World Cup - Country profile: Nigeria

We profile 2014 World Cup finalists Nigeria, who are looking to use Brazil as a springboard to success at Moscow 2018.

Reuters
World Cup - Country profile: Nigeria
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Victor Moses of Nigeria (R) celebrates after scoring against Ethiopia during their 2014 World Cup qualifying play-off (Reuters)

Form and Prospects

Nigeria were the first African team to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and their youthful side will be looking to reach the knock-out stages for the first time in 16 years.

The Super Eagles proved to be a team ahead of their time when they won the African Nations Cup at the start of the year, way ahead of the schedule coach Stephen Keshi had set for his young team.

Keshi had said before the tournament in January he was building a new-look side with an eye on being competitive at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and pleaded for patience as he began his project.

Just weeks later Nigeria had fast tracked his plans by winning the tournament in South Africa and will now hope they can have the same impact in Brazil, four years ahead of schedule.

Qualifying for a fifth World Cup finals appearance, Nigeria have not reached the final 16 since France 1998 and they will hope to do better in Brazil, where they failed to get out of their group in the Confederations Cup in June.

The continental champions had a strong qualifying campaign and were unbeaten throughout, conceding just four goals in their eight games and beating Ethiopia 4-1 in the two-legged play-off.

Keshi had purged the squad of some supposedly key players and left pundits bewildered by his team selection but he had the last laugh as Nigeria emerged as a credible force for the 2014 finals.

Consistent team selection has allowed Nigeria to show steady growth in recent months with their fast-tempo friendly against Italy in London earlier this month evidence of their ability to mix it with the best.

Coach: Stephen Keshi

Keshi was one of the first high profile playing exports from Nigeria, playing at Anderlecht and Racing Strasbourg in France.

He captained his country to the 1994 African Cup of Nations title and was also captain at Nigeria's first World Cup appearance in the United States the same year, but played in just one of the four matches.

The 51-year-old, who resides in the United States, describes coaching Togo to qualification for the 2006 World Cup finals as the highlight of his coaching career.

But a fallout with star player Emmanuel Adebayor saw him replaced before the tournament in Germany, only to be reinstated a year later.

Keshi then went on to coach Mali, and then Togo for a third time, before being appointed by Nigeria in 2011 and enjoying more success this year with victory in the African championship in South Africa.

Key player: Victor Moses

Moses moved to England from Lagos aged 11 and played at Under-21 level for his new country before switching his allegiance to Nigeria.

In a heady 2012, he won his first cap in the African Cup of Nations qualifiers against Rwanda in February and then transferred from Wigan Athletic to Chelsea.

He has since netted vital goals for Nigeria in both Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup action.

Injury kept him out of the Confederation Cup in Brazil earlier this year, but he moved soon after on loan to Liverpool.

And more minutes on the pitch for his club mean Moses will be hoping to have a big impact for the Super Eagles in Brazil.

How they qualified

One of five direct African qualifiers

World Cup record

Previous appearances: 4 (1994, 1998, 2002, 2010)

Best performances: Second round 1994, 1998.

Odds

250-1

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