2010 FIFA World Cup: Nigeria's Greatest World Cup Moments
Since Nigeria won it's independence from Great Britain in 1960, the fledgling Super Eagles have gone from strength to strength.
Prior to their independence, the Nigerians played matches against amateur English sides like South Liverpool, Dulwich Hamlet and Bishop Auckland in the late forties and early fifties. Nigeria affectionately became known as the U.K. Tourists.
Since those tentative forays into the world of football, the national team has progressed, taking part in inter colonial matches against neighboring countries.
However, Nigeria waited until the '70s before clearly putting their footballing credentials on the map. Success at the international level quickly followed.
Nigeria Makes Their World Cup Debut
In 1994, the Super Eagles made their World Cup debut. And what a debut it was. After drawing a group that included Argentina, Bulgaria and Greece, the Super Eagles finished first in the group.
Jay Jay Okocha, So Good They Named him Twice
The fresh faced, twenty year old Okocha made his reputation off his World Cup exploits in 1994.
Okocha has missed just one of Nigeria's 11 games during the three world cups he played in. In the first game of the 1994 tournament, Nigeria notched a 3-0 victory over Bulgaria.
Okocha demonstrated his phenomenal footballing talents on the World Cup stage in the United States '94, France '98 (where he captained his nation) and Japan/South Korea '02.
Okocha's silky smooth skills, and natural flair, made him a true World Cup great. He took Nigeria to the second round in the '94 and '98 tournaments.
Okocha finished second in the African Player of Year award twice, becoming arguably the best player never to win the award.
He did win the inaugural BBC African Footballer of the Year trophy. He later became the only player to retain the award.
In 2004, Pele listed Okocha in his list of the greatest 125 living players of all time. Okocha was voted the 12th greatest African footballers of the past 50 years in 2007.
Nigeria 3-2 Spain
It was a wet Nantes, France afternoon in the La Beaujoire Stadium. As Spain walked out to play their first ever tie against African opposition in a World Cup final. Their opponent, Nigeria, would play a part in arguably the best game of the tournament, a five goal thriller.
Javier Clemente's team was undefeated in qualifying, and hadn't traveled far from the other side of the Pyrenees for their first round clash.
The Spaniards were favored to win a group stage that included Paraguay and Bulgaria, along with Nigeria. The Spanish side was full of household names like Andoni Zubizarreta, Fernando Hierro and Raul.
The latter two had just come off a European Cup with real Madrid. They were in for a huge surprise.
Clemente didn't take the Nigerians, or Bora Milutinovic's team, for granted.
After the 1994 World Cup, the footballing world became well aware of how the Nigerian's strong footballing nation, making it to the final 16.
Serbian Bora Milutinovic, who had lead four other nations to the World Cup finals in previous years, had won the Olympic Gold medal with his young, talented side two years earlier. Milutonovic was well aware of Spain's threat. He prepared his squad well for the clash.
Spain hit the ground running with a great start, and neat passing kept the Super Eagles at a distance. Raul gave the Nigerians a scare when he had a shot stopped by keeper Peter Rufai in the second minute.
Raul followed this with a header to the Nigeria crossbar, but the constant Spanish pressure turned into a goal in the 21st minute.
Mobi Oparaku brought down Alfonso Perez on the edge of the box, giving an opportunity to free-kick specialist Hierro. Hierro curled a beautiful low strike around the wall, passing the space between Alfonso and the stranded Rufai.
One-nil to Spain.
The wounded Eagles brought the Spaniards crashing back to earth three minutes later.
Mutiu Adepoju broke between two white Spanish shirts at the near post to head Garba Lawal's corner past Zubizarreta. Albert Ferrer was on the line, and tried to head clear. But he only helped the ball into the net. The game was all tied at one-one.
Inspired by their equalizer, the Super Eagles sought a second goal with Victor Ikpeba hitting the side netting two minutes after the restart.
The pendulum swung back to Spain, thanks to a superb shot by Raul. Latching onto a splendid ball from his Madrid teammate Hierro, the striker slotted a shot past Rufai. 2-1 to La Roja.
Clemente's team dictated the play with the partisan crowd shouting "Ole" at every pass. But the Spanish fans' bravado would prove premature.
With Spain looking every bit the victors, they somehow managed to let the Super Eagles off the hook with an uncharacteristic error by Zubizarreta in the 73rd minute.
Lawal executed some neat passing with substitute Rasheed Yekini, shrugging off a stiff challenge from Ivan Campo to get to the byline. But his weak, low cross wasn't dangerous until Zubizarreta unfathomably palmed the ball into his own net.
Two-two with just over fifteen minutes left on the clock.
A few minutes later, Raul was unmarked, but missed a clear chance from a Joseba Etxeberria's cross. Nigeria now sat in the driver's seat.
12 minutes from time, Sunday Oliseh broke the tie in sublime style.
A long flighted cross into the Spain box was headed out only as far as the Oliseh and from 25 yards, his thunderous half volley was hit back towards goal, leaving Zubizarreta with no chance. Three-two to the Super Eagles.
It was a psychological blow from which the Spaniards never recovered.
They played out a dull, goal-less draw with Paraguay in their second match and, despite thumping Bulgaria 6-1, results elsewhere meant they were out.
The Super Eagles progressed as group winners.
Amokachi Scores A Wonder Goal
With strength and pace, the big Nigerian striker coolly drove through the Greek midfield before cutting inside and unleashing a fantastic shot. Amokachi's goal produced a Greek tragedy.
The Stats So Far
Appearances at finals:
1994 - Second round
1998 - Second round
2002 - First round
Overall record at finals: Played 11, Won 4, Drawn 1, Lost 6.
Best performance: Second round in 1994 and 1998.
Most apearances at finals: Jay-Jay Okocha (1994, 1998, 2002) - 10.
Most goals at finals: Emmanuel Amuneke (1994), Daniel Amokachi (1994) - 2.
The 2010 World Cup
When the Super Eagles walk out at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, and “Arise, O Compatriots” rings around the stadium, Argentina had best be at their peak. Argentina's World Cup history won't matter when the referee blows the whistle to start Nigeria's 2010 World Cup Campaign.