World Cup: Nigeria May Advance But Have Enigmatic Air

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By Mark Greeson

(Reuters) – Nigeria have the ability become the first African country get past the World Cup group phase on three separate occasions but are increasingly an unpredictable force. ’s most populous nation advanced the second round in their maiden World Cup finals appearance in 1994 and again four years later in France and will be fancied to finish among the top two in Group F where they meet world champions Argentina, debutants Bosnia and Iran. But the burden expectation has often tripped up the Super Eagles, represent a country with passionate, demanding and fickle fans easily turn on their team when results are not achieved. As in the United States in 1994, Nigeria arrive at the World Cup as African champions but their current side has none the charisma and strong personalities two decades ago when the team was captained by Stephen Keshi, is the coach, and featured established players like Austin Okocha, Sunday Oliseh and Rashidi Yekini. That team came very close a famous too – leading with minutes go in the second round in Boston before losing in extra time.


Keshi’s current squad has international stars – their two most influential players come from the Premier League but neither John Obi Mikel nor Liverpool’s Victor Moses currently hold down regular places at their club sides. Yet Nigeria won the African Nations Cup last year, after a stuttering start and winning with a swagger despite holding little hope before the started.

They eliminated hot favourites Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals in a display tough temperament they will need in . But six months later at last year’s Confederation Cup in they were outclassed in defeats Uruguay and world champions Spain, inferior their South American and European opponents. World Cup qualification for Nigeria came against modest opposition – their draw in the play-off round in October and November against Ethiopia was the easiest of the five African countries went on reach the finals. It means the Super Eagles have an enigmatic air about them with the potential to advance well into the knockout rounds but also largely untested and relatively inexperienced.

Much of their game is based on pacy attack, with a lot of emphasis on wide play, but their main finisher, Emmanuel Emenike, is often guilty of missing a myriad of chances and in defense there is an air of vulnerability.
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