1 December 2017

Nigeria At World Cup - What You Need to Know From 1994 Till Date

Photo: This Day
Nigeria's senior soccer team - The Super Eagles (file photo).

The Super Eagles of Nigeria will battle Argentina, Croatia and Iceland in Group D of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Here is Nigeria's history at FIFA World Cup.

1994 World Cup

Nigeria finally reached the World Cup for the first time in 1994 after years of struggling to get there. They were managed by Clemens Westerhof. Nigeria topped their group which included Argentina, Bulgaria, and Greece. Nigeria defeated Bulgaria 3-0, lost to Argentina 1-2, and reached the second round after a 2-0 victory over Greece. In the second round Nigeria played Italy and took the lead with a goal from Emmanuel Amunike at 25 minutes. Nigeria were within two minutes of qualifying for the Quarter-finals, but Roberto Baggio scored to take the game to extra time. He also scored the eventual winning goal. The game ended 2-1 in favour of the Italians.

1998 World Cup

In 1998 Nigeria returned to the World Cup alongside Cameroon, Morocco, Tunisia, and South Africa. Optimism was high due to its manager Bora Milutinović and the return of most 1994 squad members. In the final tournament Nigeria were drawn into group D with Spain, Bulgaria, Paraguay. Nigeria scored a major upset by defeating Spain 3-2 after coming back twice from being 1-0 and 2-1 down. The Eagles qualified for the second round with a win against Bulgaria and a loss to Paraguay. The team's hopes of surpassing its 1994 performance was shattered after a 1-4 loss to Denmark.

2002 World Cup

The 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan saw Nigeria again qualify with optimism. With a new squad and distinctive pastel green kits, the Super Eagles were expected to build on its strong performances in the 2000 and 2002 African Cup of Nations. Nigeria were drawn into group F with powerhouses Sweden, Argentina, and England. The first game against Argentina started with a strong defence that kept the first half scoreless. In the 61st minute, Gabriel Batistuta breached the Nigerian defence to put Argentina in the lead 1-0, and Argentina would go on to win the game. Nigeria's second game against Sweden saw them take the lead but later lose 2-1. Nigeria then drew 0-0 with England and bowed out in the first round.

2006 World Cups

Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup after finishing level on points in the qualification group with Angola, but having an inferior record in the matches between the sides.

2010 World Cup

On 14 November 2009, Nigeria qualified for the 2010 World Cup after defeating Kenya by 3-2 in Nairobi.

Nigeria lost its opening match against Argentina 1-0 at Ellis Park Stadium following a controversial Gabriel Heinze header in the 6th minute.

In its second game Nigeria led early on by a goal from Kalu Uche. A red card against Sani Kaita gave Greece the advantage. Greece scored the equaliser late in the first half and Nigeria conceded the second goal in the second half and lost the game 2-1.

In their last group stage match against South Korea, Nigeria took an early lead in the 12th minute off of a great finish by Kalu Uche after a low cross from Chidi Odiah.

However, goals from Lee Jung-Soo and Park Chu-Young gave South Korea a 2-1 lead, which looked to be enough for South Korea to advance into the round of 16. However, Nigeria got a chance in the 66th minute that the Super Eagles will probably never forget.

On the end of a pass from Ayila Yussuf that was fed through the South Korean defense was none other than Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Once the pass found Yakubu's foot about four yards away from the empty goal, Yakubu pushed the ball wide of the left post to keep South Korea ahead 2-1.

Three minutes later, Yakubu was able to calmly finish a penalty to knot the score at two apiece, but the damage was done as Nigeria was unable to score again and the match ended in a 2-2 draw. With this result, Nigeria was eliminated from the 2010 World Cup with just one point, while South Korea advanced into the round of 16 with four points.

On 30 June 2010, following the team's early exit and poor showing, the then President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan suspended the national football team from international competition for two years.

This suspension put the team at risk of being banned from international football by FIFA for reasons of political interference.

On 5 July 2010, the Nigerian government rescinded its ban of the national football team from FIFA/CAF football competitions, but the sanction of suspension was applied by FIFA some three months after.

On 4 October 2010, Nigeria was indefinitely banned from international football due to government interference following the 2010 World Cup.

Four days later, however, the ban was "provisionally lifted" until 26 October, the day after the officially unrecognised National Association of Nigerian Footballers (NANF) dropped its court case against the NFF.

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Nigeria's campaign opened with a disappointing 0-0 draw against Iran. Four days later the team played their second game against Bosnia and Herzegovina. A 29th-minute Emmanuel Emenike's controversial goal gave Nigeria their first World Cup win since 1998. They faced Argentina some days later : a 3rd minute Lionel Messi goal for the opposition was followed almost instantly with an equalizer by Ahmed Musa. Messi gave Argentina the lead back just before half-time. In the second half Musa leveled the game out again, Lionel Messi was substituted and handed over his captaincy to Marcos Rojo only for Rojo to put Argentina 3-2 ahead minutes later.

Nigeria lost the match, but still qualified for the round of 16. In the Round of 16 Nigeria faced France, an 18th-minute stabbed shot from Emmanuel Emenike saw the ball in the net, past the French goal-keeper but the goal was ruled off-side by the linesman. Nigeria held them off until the 79th minute when a cross and a Paul Pogba header gifted France the lead. An accidental own goal by Super Eagles Captain Joseph Yobo in injury time put the result beyond any doubt: Nigeria was out. This is the third time Nigeria is eliminated in the round of 16 and they were not still able to enter the Quarter-finals in the FIFA World Cup.

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