World Cup preview: Nigeria

Football411’s FAGBURE FUNSHO brings you a breakdown of the 32 teams at the 2014 World Cup, with the focus here on Nigeria.

How they qualified

The Super Eagles went through their entire qualifying campaign without a loss. Despite this, Stephen Keshi has experienced the usual off-field problems, like all other Nigeria coaches building up to the World Cup have endured. He has, however, survived the fiasco which has mainly been over player selection.

Some of the team’s experienced star performers such Obafemi Martins and Ike Uche have been bravely left out, and it remains to be seen whether this gamble will pay off.

Star players

This 31-year-old goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama was impressive for his club Lille in Ligue 1 last season. His form between the sticks won him many new fans as he conceded just 26 goals and went 1,062 minutes without conceding a goal in the league while keeping 11 consecutive clean sheets.

In Enyeama it’s safe to say that the Super Eagles have a capable last line, with the keeper also having demonstrated strong leadership skills.

Powerful striker Emmanuel Emenike’s rise to prominence has been almost amazing. From kicking his heels in the second tier from South African football, he has now emerged as a potent finisher for the Super Eagles.

He cemented his standing with a convincing showing for Nigeria at the AFCON 2013, which the Super Eagles won, and was the hero as they beat Ethiopia in the qualifying play-offs to book their place in Brazil.

The stage is set for the Fenerbahce star to claim his place alongside national greats such as Rashidi Yekini and Daniel Amokachi – who will be on the bench as assistant coach.

At 27, the football fraternity is still looking to see why Chelsea and Manchester United tussled over the services of Jon Obi Mikel when he was 18.

Mikel has showed some of his qualities, but has been unable to make himself an invaluable member at club level, while also unable to outshine other prospects at international level.

With a potential switch to Inter Milan on the cards, Mikel could grab this opportunity to get his new suitors something to be excited about with a solid display in the heart of the Super Eagles midfield.

One to watch

The 20-year-old centre-back Kenneth Omeruo enjoyed a breakthrough loan stint with Middlesbrough and has since caused somewhat of a panic at parent club Chelsea, where he is in talks over a new deal.

A solid performance at the World Cup could raise the defender’s profile even further and set him up for an even sweeter deal at the Blues.

The manager

Like many of his counterparts at this World Cup, this former Stephen Keshi is a former captain and now head coach of his national team.

Keshi has managed to shape a divided national side and guided them to the African championship podium and became only the second person to win the AFCON title as a player and a coach.

The former Nigeria captain gets his shot at finally standing on the sideline and bark instructions at a World Cup, after being denied the opportunity in the 2006 edition after he was sacked as Togo boss despite helping the team to qualify for the showpiece event.

Prediction

The squad’s mix of experience and youthful ambitions makes the Super Eagles a threat. Keshi carries with him the legacy of the great 1998 team that went all the way to the quarter-finals.

The obvious target for this side is to become the first African team to make it to the semi-finals. As the AFCON champions, it is expected that they demonstrate their continental dominance.

They will surely have learned from their disappointing Confederations Cup campaign in Brazil, where they did not make it past the group stages last year.

post by Funsho Fagbure