Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Eaglesin flight-World Cup moments

Nigeria's participation in the Fifa World Cup has been a mixed bag of sorts, as the nation has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in the four tournaments she has attended thus far.
Since that cold evening in Constantine, Algeria where a Finidi George goal inspired Nigeria to hold the Fennecs to a 1-1 draw and qualify for her first Fifa World Cup, it has been a roller coaster for the Super Eagles.

The Super Eagles have been to four Fifa World Cups. USA 1994 was Nigeria's maiden bow, followed by appearances in 1998 in France, Japan/Korea in 2002 and South Africa 2010. The football fiesta in Brazil this June will make it a fifth appearance in all.

9jafooty takes a look at Nigeria's highlight reel, juxtaposing the feel good moments with the tempest ridden in the four tournaments the Super Eagles have participated in.

USA '94

Pride and Joy

Nigeria's first ever World Cup match against Bulgaria is arguably Nigeria's finest moment at the football fiesta. Going into the tournament as African champions, Nigeria took Bulgaria to the cleaners with a swash-buckling performance that made the world stand up and take notice.

A 3-0 pounding of Bulgaria was the end result. but who can forget Rashidi Yekini's opener, Nigeria's first ever goal at the World Cup and the subsequent celebration that ensued.

Yekini, hugging the net and shaking it ferociously, shouted some words that lip readers can't decode till date.

That image will remain ever green in the memories of Nigeria fans as the immortalize the late striker.

Burnt offering:

Second round game, Nigeria were nine minutes away from a famous win over the Azzuri of Italy after Emmanuel Amuneke's first half opener. Jay Jay was mercurial in midfield, running rings round the Italians.

Coach Clemence Westerhof was going ballistic on the touchline screaming instructions.

Then came the most agonizing 15 minutes of Nigeria's World Cup history. Sunday Oliseh lost possession in
Nigeria's area, seconds later Italy drew level. Augustine Eguavoen later gifted away a penalty as Nigeria crashed out to a Roberto Baggio inspired Italian comeback.

France 1998

Blistering barnacles

Nigeria's quest at France '98 was one that held so much promise yet delivered little. The Super Eagles had Bulgaria, Paraguay and Spain to navigate in the group stages.

Bulgaria was duly dispatched, but the highlight of the tournament was in the game against the Spaniards. With the game tied at 2-2 and with 12 minutes left Nigerian piled pressure on the Spanish defense.

Garba Lawal sent in a high ball into the Spanish box, a cleared ball fell to Sunday Oliseh, the midfielder adjusted his body and let fly from 30 yards to put Nigeria 3-2 up and the three points in the Group D game.

That goal, will go on to be nominated as one of the goals of the tournament by the Fifa technical study group of France '98.

Chopped and skewered

Hopes were high when Nigeria annexed 6 points in their first two matches at the tournament. A 3-1 reversal against Paraguay did little to dampen the enthusiasm amongst Nigerians.

A lot, including the team, were talking up a potential quarterfinal clash against Brazil if they could navigate past a resilient Denmark squad in the round of sixteen.

Little from 1994 was learnt. The Super Eagles were hammered.

A Tijani Babangida consolatory goal couldn't hide the abysmal showing against the Danes as the 4-1 loss threatened to rubbish the joy and glory of the Spanish conquest. With Nigeria's exit, it spelled the end of an era for a lot of the players in the team.

Japan/Korea 2002.

A star is born

Nigeria's Jekyll and Hyde performance continued in 2002, as no progress was made, and for the first time, Nigeria will fail to qualify for the second round.

After the pervading issues of the Mali 2002 Africa Cup of Nations, a hastily assembled youthful team, replate with the likes of Femi Opabunmi, Osaze Odemwingie, Justice Christopher and a rookie goalkeeper called Vincent Enyeama headed to the 2002 World Cup led by Festus Adegboye Onigbinde.

You'll be excused not to have expected anything from the team. The only positive from that tournament was the emergence of a new breed of Super Eagles stars, with Vincent Enyeama leading the orchestra.

Enyeama made only one appearance for the Super Eagles in the 2002 World Cup, but his world class save against England made the world take notice.

With the game heading for a goalless draw, Michael Owen fed Paul Scholes the ball, the then Manchester United midfielder's shot from the edge of Nigeria's box saw Enyeama dive full length to tip the ball into the cross bar and out of play.

That moment, a star was born. Twelve years on, Enyeama is waxing strong and will be the man between the sticks when Nigeria heads to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

South Africa 2010.

Please stand up.

Having missed out on the 2006 edition in Germany, the Super Eagles made a return to the World Cup in 2010 on African soil.

Swedish coach Lars Lagerback was in charge this time out. The Swede was the man to lead Nigeria to the promised land. That mission failed, spectacularly too.

Despite Nigeria conceding five goals in the 2010 edition, one player who stood up and was counted was goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.

His heroics in the first group game against the Albiceleste of Argentina earned him a man of the match crown, and despite beaten by a Gabriel Heinze in the first half, he was the stand out performer in the game to further cement his 2002 legacy.

Oh no! You didn't!

Cue action. Nigeria having lost to Argentina in her first group game, were leading Greece courtesy Kalu Uche's goal. Then it all went horribly wrong. Nigerian midfielder Sani Kaita was red carded for lashing out at Greek left-back, Vasilis Torosidis in the 33rd minute of the game.

With Nigeria a man down, the Greeks went on to win the game 2-1. Sani Kaita was vilified and hasn't really had much success in his career since then. He is back in Nigeria with Enyimba International Football Club.

Take one. Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban . Yakubu Aiyegbeni's inexplicable miss from 3 yards against South Korea made the all time blooper list for World Cup howlers.

Nigeria, needing a win to make it to next round, edged ahead through Kalu Uche from a threaded pass from right back Chidi Ordiah. South Korea later equalised and went ahead.

Trailing 2-1 and with 20 minutes left, Yusuf Ayila took on a couple of South Korean defenders and squared a pass to Yakubu who found himself alone in the box.
With the goal at his mercy, and the cherry waiting to be topped, he contrived to miss from three yards.

Yakubu will later slot a penalty to tie the game at 2-2. South Korea held out for the draw and the Super Eagles were eliminated. Yakubu never wore the national colors since then.

The 2014 Fifa World Cup holds a lot of promise for Nigeria. Can they Super Eagles break the hoodoo and qualify for the second round for the first time since 1998?

Coach Stephen Keshi and his wards surely have their work cut out if they are to better the swerve and swagger of the class of '94.

Hopefully, the highlights will be full of goals and good tidings. Hopefully.

1 comment:

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