Nigeria head to Brazil as African champions and they will hope to improve on their last two World Cup showings, when they were eliminated in the first round.
The signs since their Cup of Nations triumph in early 2013 have, however, done little to suggest that the Super Eagles are building upon their unforgettable tournament victory.
They made heavy work of a straightforward opening CAF Qualifying group and gave an impotent showing at the Confederations Cup. Their performances in Brazil last summer exposed how much the team rely on Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses to give them a cutting edge in attack. Without them, Keshi’s troops are severely weakened.
Moses’s dire season at Liverpool therefore comes as a concern, while other first-team regulars such as Elderson Echiejile and the talismanic John Obi Mikel have also been limited to largely substitute roles.
Positivity is provided by Vincent Enyeama in goal—the stopper has long been considered among the continent’s finest and his outstanding season in France (where he came within minutes of breaking Gaetan Huard’s long-standing clean-sheet record) bodes well for the summer.
Centre-back pairing Godfrey Oboabona and Kenneth Omeruo remain inexperienced, but have acquitted themselves well when playing against fine strikers such as Didier Drogba and Mario Balotelli.
Ogenyi Onazi is a fine young defensive midfielder who prefers a well-timed interception and quick transitions to a crunching tackle, while Ahmed Musa, accepting the rough edges, is a forward of considerable talent.
There are certainly causes for optimism, but this one could go either way…