There are few international teams that can frustrate and excite in equal measure than the Super Eagles of Nigeria. On their day, the Nigerians play with a swagger borne out of the desire to show they can mix it up with the best teams in the world. They play without fear and boast a lot of talent though at the moment, that talent pool is as lean as ever seen. Few would forget the defensive calm of Uche Okechukwu, the passion of Taribo West, the playmaking skills of Okocha, the technical brilliance of January. The list goes on an on.
The 90s were the golden period of Nigerian football, as they won the Nations Cup in ’94, reached the Round of 16 at the 1994 World Cup and crowned it all in 1996 when they won the Olympic Gold, playing an excellent brand of football that stunned the likes of Argentina and Brazil. More recently, the Nigerian national team is a mix-match of decent players that are not at the level expected of the adoring Nigerian fans that breathe football. The likes of Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi Mikel Obi and Odion Ighalo are shouldering the hopes of 190 million people, but they are in a group that is not very easy to progress.
Group D consists of Argentina, Iceland, and Croatia and for Nigeria to progress, they have to do two things. First, they must be careful and wary of being too overconfident. The first game against Croatia is very important and will most likely determine the fate of the Africans. Secondly, the Nigerians must have excellent game management. Their lack of talent in all departments should be compensated with graft, passion and determination.
They must play as a team and work on their strengths. Having never gone past the second round, Nigeria is at a crossroads in its football. The World Cup is a path to redemption and they must take it with both hands.