Nigeria – Group F – World Cup profile

Nigeria have been blessed with some fantastic individual stars over the years, with plenty of World Cup memories for the African nation.

However, the current crop that will participate in Brazil are lacking the star quality of teams of yesteryear, but make up for this with an evident collective approach.

The team spirit and communal pride of the Super Eagles side that lifted the African Cup of Nations in 2013 was endearing and it will be the strength of their combined assets that will make them realistic knockout round contenders here.

Confirmed squad

Although a fair few of Nigeria’s main players have headed to Europe, with a number playing in the United Kingdom, there are also a host that play their club football back at home.

There is an emphasis on building for the future also, with only five of the 23-man squad aged over 30.

As such, there is still an air of the unknown about some of Nigeria’s players, opening an opportunity for new stars to be born on the biggest stage.

Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Lille), Chigozie Agbim (Gombe United), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be’er Sheva)

Defenders: Efe Ambrose (Celtic), Godfrey Oboabona (Rizespor), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Kenneth Omeruo (Middlesbrough), Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod FC), Joseph Yobo (Norwich City), Kunle Odunlami (Sunshine Stars)

Midfielders: John Mikel Obi (Chelsea), Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio), Gabriel Reuben (Beveren), Michael Uchebo (Cercle Brugge), Ramon Azeez (Almeria), Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu Rangers)

Forwards: Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow), Shola Ameobi (Unattached), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce), Peter Odemwingie, (Stoke City), Uche Nwofor (Heerenveen), Babatunde Michael (Volyn)

Notable absentees

There are a number of players that will feel that their club standing and past record with the national team should have resulted in a place in Brazil.

Midfielder Sunday Mba, who played a role in Nigeria’s African Cup of Nations success, has had his dedication questioned and as such been omitted.

Up and coming Parma midfielder Joel Obi misses out, as does Real Betis’ Nosa Igiebor.

Finally, Victor Obinna has not made the final cut, despite having 48 caps and 13 goals for his nation.

Monaco’s Elderson Echiéjilé is the usual left-back, but has had to withdraw through injury.

Coach profile

Stephen KeshiFormer Super Eagles defender Stephen Keshi has been at the helm since 2011 and there is a feeling that the 52-year-old is building something significant.

A track record of managing national teams such as Togo and Mali has stood him in good stead, while he has now had sufficient time to fine-tune his squad.

Keshi is the man behind Nigeria’s new team spirit, with the passionate coach sure to play a key role in the country’s hopes of making the knockout rounds.

Formation / tactics

As a former centre-half, Keshi opts for a back four and will rotate the remainder of his side between a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formation dependant on the opposition.

Lille stopper Vincent Enyeama is a safe pair of hands for Nigeria, with hsi experience and ability to pull off top-drawer stops sure to be a key bonus.

Celtic defender Efe Ambrose usually operates in the centre of defence for the Scottish champions but has recently been playing at right-back for his country.

Young Chelsea defender Kenneth Omeruo is one to look out for with his physical attributes, and his speed on the turn will be important for the Super Eagles.

In midfield, John Obi Mikel is the experienced campaigner amongst younger compatriots and is given more of a licence to express himself for Nigeria.

Despite his holding responsibilities at Stamford Bridge, the 60-cap veteran is urged to get forward from the centre of the park when wearing green, with Lazio’s Ogenyi Onazi as the enforcer.

In attack it will be interesting to see who Keshi opts to play, with outspoken forward Peter Odemwingie brought back into the fold.

Victor Moses has the versatility to play through the middle or on a flank, while Shola Ameobi offers more of a physical threat.

The side are urged to play dynamic, attacking football that should catch the eye, with some fantastic athletes amongst the group.

Key player

Victor MosesVictor Moses – A player whose ability and potential has always been apparent, the Chelsea man has taken a few steps sideways over the last 18 months.

A change of management in west London and a loan spell at Liverpool has stunted Moses’ opportunities to play in the Premier League, with his club future now unsure.

Despite this, Moses showed in the African Cup of Nations success that he can make Nigeria’s attack tick.

Getting the best out of the unpredictable attacker will be a key element to the African nation’s chances of success.

One to watch

Ahmed Musa – The CSKA Moscow forward has amassed 35 caps despite only being 21 years old and will be a wildcard for Nigeria given his devastating pace.

It could be that the former VVV-Venlo man starts as a substitute and is unleashed to take advantage of tiring opposition legs.

The sprightly attacker has proven at club level that he can get goals from midfield and now needs to stand up and be counted for his country.

Prediction

It looks like Argentina and one other from Group F, with every chance that Nigeria could be the second qualifier from an open pool.

Given that some of the other African sides have been handed tough draws, Nigeria have the ability to be the continent’s best-performing side this summer.

However, overcoming a talented Bosnia and Herzegovina side will be their initial priority, with the power of unpredictability becoming their ally if they can make the round of 16.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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