Nigeria: The Super Eagles
The Super Eagles ?keep on dreaming
1994 and 1998: last 16, ?2002: 1st round?
African cup of Nations
1980 and 1994: Winner ??
1996: Gold medal
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
First of group B, Africa zone
Vincent Enyeama, Hapoel Tel Aviv
Dele Aiyenugba, Bnei Yehuda
Austin Ejide, Hapoel Petah Tikva
Taye Taiwo, Marseille
Elderson Echiejile, Rennes
Chidi Odiah, CSKA Moscow
Joseph Yobo, Everton
Daniel Shittu, Bolton Wanderers
Ayodele Adeleye, Sparta Rotterdam
Rabiu Afolabi, SV Salzburg
Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi, TSG Hoffenheim
John Utaka, Portsmouth
Kalu Uche, Almeria
Dickson Etuhu, Fulham
Brown Ideye, Sochaux
Sani Kaita, Alaniya
Haruna Lukman, AS Monaco
Yusuf Ayila, Dynamo Kiev
Osaze Odemwingie, Lokomotiv Moscow
Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Everton
Nwankwo Kanu, Portsmouth
Obafemi Martins, Wolfsburg
Victor Obinna Nsofor, Malaga
Not unlike Cameroon, who dream of their golden age in decades past, Nigeria is guilty of similar reveries about their time in the 1990s. In both 1994 and in 1998, the Super Eagles reached the last 16 of the World Cup, while in the Atlanta Olympic Games of 1996 they took the gold medal.
Today’s team lacks the players of yesterday, such as Rasheed Yekini, Jay-Jay Okocha, George Finidi, Emmanuel Amunike or Daniel Amokachi. But beyond that, what the Eagles are ?lacking is stability. The new coach, Swede Lars Lagerbäck, replaced Shaibu Amodu in March, despite Nigeria reaching the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup. Public opinion is very strong, and the press exerts pressure on coaches from the word go.
The defense relies on Danny Shittu (Bolton) and Onyekachi Apam (Nice), though the team has yet to find strong candidates for the left and right back positions. The only real star of the ?Eagles to play at a major club is midfielder John Obi Mikel, who has deputised for an injured Michael Essien at Chelsea this season.
The talents of the team lie more in attack. Moscow Lokomotiv’s Peter Osaze Odemwingie is strong leading the line with a battling attitude and is able to rally his teammates when times get tough. Obafemi Martins at Wolfsburg and Victor Obinna at Malaga are also talented. And for the truly nostalgic, Nwankwo Kanu is always available to come off the bench and turn the game with one languid flourish.
Their group is tough, with Greece and South Korea two well-organised, but eminently beatable, teams and an imperious Argentina almost sure to go through. But it is not impossible. And certainly no reason not to dream.