KOREA/JAPAN 2002 FIFA WORLD CUP
Super Eagles of Nigeria qualified for her third consecutive World Cup in Korea/Japan 2002 edging out Ghana and George Opong Weah’s Liberia in African qualifying group. A major reshuffling led to the sack of Amodu Shuaibu who qualified the side for the World Cup after finishing third at the 2002 African Cup of Nations. Amodu Shuaibu wa replaced by Adegboye Onigbinde who brought new names to the sides including likes of Bathlomew Ogbeche and Femi Opabunmi thus becoming to first Nigerian coach to take his side to the World Cup.
Expectation was very high considering Nigeria’s impressive performances in warm up games preparatory to the mundial irrespective of the fact that the World Cup pitched Nigeria in the Group F group of death with Argentina, Sweden and England.
The first game against Argentina started with a strong defence that kept the first half scoreless irrespective of goal threats from team captain Austing Okocha and Gabriel Batistuta who eventually scored the winning goal in the second half to give Argentina a 1-0 win over Nigeria.
Nigeria’s second game brought an attacking flare to it when Julius Agahowa grabbed the first goal for Nigeria against Sweden with his acrobatic display goal celebration. The Sweds then had the final laugh with 2 goals from Henrick Larsson to give them a 2-1 triumph over Nigeria to send the Super Eagles out of the tournament. With nothing but pride to play for in her final group match, Nigeria played a 0-0 draw with political colonial masters, England. The match against England marks the first game for Goal keeper, Vincent Enyeama signalling his gradual rise to making the number 1 shirt his permanent shirt for the eagles as he has save Paul Scholes long range shot to hit the upright as the team bowed out of the tournament.
GERMANY 2006 & SOUTH AFRICA 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP
Nigeria failed to qualify for Germany 2006 FIFA World as the team lost qualification to the Palancas Negras of Angola on head to head rule but eventually returned to the world football mundial in 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa unde coach Lars Lagerback who also replaced Shuaibu Amodu after the latter qualified the team for the World Cup only to get a third place finish at the 2010 CAF African Cup of Nations. Nigeria was drawn in the same group with Argentina, Greece and South Korea. Argentina once again made a hard fought 1-0 triumph over Nigeria in the first game with early goal from Gabriel Heintz. Further 2-1 loss to Greece in Nigeria’s second game left the side with no chance than to beat South Korea in her last group game to become the first and only team to qualify for the round of 16 with 3 points. But failed to materialize after playing a 2-2 draw against South Korea in their last group game to bow out of the World Cup in a dramatic fashion. Kalu Uche puts Nigeria ahead against South Korea before the Koreans came from behind to take a 2-1 lead. Yakubu Aiygbeni failed to scored from the closest range in a gilt edge chance that might have gone in history as one of the worst miss in World Cup history before he leveled things up for Nigeria from the penalty spot for the game to end in a dramatic 2-2 draw.
AFTERMATH AND WAY FORWARD
After the 2010 World Cup, the President suspended the national teams before he rescinded his action. With this action, Nigeria was unable to qualify for the 2012 Afrcan Cup of Nations only be return as champions of South Africa 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. 10 years after appearing at her first World Cup as African Champions in USA 1994, the Super Eagles of Nigeria will be making her 5th World Cup appearance in Brazil 2014 as African champions for the first time since 1994. It is hoped that the team will be able to surpass her previous best result of round of 16 when the games kick start in Brazil under Coach Stephen Keshi. We can only wait and keep our fingers crossed as actions pines out for the Super Eagles of Nigeria in Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup.