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World Cup 2010: Nigeria Profile

Coach: Lars Lagerback
Confederation: CAF
FIFA Ranking (Apr 10): 20
Previous Appearances: 3 (1994, 1998, 2002)

Background

South Africa 2010 will be Nigeria's fourth World Cup appearance. They made their debut in 1994 in the United States of America, where they reached the second round by playing an attractive attacking style of football. They were only seconds away from the '94 quarter-final before Italy clawed back to beat the Super Eagles 2-1. Four years later, they also got to the second round only to be thrashed 4-1 by a very organised Danish team. Nigeria disappointed at the 2002 finals in Korea and Japan as they crashed out in the group stage.

How They Qualified

The Eagles snatched the ticket to South Africa 2010 dramatically on the final day of the qualifiers after they defeated Kenya 3-2 in Nairobi while Mozambique pipped closest rivals Tunisia 1-0 in Maputo. Before then, the Tunisians led the standings after a 2-1 win away in the Kenyan capital back in March. Nigeria would then force the North Africans to a goalless draw in Tunis before the Carthage Eagles also achieved a 2-2 draw in Abuja. It was then left to the  final day of action for Nigeria to shoot to the top of the table and qualify for the World Cup. Fans across the nation could hardly believe their luck, even if they left it late, and many still hold reservations about the state of the national side.

Strengths

Attacking play has been the trademark of Nigerian football. The team are blessed with  several top-rate strikers such as Yakubu (Everton), Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg), Osaze Odemwingie (Locomotiv Moscow), Victor Obinna (Malaga), Chinedu Obasi (Hoffenheim) and Ikechukwu Uche (Real Zaragoza).

Weaknesses

The defence, and more specifically the heart of the back line, has proved to be the Achilles' heel of this team. The coaches are yet to find a fine combination in the middle of the  back four. Everton's Joseph Yobo has played alongside Danny Shittu, Dele Adeleye and Obinna Nwaneri, but there is still no ideal pairing in sight yet. They have also struggled to play as a team and so have often relied heavily on individual brilliance to get by.

The Coach

It was no surprise when Shuaibu Amodu left his post earlier this year - the third time he had taken the national team reins. The appointment of Lars Lagerback was not so expected however.

The Swede resigned after failing to take his own national team to South Africa, his first qualification failure at both continental and global level since taking the job in 2000. A steady rather than spectacular pair of hands, the affable European may just be what a fractious Nigerian team needs as it prepares for a first World Cup on African soil.

Star Men

Osaze Odemwingie (Locomotiv Moscow)

Has been most impressive in the later stages of the qualifiers. He is fast, committed to the cause and gets his fair share of goals.'Osas' has established himself in the starting XI after staying on the fringes since missing the cut for the 2002 World Cup.

Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg)

With 15 international goals to his name, he is one of the most lethal Nigerian strikers on offer. He proved himself in the final qualifier against Kenya when he grabbed two goals. This will be his first World Cup finals and once he is fully fit, expect a couple of goals from the former Newcastle United ace.

Ikechukwu Uche (Real Zaragoza)

'IK' netted four goals for the Eagles in the qualifying tournament before he suffered a long-term knee injury at his Spanish club. He is full of running and provides another option to Nigeria's attacking style.

Best Footballing Moment

Nigeria became the first African team to win Olympic Gold in Atlanta in 1996. This feat was achieved by the 'Golden Generation', which included Austin 'Jay Jay' Okocha, Uche Okechukwu, Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amuneke.

Off The Pitch

Famous For: Like the country, the team are a very religious group, who sing worship songs and pray before a match for God to give them victory. This is even more interesting as the team is made up of both Christian and Muslim players.

Most Likely To: Have the team with the biggest players in the tournament, pound for pound.

World Cup Objective

Anything short of getting past the first round will be rated as a failure.