Historical trend of Nigeria’s pre-World Cup blues

Historical trend of Nigeria’s pre-World Cup blues

Nigeria’s Super Eagles on Monday touched down in Russia ahead of their sixth appearance at the FIFA World Cup. A flamboyant team from West Africa dazzled the world during their inaugural appearance in the United States in 1994 with a combination of colourful appearances mixed with delightful displays.

Ahead of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, the Nigerian side have rolled back the years to bring back a similar design to their jerseys in 1994 but, not only have they brought back the old designs, this current team have also followed up previous teams in recording poor results prior to the World Cup tournament.

As brilliant as the 1994 set was, a sudden wave of losses overcame them in their tournament build-up starting from just seven days after they conquered Africa unbeaten in Tunisia. The team suffered losses against Colombia, Sweden and Romania before wrapping up with a win over Georgia.

The US 94 squad

1998’s preparations was more disastrous for Bora Milutinovic’s Eagles. The team suffered losses in geometric progression; conceding one, three and five goals respectively, which culminated in an electric 5-1 loss to the Netherlands just eight days before their World Cup opening game against Spain.

The only World Cup tournament which has seen Nigeria enjoy fantastic pre-tournament results is arguably the worst tournament the country has participated in – Korea & Japan 2002. Despite emerging from the disbandment of the team in February, the Super Eagles, under Adegboye Onigbinde prepared for the summer World Cup brilliantly – winning three and drawing one of their friendly matches.

Under Sweden’s Lars Lagerback, the Super Eagles went into the 2010 tournament unbeaten during their build-up. Impressive wins over Congo DR and North Korea were sandwiched by draws against Saudi Arabia and Colombia. Just like the 2002 edition, Nigeria subsequently failed to emerge from their group after losing their first two matches.

Former captain Stephen Keshi led the Nigerians to 2014 World Cup in Brazil and his team failed to win any of their pre-tournament friendly games, losing to USA after draws against Scotland and Greece. Keshi’s wards would go on to reach the second round in Brazil where they were bundled out by France.

This is 2018 and a youthful Super Eagles side have struggled to get results in their build-up to the tournament. A win over Poland in Wrocslaw late March was quickly extinguished by defeat to Serbia in Barnet four days later. Gernot Rohr’s side have failed to win any of their three games since the Serbia game, losing to England and Czech Republic after a dour draw in Port Harcourt against Congo DR.

As evident in the statistics explained above and highlighted below, Super Eagles fans have a historical premise to hinge their hopes of seeing their team advance from Group D of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

Pre-tournament results since 1994

1994:

AFCON final on April 10: Nigeria 2-1 Zambia
April 17: Colombia 1-0 Nigeria
May 5: Sweden 3-1 Nigeria (Wole Odegbami)
May 25: Romania 2-0 Nigeria
June 10: Nigeria 5-1 Georgia (Yekini and Siasia brace)

1998:
February 22: Jamaica 2-2 Nigeria
April 22: Germany 1-0 Nigeria
May 29: Yugoslavia 3-0 Nigeria
June 5: Netherlands 5-1 Nigeria (Kanu <p>)

2002:
March 26: Paraguay 1-1 Nigeria

April 17: Scotland 1-2 Nigeria (Julius Aghahowa brace)

May 4: Nigeria 3-0 Kenya (Ojigwe, Opabunmi, Oruma)

May 16: Ireland 1-2 Nigeria (Aghahowa, Efe Sodje)

2010:
March 3: Nigeria 5-2 Congo DR

May 25: Saudi Arabia 0-0 Nigeria

May 30: Nigeria 1-1 Colombia

June 6: Nigeria 3-1 North Korea

2014:
May 28: Nigeria 2-2 Scotland
May 31: Nigeria 0-0 Greece
June 6: USA 2-1 Nigeria

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