Quarter-finals: France – Colombia – Belgium – Costa Rica
World Cup progress: Round of 16
Team rating: 6
Top scorer: Ahmed Musa (2)
The Super Eagles made the Round of 16 for just the third time in their history but they ultimately could not match fitness with France, explains Mark Siglioccolo.
Super Eagles almost soar
The Africa Cup of Nations champions qualified from Group F in unspectacular fashion with a win, a draw and a defeat. The initial stalemate against Iran could well have been costly and they were fortunate to beat Bosnia considering that Edin Dzeko had a goal incorrectly disallowed for offside and then later hit the post.
Nigeria's most impressive performance actually came in their 3-2 defeat to Argentina with Ahmed Musa scoring two spectacular goals. Had they not had to contend with Lionel Messi, a win would have remarkably seen them top the group.
There were signs of shambolic defending in the group stage, but against France in the Round of 16 Nigeria held out until the 79th minute. An early disallowed Emmanuel Emenike goal could have changed the complexion of the tie had it stood but tired legs eventually gave in as Juventus' Paul Pogba scored his first ever World Cup goal and Joseph Yobo turned into his own net.
The Coach – Stephen Keshi
Under pressure since leading his country to Africa Cup of Nations glory, Stephen Keshi could do little more against a stubborn Iran defence as his forwards proved toothless. His troops were fortunate against Bosnia but he let them off the leash against Argentina in a brilliant attacking display.
Player of the Tournament – Vincent Enyeama
Nigeria's undisputed number one for over a decade, Vincent Enyeama may be a distant cousin of Dino Zoff as he improves with age. The 31-year-old kept two clean sheets and produced some spectacular saves and, fast approaching 100 caps, he will remain first choice for many years to come.
A 3-2 defeat to Argentina highlighted the Super Eagles’ counter-attacking prowess and the talent of 21-year-old Ahmed Musa.
|30-Jun-14||France||2-0||Nigeria||Round of 16|
|6||M||John Obi Mikel||4||–||–|
For a complete review of the 2014 World Cup, check out the next issue of Soccer Italia, written by the team at Football Italia and available on worldwide subscription.