Nigeria eager for dark horse role
African champion boasts young squad
FIFA ranking: 31
Head coach: Stephen Keshi
Best result: Fourth place in 1995
Qualification method: 2013 Africa Cup champion
First-round schedule: Tahiti (June 17 @ 3 p.m. ET), Uruguay (June 20 @ 6 p.m. ET), Spain (June 23 @ 3 p.m. ET)
- Sleeper. The majority of the discussion regarding Group B involves favourite Spain and the chances Uruguay has to dethrone the World Cup champion and finish first in the group. But there’s an important factor people continue to forget about, and that's Nigeria. The Africa Cup of Nations champions remain in the shadow of the favourites and could spoil many predictions. The perfect makings of a dark horse story.
- Baby Eagles. More than half of the players selected by head coach Stephen Keshi for the final roster are 23 years old or younger, a key element that gives Nigeria the upper hand when it comes to physical condition during the games. Players with more international experience like Kalu Uche, Vincent Enyeama and Joseph Yobo provide a much needed balance for the African squad.
- Chelsea duo. Forward Victor Moses and midfielder Mikel John Obi will be together on the field again, but this time to represent their nation and not English Premier League powerhouse Chelsea, where both players have shown their high level of play and continue to develop their bright careers.
After leading his team to the title at the Cup of Nations, where he was named to the team of the tournament, John Mikel Obi is ready to bring his talents across the Atlantic Ocean. The midfielder’s strength and passing ability are what set him apart from others. Mikel Obi’s skills and bright future earned him a new contract with English Premier League powerhouse Chelsea through 2017.
- Goalkeepers: Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers-NGA), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Beer Sheva-ISR), Vincent Enyeama (Maccabi Tel Aviv-ISR)
- Defenders: Efe Ambrose (Celtic-SCO), Francis Benjamin (Heartland FC-NGA), Elderson Echiejile (Sporting Braga-POR), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves-NGA), Solomon Kwambe, Godfrey Oboabona (both Sunshine Stars-NGA), Kenneth Omeruo (ADO Den Haag-NED)
- Midfielders: Emeka Eze (Enugu Rangers-NGA), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea-ENG), Fegor Ogude (Valerenga-NOR), John Ogu (Academica Coimbra-POR), Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio-ITA), Sunday Mba (Enugu Rangers-NGA)
- Forwards: Joseph Akpala (Werder Bremen-GER), Michael Babatunde (FC Kryvbas-UKR), Muhammad Gambo (Kano Pillars-NGA), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev-UKR), Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow-RUS), Nnamdi Oduamadi (Varese-ITA), Anthony Ujah (FC Cologne-GER)