Nigeria – World Cup 2014 – Group F

NIGERIA

16-June Iran (8pm GMT Curitiba)

21-June Bosnia-Herzegovina (11pm GMT Cuiaba)

25-June Argentina (5pm GMT Porto Alegre)

Nigeria qualified by topping Group F and then beating Ethiopia 4-1 on aggregate in the two-legged final play-off. The Super Eagles have several star players and Dave Taylor believes they can be considered as Africa’s favourites.

Coach: Stephen Keshi

Keshi’s first major coaching job was with the Togo national team between 2004 and 2006, leading them to the World Cup finals in 2006 before leaving for Mali in 2008. Yet after two seasons he was sacked following Mali’s early exit in the group stages of the Africa Cup of Nations. In 2011 the no-nonsense ex-player was appointed Nigeria’s Coach and two years later he inspired them to become African Cup winners. 

Why they could be dangerous

After winning the Africa Cup of Nations last year the Super Eagles will be full of confidence. “Nothing is impossible in football,” insists Coach Keshi. “We’re not going to Brazil just to participate, we aim to win the tournament.” They will also have the advantage of being accustomed to the warm weather so the opportunity is there for them to exploit.

The world on his shoulders: Ramon Azeez

With Nigeria’s 4-3-3 and two of the three midfield places taken by John Obi Mikel and Ogenyi Onazi, nobody has really made the linking midfield role their own. Over the last year Keshi has tried six or seven players and has now put his faith in Almeria’s Ramon Azeez. The 21-year-old has had a breakout season in La Liga and although he has an outstanding engine, he can also pick out a pass and read a game.

Did you know?

Following their dismal showing during the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualification, Coach Steven Keshi dropped some well loved players in an effort to rejuvenate the team. Despite some criticism the strategy saw them lift the Nations Cup last year. Keshi’s salary is £18,810 a month – less than some of his players earn in a couple of days.

Country legend: Nwankwo Kanu

Kanu started his international career with Nigeria’s Under-17 side in the 1993 Junior World Cup in Japan before winning a Gold medal in the 1996 Olympics. A hugely energetic, tricky and gifted forward he was twice voted African Footballer of the Year and is Nigeria’s most decorated player. He has also represented Nigeria in five consecutive African Cup of Nations from 2000 to 2010 and three World Cups – 1998, 2002 and 2010. Eventually after winning 82 caps and scoring 13 goals he retired in 2010.

Formation: 4-3-3

Keshi does have the personnel to play several formations and could well start with a 4-3-3 but has also utilised a 4-3-2-1 as seen in the 0-0 friendly with Mexico early this year.  However, against a top team like Argentina there are suggestions that he may favour a 4-4-2 with an extra defensive midfielder, which he has also used. Yet the 4-3-3 is a tried and tested method and their positive midfield play and pace on the break could cause problems. 

Nigeria versus…

…Iran P1 W1 D0 L0 F1 A0

…Argentina P6 W1 D1 L4 F6 A8

…Bosnia-Herzegovina P0 W0 D0 L0 F0 A0

Stats

Population: 177.5 million

World Cup appearances: 4

Best finish: Nigeria have reached the World Cup round of 16 twice, in 1994 and 1998

Famous for: With just two minutes left in the 1994 World Cup quarter-finals they were beating Italy 1-0 until Roberto Baggio scored the equaliser to force extra time, where he scored again as 10-man Italy ran out 2-1 winners.

Top Division: Nigerian Premier League

How they got to the World Cup: Finished top of CAF Group F then beat Ethiopia 4-1 on aggregate in play-offs

FIFA World Ranking: 44

Last World Cup Appearance: South Africa where they failed to qualify for the last 16

Continental Honours: African Nation Cup winners three times 1980, 1994, 2013

Most Capped Player: Joseph Yobo (94 caps)

Leading International Scorer: Rashidi Yakeni (37 goals)

Nickname: Super Eagles