World Cup: Second Teams

Second Teams: Nigeria

Editor’s note: This is the latest piece in PSP’s World Cup series, in which PSP’s writers and a few honored guests make the case for which team you should root for in the World Cup after the United States. Read the full series here.

Nigeria.

Aka Super Eagles.

Aka Green Eagles.

Aka Team Unpredictable.

If you want a team that will take you through a roller coaster of emotions, well, here you have it.

Of course, I am biased. I grew up watching replays of the 1993-96 golden era of Nigerian soccer. My dad constantly reminded me of how a young Jay-Jay Okocha dribbled past Maradona only to turn around and dribble around him again. He says the Nigerian flair and showmanship that all the fans loved is the same reason they lost to Italy in the Round of 16 after dominating for 87 minutes. He still has nightmares about that.

I know you remember Nigeria vs. Brazil in the ’96 Olympics semifinals, don’t you? If you haven’t do yourself a favor and check it out … best 10 minutes you’ll spend today.

Nigeria crestNow we are in a new era. After a horrible 2010 showing (Yakubu miss vs. South Korea; are you kidding?), Nigeria is back, fresh off of victory in the African Nations Cup, and looking to bring glory back to the name, Super Eagles. Led by the spine of the team, Vincent Enyeama, Joseph Yobo, Kenneth Omeruo, and John Obi Mikel, the Super Eagles have a core that is good enough to handle the toughest teams in the World Cup.

You may know John Obi Mikel, Chelsea stalwart. He’s the engine of the Nigerian side, and if he plays well, good things will happen. Known for ball-winning and retention, Nigeria will look to him to be the driving force linking their transition play, much as he did in his famous performance at the U-20 World Cup tournament (when he wasn’t playing D-mid but that’s a whole other issue). If he can replicate his strong play, Nigeria will be able to make a lot of noise in Brazil.

Anchoring the back line, Joseph Yobo brings vast amounts of experience as the longest tenured and most capped Nigerian. He is a strong leader and capable defender. His partner, Kenneth Omeruo may be only 20, but he will no doubt be one of the tournament’s young standouts. And where does he play? You guessed it: Chelsea, though he’s currently on loan to Middlesborough. Between the pipes, Vincent Enyeama is coming off of his best season in Ligue 1. He led the league in shutouts, so look for him to make the most acrobatic saves, only to let in a slow roller from 30 yards out because that’s the Nigerian way.

Up front, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses, and Emmanuel Emenike should spearhead the attack. All three like to run with the ball and are strong enough to avoid the tackle. Victor Moses may be the most polished, which should be no surprise as he is also a Chelsea player (on loan to Liverpool) but Musa will be the most exciting. He currently plays in Russia with CSKA Moscow and is lighting up the league with his creativity and flair.

Finishing may be a problem, but that is nothing new for the powerful, Turkish-based Emenike, who has a tendency to shoot from anywhere. And not in a good way, like Sunday Oliseh vs. Spain in ’96. More like Cristiano without the accuracy. Should he struggle to find the back of the net, Shola Ameobi and Peter Odemwingie will be viable options off the bench with their wealth of EPL experience.

Coach Stephen Keshi will be leading a good group of boys at the World Cup. It’s only right for him to take a good mixture of hungry unproven individuals combined with experienced veterans to the promised land. As a former Nigerian captain himself, he knows what it takes and his team will be ready.

Nigeria will be everyone’s favorite African team this summer and will go farther than Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Algeria. Just remember where you heard that, because you heard it here first, and you will definitely see me tweeting about them (@amobisays).

(Or not, if they choke.)

9 Comments

  1. Welcome to PSP!

  2. kingkowboys says:

    Nice article Amobi! Thanks for taking the time to contribute.

  3. Thought Musa was somewhat disappointing in the friendly at PPL Park. I like his partnership with Doumbia at CSKA. Mikel looked very solid in the middle of the park, but they need that attacking link to get the ball to Emenike. I wonder if they have enough in that attacking midfield position to distribute to their strike corps, which is overall good.

  4. Wasn’t too impressed with the Nigeria I saw versus the USA. However, I do hope you are right about them being the African team that goes the farthest this summer (just anyone but Ghana!)

  5. Loved it, Amobi!

  6. Jay-Jay was an absolute joy to watch, both with Bolton and the Super Eagles. It was that team that me and my mates would just love to watch because they were so bonkers. They would be one nil up in a knockout game with three minutes left to play and you would still see the fullbacks (yes, both of them) pouring forward up the field like madmen, striving for another goal. Their joie de vivre was irresistible and ever since I always root for Nigeria. Maybe because I am English I can relate to the tragi-comedy.
    .
    Nice article, Amobi. You should write more.

  7. Uche Okugo says:

    After the friendly against the USA there seems to be a lot of pessimism about team Nigeria. But, knowing my fellow countrymen and our football history, we thrive better/higher/further in stormy times (see last African Nations Cup)!
    Nice piece Amobi, looking to read more from you.

  8. Mazi Martyns says:

    Nice write up NwaMazi Amobi… Thanks for taking the time… It’s fitting that, only a few hours to a great sporting event, someone that knows soccer would write an article to remind us of how good our Nigerian team is and also a very good reason to watch their games.

    1996 seems like forever ago but it’s nice to see my country has managed to put together another great team… GO SUPER EAGLES…

  9. In 2002 I watched Senegal leave the World Cup in the final eight, in the back of a little shop in rural Uganda. When I saw the tears in the Ugandans eyes, I became a fan of every African team.

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