As Nigeria will be one of Africa’s representatives at Brazil 2014 FIFA World, it is pertinent to historically examine the participation of the team in the past 2 decades at the senior FIFA World Cups.
It should be noted that Nigeria has participated in 4 FIFA World Cup since her debut participation in USA ’94 only missing out of the 2006 World Cup in Germany since then.
USA 1994 WORLD CUP
Nigeria reached the World Cup for the first time in 1994. They were managed by Clemens Westerhof. Nigeria topped its group which included Argentina, Bulgaria and Greece. In its first game, Nigeria defeated Bulgaria 3-0 with goals from goal King, Late Rashidi Yekini, Daniel “The Bull” Amokachi and Emmanuel Amunike. The team lost its second game 2-1 to Argentina in a match the marked the gradual and eventual end of the career of one of World greatest footballer, Diego Amando Maradona due to drug issues. Nigeria qualified for the second round after a 2-0 victory over Greece.
In the second round, Nigeria played Italy and took the lead with a goal from Emmanuel Amunike at 25 minutes. Nigeria were within two minutes of qualifying for the Quarter finals of the 1994 World Cup in the game against Italy but Roberto Baggio scored to take the game to extra time. He also scored the eventual winning goal that made the game end in a 2-1 in favour of the Italians.
FRANCE 1998 WORLD CUP
In 1998, Nigeria returned to the World Cup alongside Cameroon, Morocco, Tunisia and South Africa. Optimism was high due to its manager Bora Milutinovic and the return of most of the 1994 squad members coupled with the inclusion of Atlanta 1996 Olympic Football Gold Medalists. In the final tournament, Nigeria were drawn into Group D with Spain, Bulgaria and Paraguay. Nigeria scored a major upset by defeating Spain 3-1 after coming back twice from being 1-0 and 2-1 down with goals from Garba Lawal, Mutiu Adepoju and a stunning half volley from outside the 18 yard box by Sunday Oliseh. The Eagles qualified for the second round with a 1-0 win against Bulgaria with the help of Victor Ikpeba’s goal and a loss to Paraguay. The team’s hope of surpassing its 1994 performance was shattered after a 1-4 loss to Michael Laudrup led Denmark.
To be continued
In my next blog post, i will be looking at the 2002 World Cup in Korea Japan together with the failure of Nigeria to qualify for Germany 2006 World Cup and the teams participation at South Africa 2010 World Cup on African soil to know the way forward in Nigeria’s FIFA World Cup history from a historic perspective.