Completesportsnigeria. com’s ADEBOYE AMOSU recalls five games in the history of Nigeria’s participation at the FIFA World Cup that Super Eagles’ faithful are not keen to remember, but they are bound to serve important lessons as Gernot Rohr leads his squad out at Russia 2018 …
1. NIGERIA VS ITALY (USA’94)
The Super Eagles were one of the surprise packages at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the United States of America. The side then tutored by Dutchman Clemens Westerhof beat Bulgaria 3-0 in their debut match at the finals and recovered from the 2-1 loss to two-time world champions, Argentina in their second group game to edge out Greece 2-0 in their last group game.
Westerhof’s men came close to making it to the quarter-finals but fell to an agonising 2-1 loss to 10-men Italy in their Second Round game.
Emmanuel Amuneke gave Nigeria the lead in the 25th minute converting home from George Finidi’s corner.
They were just two minutes away from a famous win before Roberto Baggio grabbed the equaliser and then netted the winner from the spot in extra time.
2. NIGERIA VS DENMARK (FRANCE ’98)
The Super Eagles stunned one of the pre- tournament favourites, Spain 3-2 in their opening fixture at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France and secured their passage into second round following a 1-0 win against Bulgaria in the next game.
Despite suffering a shocking 3-1 loss to Paraguay in the last group game, they were favourite to beat Denmark in their last 16 fixture.
With a tantalising quarter-final clash against Brazil already in the horizon, the side then coached by Serbia Bora Mulitinovic were thoroughly thrashed 4-1 by Denmark despite an impressive showing by the talented Austine ‘jay jay’ Okocha.
3. NIGERIA VS SWEDEN (KOREA/JAPAN 2002)
Veteran tactician, Adegboye Onigbinde took a number of rookies to the 2002 FIFA World Cup co- hosted by South Korea and Japan after the likes of Sunday Oliseh, Finidi George, Tijani Babangida and co were axed from the team.
With talented stars like Austine Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Julius Aghahowa and reliable centre-back, Taribo West in the team, much was expected from the Super Eagles despite having to face two-time champions, Argentina, England and Sweden in the group stage.
The team put up a strong display in the 1-0 loss to Argentina in their first game but were sent packing from the competition after going down to a 2-1 defeat to Sweden in the next game.
The Eagles started the game in convincing fashion and scored the opener through Julius Aghahowa but the Swedes rallied back with two goals from Henrik Larsson.
It was the first time the Super Eagles will fail to progress into the second round since their debut appearance in USA ’94.
4. NIGERIA VS SOUTH KOREA (SOUTH AFRICA 2010)
After losing their first two games against Argentina and Greece, the Super Eagles needed a win to book their passage to the second round, but were held to a 2-2 draw by the Taeguk Warriors.
The evening started on a good note for the West Africans with Kalu Uche putting them ahead in the 12th minute, but the Koreans rallied back through Lee Jung- Soo and Park Chu- Young.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni restored parity for the Super Eagles in the 69th minute, but Nigeria fans will never forget the sitter he missed three minutes earlier.
In the end, the side coached by Swede Lars Lagerback couldn’t find the winner and bowed out in the group stage the second consecutive time.
5. NIGERIA VS FRANCE (BRAZIL 2014)
A tightly contested second round encounter saw the Super Eagles exit the competition after a 2-0 loss to France. Emmanuel Emenike had the ball at the back of the net on 19 minutes but his effort was ruled out for offside.
After holding their own for 79 minutes, the Eagles finally capitulated with 11 minutes remaining. Paul Pogba nodded home Mathieu Valbuena’s corner after an error by Vincent Enyeama.
Stephen Keshi’s men then conceded the second late in the game when Joseph Yobo diverted Valbuena’s cross into his own net.