Nickname: The Super Eagles

World Ranking: 44

World Cup history: 4 World Cup appearances, reached quarterfinals twice

The Super Eagles, as Nigeria are affectionately known, had a promising start on the World Cup stage when they qualified for the Round of 16 in their maiden World Cup competition ever in 1994. They repeated the same kind of performance and achieved the same four years later in 1998, which was not such a bad achievement for a team that was still finding its feet on that stage. But expected to build on that performance in the 2002 episode of the World Cup the team failed to impress.

Argentina’s Gabrielle Batistuta scored the solitary goal of Nigeria’s opening match to hand the West African country a defeat that would be followed by another to Sweden. They played to a goalless draw against England in their final Group stage encounter, but the two preceding losses had already dealt their chances of any success a fatal blow.

It was not going to get any better in 2006 when they failed to qualify for the tournament hosted in Germany. The Super Eagles only made a return to the World Cup on African soil four years ago when South Africa played host.

However, memories of their 2002 disaster must have come rushing back when they had to face yet another Argentina and yet another Gabriel in their opening Fifa World Cup match. Only this time it was not Gabriel Batistuta, but Gabriel Heinz. But the fate remained the same. Gabriel Heinz’s header sealed Argentina’s victory, paving Nigeria’s path to hell. They lost their second game against Greece. Unlike in 2002 when they drew goalless against England in their last match, in 2010 they drew 2-all against South Korea. But yet again, the fate remained the same and Nigeria failed to advance to the knockout stages of the tournament and caught the first flight out of the country. The team’s disappointing showing saw the government suspend the team for two years, but the suspension was later revoked.

Against, Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina they have a good chance to collect points. Failure to capitalise against these two could be fatal since they may not manage any points from their last match against Argentina.

En route to Brazil, the African Champions have not inspired much hope, drawing against the likes of Malawi, Kenya, and Namibia. The team will have to do far better if they are two do any better than they performed in 2002 and 2010. Once against they have been drawn against their nemesis, Argentina. The only thing different this time around is that they won’t come up against the South American giants in their opening match. Against, Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina they have a good chance to collect points. Failure to capitalise against these two could be fatal since they may not manage any points from their last match against Argentina.

Key Players: Emanuel Emenike, Sunday Mba,

Know you coach: Stephen Keshi

Stephen Keshi returns to the World Cup 20 years later, this time as a coach. The 52-year was a member of the Nigerian team that qualified for the Fifa World Cup in 1994 and the team didn’t disappoint qualifying for the Round of 16 in its first World Cup experience – a feat he will be hoping to relive or surpass, this time as coach. He and Egypt’s Mahmoud El-Gohary are the only two people to have won the Africa Cup of Nations as both a player and a coach.

The former Super Eagles defender played his most of his football in Belgium before he retired and empowered himself to become a coach. His first coaching stint was with the Nigerian youth national team as head coach. He later took over the Togolese national team and led them to their first World Cup tournament in Germany 2006. However, he was controversially replaced by Otto Pfister for the World Cup.

Keshi later took over the Malian national team, but was sacked after the team failed to impress at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations. As Nigeria’s head he has already won the tournament. But his showing with his charges at the Confederation Cup in 2013 was far from impressive. Other than thrashing Tahiti, a national team of semi-professional players, 6-1, there wasn’t much to wrote home about. This after the team lost to Uruguay and Spain in the matches that followed.

The pragmatic coach is expected to quit his job after the World Cup. He says there are a couple of offers on the national and rumour has it he could be the next South African national team coach.

Country Profile

Nigeria has been on the news recently following the abduction of over 200 school girls by Islamist millitants Boko Haram. The country has been criticized for how it has handled the issue and the abduction has prompted the “Bring our girls back “campaign which has seen people across the world calling for the release of the girls.

In June the militants slaughtered at least 200 people in the Northern part of the country. The militants have been working against the government for five years because they want to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria.

They have been targeting villages in the Northern part of the country. Thousands of people have been displaced has a result.

The country has a population of 170 million people and has over 250 different ethnic groups.

Nigeria has one of the biggest growing economies in South Saharan Africa. The country has surpassed South Africa as the largest economy in Africa.
It is said to be making its way to replacing South Africa as the number one economy in Africa.

n the first quarter of 2014 he Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded to estimated 80 trillion naira. This has been attributed to the booming telecommunications, information technology, and music industry. There are currently 100 million cellphone users in the country.

The country currently has the 26th biggest economy in the world. The number one oil producing country’s GDP grew at 12.7% between 2012 and 2013. Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries member is targeting 7.16 trillion naira in income from oil and gas in 2014.

The agriculture and tourism industries are growing in the country. The oil rich West African country’s economy has however done little to address the poverty affecting 70 % of its citizens. Another challenge facing the country is the growing unemployment rate. According to World Bank youth unemployment in Nigeria stands at 38%.

• Full name: The Federal Republic of Nigeria
• Population: 166.6 million (UN, 2012)
• Capital: Abuja
• Largest city: Lagos
• Area: 923,768 sq km (356,669 sq miles)
• Major languages: English (official), Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa
• Major religions: Islam, Christianity, indigenous beliefs
• Life expectancy: 52 years (men), 53 years (women) (UN)
• Monetary unit: 1 Nigerian naira = 100 kobo
• Main exports: Petroleum, petroleum products, cocoa, rubber
• GNI per capita: US $1,280 (World Bank, 2011)
• Internet domain: .ng
• International dialling code: +234

– By Sipho Kekana and Lerato Matlala