You don’t need to go back too far when you talk about Nigeria’s past Cup success, but one interesting fact about the African squad is that in two of the three Cups they have played in they made it to the second round of the tournament. In 1994 the Super Eagles advanced to their first World Cup and nearly beat Italy to go to the quarterfinals (Italy was the eventual runner up), but the match was tied up late by Roberto Baggio and the powerhouse squad took the match in extra time. Nigeria followed up this brilliant intro to the Cup with an equally great run in 1998. That Cup Nigeria beat Spain and finished in first place in the group, but got embarrassed by Denmark 4-0 in the second round. After a first round exit in 2002, 2006 would offer nothing better for Nigeria. The club failed to qualify for the Cup.
Many critics of the most beautiful game claim that Nigeria has the best chance of any African nation to take home the World Cup this summer, but the Super Eagles did have a less then specatucular WCQ this year. But the club does have plenty of players that have the potential to change the score with a breakaway goal and this is what Nigeria needs to happen if they want to advance to the second round once again. The club’s most capped player Nwankwo Kanu leads the attack and Joseph Yobo of Everton anchors the defensive unit.
Nigeria’s average odds of winning the Cup by the bookies right now is 100 to 1 making them the third strongest team in all of Africa and right around the middle of the pack when it comes to all 32 teams. I think this line is a bit generous to the squad simply because they have limited experience in the Cup recently and the squad does have one of the tougher group brackets with Argentina and Greece around. But apparently more people believe that the squad will beat out Greece for that second spot in the tournament. I think Greece has a more complete squad then Nigeria, but the home continent advantage might be able to land the squad in the second round.
photo credit: shawn-i-am.