The young Nigerian stars, who are embarking yet another World Cup journey will be an exciting prospect to look forward to. Some of them have played in the global rich Premier League to stake their name in World football as the ones who can perform on the big stage.
As a team, they are not expected to reach the pinnacle of the upcoming tournament but writing them off for any game would be a mistake in truth. The African teams always play with passion and pride, and one can expect the same from the Super Eagles too.
This is their 5th participation in the last six World Cups, which is a fruition, bearing in mind the fact that they have constantly lost key players in the previous editions. However, their ability to produce good young players is something to behold, as it has always helped them in succeeding.
Their squad consists of some very good stars who can single-handedly control the game for them but on the hindsight, their overall team isn’t good enough to match other big teams. This is the reason why they are unpredictable yet not good enough.
Players like Wilfried Ndidi, John Obi Mikel, Alex Iwobi, etc. are the ones who are playing/have played in the tough leagues. This clearly implies that they know what it takes to perform on the biggest stage and have the know-how to compete.
They have been paired with Croatia, Iceland and Argentina this time. It is a very tough group, with likes of Croatia and Messi-led Argentina the favourites to go through. For the Super Eagles to succeed, they have to beat the Croats.
Nigeria are always good in a physical battle. Their pace on the counter-attacks with Victor Moses and Iwobi on the wings will be a worry for the opposition.
They generally play a 4-3-3 formation with compact and physicality in midfield, with Mikel, Ndidi and captain Ogenyi Onazi in the middle. They have enough threat in their central striking position too. Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho have a combined stat of 21 goals in 83 appearances.
The one thing which would worry a Nigerian supporter is the lack of quality defenders and a solid goalkeeper. We all know that if a team has a weak defence, it may bode for a very mediocre campaign in the tournament.
This weakness can hold the Super Eagles back from progressing to the knockout stages. They are short on depth in the midfield too, which means an injury in that position could see them struggle.
Salisu Yusuf started managing the national team from 2016 and this is his first World Cup. He prefers to play a 4-2-3-1 formation but with the squad that he has at his disposal, 4-3-3 would suit better and Yusuf deployed it in the recent International friendlies too. He is a very calm person with tactical and inside knowledge of his players.
World Cup History
This is Nigeria’s fifth World Cup in the last six editions. Before 1994, they did not play even once, which enhances their reputation as a Cup team. The Super Eagles crossed the hurdle of group stage thrice, in 1994, 1998 and 2014, before getting knocked out. Their defence is a weakness and that is why despite scoring 20 goals in 18 appearances, they have conceded 26.
Alex Iwobi is probably the key player for Nigeria and would offer creativity in the attacking third. He had a decent season at Arsenal and did well for Arsene Wenger’s men. He would start in a front three consisting of Iheanacho and Moses. Iwobi’s guile can make a huge difference for his country.
Nigeria may not go very far in the tournament but neglecting them would be unfair. Although they don’t have a miserly defence, their attacking prowess can get them to win a game or two, which could lead them to the next round. All in all, they are little short on quality to really be the dark horses.
Prediction: Out in the Group Stages