History of Nigeria in the World Cup

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The national football team of Nigeria is also known as the Super Eagles. This football team represents Nigeria in international football tournaments and is controlled by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

The Super Eagles are three-time Africa Cup of Nations winners with their last title in 2013, after defeating Burkina Faso in the final.

History of Nigeria at the World Cup

history of nigeria at the world cup

The team reached its peak in April 1994 when it was ranked 5th in the FIFA rankings. This was the highest FIFA ranking position ever achieved by an African football team.

The team has been involved in six of the last seven FIFA World Cups (as of 2018), missing only the 2006 World Cup hosted in Germany, and have reached the round of 16 three times.

In this post, we will take a detailed look at the history of the Super Eagles in the world cup. But first, let’s take a look at the history of the team.

Prior to independence, the football team of Nigeria was called the Red Devils and the team was well known among other West African nations.

In October 1949, the Nigerian team played its first official game as a British colony. The team played warm-up games in England against various amateur teams including Bromley, Dulwich Hamlet, Bishop Auckland and South Liverpool.

However, the team didn’t record any substantial successful until the 70’s during the 2nd All-Africa games when it won a gold medal. Also, the team finished third at the 1976 and 1978 African Cup of Nations.

It was during this period that the like of Segun Odegbami, Best Ogedegbe and Christian Chukwu led the green eagles to win the Nations’ Cup for the first time in Lagos.

The team won the Nations’ cup for the second time in 1994. After this tournament, the team proceeded to the USA for its first ever world cup tournament.

Let’s take a look at the Super Eagles world cup history from 1994 to date.

1994 World Cup

The Super Eagles reached the World Cup for the first time in 1994. This progress was as a result of the charismatic leadership of the legendary coach, Clemens Westerhof. Coach Westerhof had been in charge of the team from 1989 through to the 1994 World Cup.

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At the 1994 World Cup, Nigeria topped their group which included Argentina, Bulgaria, and Greece. The Super Eagles defeated Bulgaria 3–0 in their opening game but lost to Argentina 1–2. However, the Super Eagles were able to top the group after the 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. The team was within two minutes of qualifying for the Quarter-finals, but Roberto Baggio scored to take the game to extra time. He also scored the eventual winning goal. The game ended 2–1 in favour of the Italians.

1998 World Cup

In 1998, Nigeria returned to the World Cup alongside Cameroon, Morocco, Tunisia, and South Africa. A large portion of the team was from the 1994 squad and the team was led by the Serbian football coach, Bora Milutinovic.

Nigeria was drawn into Group D with the likes of Spain, Bulgaria and Paraguay. In the opening game, Nigeria shocked the European team, Spain by recording a 3-2 over them. The Super Eagles came from behind twice before Sunday Oliseh scored the winning goal in the second half.

After defeating Bulgaria and losing to Paraguay, the team qualified for the second round and was drawn to face Denmark. Unfortunately, the team’s hope of reaching the world cup quarter finals was shattered after a 1–4 loss to Denmark.

2002 World Cup

After the 1998 World Cup, it seemed the Super Eagles began to decline as the team barely qualified for the 2002 World Cup.

Unfortunately, it was a dismal showing as the team failed to record a win in any of the three world cup games.

The Super Eagles were drawn into group F with powerhouses Sweden, Argentina, and England. The first game against Argentina started with a strong defence that kept the first half scoreless. In the 61st minute, Gabriel Batistuta breached the Nigerian defence to put Argentina in the lead 1–0, and Argentina would go on to win the game. Nigeria’s second game against Sweden saw them take the lead but later lose 2–1. Nigeria then drew 0–0 with England and bowed out in the first round.

2006 World Cup

At the 2006 World Cup, Nigeria failed to qualify after finishing level on points in the qualification group with Angola, but having an inferior record in the matches between the sides (head-to-head rule).

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2010 World Cup

On the 14th of November 2009, Nigeria qualified for the 2010 World Cup after defeating Kenya by 3–2 in Nairobi.

Nigeria lost its opening match against Argentina 1–0 at Ellis Park Stadium following a controversial Gabriel Heinze header in the 6th minute. In its second game, Nigeria led early on by a goal from Kalu Uche but a red card against Sani Kaita gave Greece the advantage. Greece scored the equaliser late in the first half and Nigeria conceded the second goal in the second half and lost the game 2–1.

In their last group stage match against South Korea, Nigeria took an early lead in the 12th minute off of a great finish by Kalu Uche. However, goals from Lee Jung-Soo and Park Chu-Young gave South Korea a 2–1 lead, which looked to be enough for South Korea to advance into the round of 16.

Nigeria equalized in the 69th minutes from the penalty spot minutes after missing a clearcut chance. But the 2-2 scoreline wasn’t enough to send the Super Eagles through. Nigeria was eliminated from the 2010 World Cup with just one point, while South Korea advanced into the round of 16 with four points.

2014 World Cup

Nigeria was drawn in Group F alongside Bosnia, Argentina and Iran. The team defeated Bosnia 1 – 0 and played a goalless draw with Iran.

However, they were defeated by Argentina 2- 3 in the last group game. The Super Eagles qualified for the round of 16 where they faced France. A goal in the 79th minute from Pogba and an accidental own goal by Super Eagles Captain Joseph Yobo in injury time gave the French a 2-0 victory over Nigeria. This was the third time Nigeria was eliminated in the round of 16 and they were not still able to enter the Quarter-finals in the FIFA World Cup.

2018 World Cup

Nigeria was drawn in the same group with Argentina, Iceland and Croatia. The team lost their first match of the tournament 0–2 to Croatia in Kaliningrad, before winning the second 2–0 against Iceland with Ahmed Musa scoring both goals. In the last match against Argentia, Nigeria lost 1–2 which led to their elimination from the tournament.


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