–Nickname: Super Eagles
–FIFA Ranking: 36th
–Best Showing at the World Cup Finals: Round of 16 (1994, 1998)
–Coach: Stephen Keshi
–Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3
–Key Player: John Obi Mikel: He’s finally come of age this year with impressive performances for the Eagles. The Mikel we see at international level is a far-cry from the one we see at Chelsea. At the Confederations Cup, we saw glimpses of what he could do when played further forward though his best position still remains as a deep-lying midfielder. It is worthy of mention that it would be his first appearance at the mundial at the age of 27.
–Other Players to Watch Out For: Emmanuel Emenike, Victor Moses and Vincent Enyeama
–Route to the Finals: First in African Qualifying Group F, then dispensed with Ethiopia in the play-off 4-1 on aggregate.
- In Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria boasts a wonderful attacking triumvirate that can trouble any defence. Others like Ameobi and Dike offer something different to Keshi in terms of aerial threat and direct play which would no doubt be an asset.
- Strength in midfield is also very impressive with Mikel orchestrating the play and Onazi the ball-winner.
- The Super Eagles at the moment boast of one of Europe’s in-form goalkeepers in the person of Vincent Enyeama who’s been nothing short of excellent for French club Lille.
- The defence is a suspect. The defenders no doubt have the physique and are difficult to beat in the air but they lack positioning. Spain, Uruguay and Italy have already exploited Nigeria’s defence and players like Messi, Aguero and Dzeko would no doubt love to do the same.
- The fullback positions also remain an issue as they tend to play more like wingbacks than fullbacks which the bigger sides would take advantage of on the counter.
- Beyond the starting eleven, this team lacks quality backups and experience at this level is almost non-existent.
- The lack of cohesion and concentration in this side means they play well against the bigger sides but still ultimately lose. This has not been solved and could rear its ugly head at the show-piece. Defeats against Spain, Uruguay and the draw against Italy all met the regular chorus “they played well”
- Off the pitch, issues relating to non-payment of salaries, bonuses and the non-factors in the team which have not been resolved could threaten to derail the progress of the Super Eagles at the World Cup.
– Keshi’s Reaction: “I would rate it as a six because we play against three teams with totally different playing styles. We don’t know Iran or Bosnia in great detail yet, but it seems as if we play against Argentina in every World Cup – and it has always been difficult. Obviously I respect all three, though we have no reason to fear any of them. The most important thing is to prepare for the first game because that will show us what we are made of”
–Group Chances: This is a fair draw for the Eagles which would no doubt leave most fans optimistic of their chances of progressing. History has shown that while they play better against the stronger sides, they struggle against the less fancied ones. The Eagles picked up only one point in the 2010 Group B that contained the likes of Greece and South Korea and it took them until the third game of the 2013 AFCON to seal their qualification after being drawn against Burkina Faso, Zambia and Ethiopia. None of their group opponents; especially Iran and Bosnia should be underestimated. The key game would however be against Bosnia with one of the two most likely to qualify alongside Argentina. Games against Argentina, “Nigeria’s fierce lovers” have always ended in slender margins so fans should probably not expect a romp.
– Head to Head against Group Opponents: ( W-D-L): 1-1-4 against Argentina, 1-0-0 against Iran and yet to play Bosnia.
–World Cup Odds: 250/1
–Nickname: Zmajevi (Dragons)
–Best Showing at the World Cup Finals: This is their first appearance
–Coach: Safet Susic
–Key Player: Edin Dzeko: Dzeko is the man who leads this team. He plays well for his country even when out of favor at his club, Manchester City. He finished second in the European qualifiers with 10 goals.
–Other Players to Watch Out For: Miralem Pjanic, Asmir Begovic, Vedad Ibisevic and Senad Lulic.
–Route to Finals: First in European Qualifying Group G with 25 points. Finished ahead of Greece on goal difference.
- The Dragons boast an incredibly dynamic offensive system with two natural goal scorers in Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic.
- The midfield is packed with creative talent and has decent depth.
- This team finished fourth in the European qualifiers in terms of goal scoring which should be a warning to weary defences that this team has the prowess to net goals.
- If there’s a weakness in this team it’s the defence. It has failed to show any form of consistency and it was exposed by group opponents Argentina in a recent friendly.
- The right back also remains a worry to Head Coach Susic, No thanks to injuries and the left back is a revolving door.
- Inexperience at this level could also be a problem
–Safet Susic’s Reaction: “Having seen the other groups, we can be satisfied. We don’t need to be unhappy, even though we share the group with Argentina, who are one of the favorites to win the world championship. Of the other teams, one is clearly weaker than us: Iran. The other, Nigeria, has in the worst-case scenario the same qualities we have, although they have more experience in World Cups. I believe we will fight for the second place with them”
–Group Chances: They’ll be happy with the draw and would be optimistic of their chances of qualifying. Like the Super Eagles, they’ll probably fight for second place which means their game against Nigeria would most likely determine their fate. They should not have problems finding the back of the net but stopping the goals at his end is a riddle Susic has to solve. `
–Head to Head against Group Opponents: ( W-D-L) 0- 0-2 against Argentina, 0-1-4 against Iran, yet to play the Super Eagles of Nigeria.
–World Cup Odds:150/1