Team Profile: Nigeria



Team: Nigeria

Group: B

Colours: Green shirts, socks and shorts, all with white trim

Nickname: Super Eagles

Previous World Cup appearances: (3) 1994, 1998, 2002

Best World Cup performance: Reached the second round in 1994 and 1998

Coach: Lars Lagerback

Most capped player: Nwankwo Kanu 83

Top scorer: Rashidi Yekini 37

Confederation: CAF

FIFA Ranking (Apr 10) : 20

Nigeria Squad

BACKGROUND

South Africa 2010 will be Nigeria's fourth World Cup appearance. They made their debut in 1994 in the United States of America, where they reached the second round playing an attractive attacking style of football. They were only seconds away from the '94 quarter-final before Italy clawed back to beat the Super Eagles 2-1. Four years later, they also got to the second round only to be thrashed 4-1 by a much organised Danish team. Nigeria disappointed at the 2002 finals in Korea and Japan as they crashed out in the group stage.

HOW THEY QUALIFIED

Nigeria snatched the ticket to South Africa 2010 dramatically on the final day of the qualifiers after they defeated Kenya 3-2 in Nairobi and Mozambique piped closest rivals Tunisia 1-0 in Maputo. Before then, Tunisia led the standings after a 2-1 win away in Kenya in March. Nigeria would then force the North Africans to a goalless draw in Tunis before the Carthage Eagles also achieved a 2-2 draw in Abuja. It was then left to the final day of action for Nigeria to shoot to the top of the table and qualify for the World Cup.

STRENGTHS

Attacking football has been the trademark of Nigerian football. The team are blessed with several top-rate strikers like Yakubu (Everton), Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg), Osaze Odemwingie (Locomotive Moscow), Victor Obinna (Malaga), Chinedu Obasi (Hoffenheim) and Ikechukwu Uche (Real Zaragoza).

WEAKNESSES

The defence and most specifically the heart of the defence has proved to the Achilles Heel of this team. The handlers are yet to find a fine combination in the middle of the back four. Everton's Joseph Yobo has played alongside Danny Shittu, Dele Adeleye and Obinna Nwaneri, but there is still no ideal pairing in sight yet. They have also struggled to play as a team and so have often relied heavily on individual brilliance to get by.

THE COACH

Shuaibu Amodu qualified the country to the 2002 World Cup only to be replaced by another Nigerian coach, Adeboye Onigbinde, at the finals. There is a clamour for Amodu not to take the team to South Africa because it is widely argued that he has yet to get his team selection or tactics right. The Nigeria Football Federation has insisted on him, while the Presidential Task Force for the World Cup have asked that a foreign coach take over the team. Amodu made his name with BCC Lions of Gboko and this is his third time in charge of the national team.

STAR MEN

Osaze Odemwingie (Locomotiv Moscow): Has been most impressive in the later stages of the qualifiers. He is fast, committed to the cause and gets his fair share of goals. 'Osas' has established himself in the starting XI after staying on the fringes since he missed the cut to the 2002 World Cup.

Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg): With 15 international goals to his name, he is one of the most lethal Nigerian strikers on offer. He proved himself in the final qualifier against Kenya when he grabbed two goals. This will be his first World Cup finals and once he is fully fit, expect a couple of goals from the former Newcastle United ace.

Ikechukwu Uche (Real Zaragoza): 'IK' netted four goals for the Eagles in the qualifying tournament before he suffered a long-term knee injury at his Spanish club. He is full of running and provides another option to Nigeria's attacking style.

BEST FOOTBALLING MOMENT

Nigeria became the first African team to win Olympic Gold in Atlanta in 1996. This feat was achieved by the 'Golden Generation', which included Austin 'Jay Jay' Okocha, Uche Okechukwu, Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amuneke.

OFF THE PITCH

Famous For: Like the country, the team are a very religious group, who sing worship songs and pray before a match for God to give them victory. This is even more interesting as the team is made up of both Christian and Muslim players.

Most Likely To: Have the team with the biggest players in the tournament, pound for pound.

WORLD CUP OBJECTIVE

Anything short of getting past the first round will be rated as a failure.

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