in the group, Argentina also breezed past Greece, winning 4-0, courtesy of a Gabriel Batistuta hat trick.
The two victorious sides in the opening fixtures would meet next, and the Super Eagles were quickly brought back down to earth as, after a promising start with an early strike from Samson Siasia, Cladio Caniggia registered a quick brace to make it 2-1 in the first half, and that would remain the final score.
Bulgaria would bounce back emphatically against the Greek, winning 4-0, before upsetting the South Americans with a 2-0 victory, leaving the group wide open.
With three teams qualifying to the next round, the Super Eagles only needed to avoid defeat against the group’s whipping boys to advance, and that they did, with goals from Finidi George and Amokachi sending them through to the last 16.
They met Italy in the second round, and got off to a flyer, with Amunike putting them ahead in the 25th minute.
it looked like an upset was on the cards with the Azzurri looking for the elusive equaliser, before their star man, Roberto Baggio levelled things with just two minutes remaining on the clock.
This forced the match to go into extra time, and it was where Nigerian hearts were broken, with Baggio completing his brace from the spot to send his side, who finished as runners-up to the quarterfinals, thus ending the fairytale for the West Africans.
The Super Eagles were one of five African representatives in France, alongside Tunisia, Cameroon, Morocco and South Africa.
With Serb, Bora Milutinović at the helm this time around, they were once again grouped with Bulgaria, as well as Spain and Paraguay in Group D.
Again, the Super Eagles kicked off their campaign emphatically, with a 3-2 win over Spain, courtesy of goals from Mutiu Adepoju and Sunday Oliseh, as well as an own goal from Spanish keeper, Andoni Zubizarreta.
Their next game would see them resume rivalries with Argentina, again emerging victorious – a first half strike from Victor Ikpeba enough to see them through.
A goalless draw between Spain and Paraguay meant that the West Africans go into their final group game already qualified for the next round.
They would suffer their first defeat of the campaign, going down 3-1 to Paraguay, who also qualified for the next round, despite Spain thumping Bulgaria 6-0.
The round of 16 would again prove to be the end of the road for Senegal, as they were convincingly beaten by Denmark, with Tijani Babangida scoring a late consolation goal to make it 4-1.
In 2002, Nigeria went into the World Cup with a local coach for the first time in Festus Onigbinde, with Jay-Jay Okocha captaining the side.
They were drawn in Group F with Sweden, Argentina and England, with their opening fixture in the tournament against the South Americans.
Their campaign did not start off at the best possible note, as Gabriel Batistuta’s second half strike was enough to see Argentina home in a tightly contested match.
Next up was Sweden, and things would go from bad to worse, when Henrik Larsson netted twice to earn his side a 2-1 win, coming from behind, after with Julius Aghahowa opened the scoring in the 27th minute.
With no chance of progressing to the next round, a rather nightmarish campaign ended in underwhelming fashion with a goalless draw against England.
With the World Cup hosted in Africa for the first time, there was hope that a side from the continent would finally go all the way, or at least come close, especially since Senegal had reached the quarterfinals in the previous campaign.
However, the Lions of Teranga did not make the cut this time around, instead, Nigeria was joined by Ghana, Algeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast as well as the hosts, South Africa.
It would prove another disappointing campaign for the Super Eagles, who were once again drawn in the same group as Argentina, alongside South Korea, who made the semifinals in the previous edition, and then-European champions, Greece.
Defeats to Argentina and Greece meant that their final group game, against South Korea, was a dead rubber game, and it proves a thrilling encounter, as the two sides shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw, which mostly memorable for Yakubu’s glaring miss in the second half, one he’s probably trying to live down to this day.
Nigeria went into the 2014 edition in Brazil looking to reverse their sharp dip in World Cup fortunes and, for the third time running, they were drawn with Argentina in Group F, with Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina making up the rest of the group.
Their first game was against Iran, and ended up in a disappointing goalless draw, before a 1-0 victory against newcomers, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The four points accumulated in those two games were enough to see them book a place in the last 16, with the game against Argentina, who had also qualified for the next round, still yet to play.
That particular game proved to be a thriller, as Leonel Messi opened the scoring in the third minute, only for Ahmed Musa to equalise just after the restart.
Messi made it 2-1 at the stroke of halftime, but Musa responded just after the break to make it 2-2, before Marcos Rojo put Argentina back in the lead three minutes later, as the match ended 3-2.
The Super Eagles would meet France in the last 16, looking to better their best finish in the competition, but that would prove to be a stretch too far, as a goal from Paul Pogba, as well as a late own goal from Joseph Yobo meant it was once again tickets from them after another valiant performance.
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