World Cup 2018 Nigeria team profile: How they qualified, star man, World Cup record, fixtures
Nigeria got to the World Cup with ease... but it's going to be a whole lot tougher in Russia...
- Honours: Africa Cup of Nations (1980, 1994, 2013)
- FIFA Ranking: 47
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Nigeria qualified for the World Cup with a game to spare, and their only loss came in the final and meaningless game away at Algeria, where they were beaten 3-0. The Super Eagles are looking to better their 2014 performance, where they reached the round of 16; a feat they also achieved in 1994 and 1998. Group D looks like it could be a tight affair however, with Argentina, Croatia and Euro 2016 surprise package Iceland all in with a shout of making the next round.
STAR MAN - John Obi-Mikel
Obi-Mikel might not be considered a star in the sense that he’s the guy who will beat three opponents and then score a 40-yard screamer to win the game, but he is the single most experienced and important player on this team. 372 games for Chelsea, including two Premier League titles, four FA Cups, one Champions League title and one Europa League trophy, makes him by far the most decorated player on the Nigerian team. As the captain and the anchor in the middle of the park, a lot of the Nigerian play will go through Mikel.
NEXT BIG THING - Kelechi Iheanacho
Iheanacho came through Manchester City’s academy and performed excelled when promoted, scoring 21 goals and assisting eight in 64 games, before he was sold to Leicester last summer. The 21-year-old only mustered eight goals for The Foxes, but there’s no doubt that his is a name for the future, and with the right support he can turn out to be an unpleasant surprise for Nigeria’s opponents. Eight goals in 21 games in the green and white shirt is respectable so far.
Kelechi Iheanacho of Leicester City celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Arsenal at The King Power Stadium on May 9, 2018 in Leicester, England.Getty Images
THE COACH - Gernot Rohr
German Rohr is no stranger to African football, having managed Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso before taking charge of Nigeria in 2016. Rohr is still without a title as a manager, and even though that is unlikely to change in Russia, the Super Eagles are undoubtedly a better outfit since his appointment. Preferring a 4-2-3-1 formation Rohr goes for solidity before anything else, which worked extremely well in qualifications where Nigeria shined with 13 points in six games.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
Nigeria have flattered to deceive a little at the World Cup; they first qualified in 1994 and, bar 2006, have been to every World Cup since. However, they have never gone beyond the last-16 stage. They squeezed out of a tight Group F that included Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Iran at the last World Cup but then fell 2-0 to France at the first knockout stage - in a game they could have won.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
A strong midfield and attack. Nigeria have a wealth of options in forward positions, with goals running right through the team. Victor Moses had a pretty impressive 11 goals from 33 while Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi and Ahmed Musa should ensure that if Nigeria do struggle in Russia it wont be for a lack of goals.
- June 16th: Croatia
- June 22ne: Iceland
- June 26th: Argentina