Team Profile: Nigeria
- Coach: Lars Lagerback
- Goalkeepers: Vincent Enyeama (Hapoel Tel Aviv/Israel), Dele Ayenugba (Beni Yehuda FC/Israel), Austine Ejide (Hapoel Petah Tikva/Israel)
- Defenders: Taye Taiwo (Marseille/France), Elderson Echiejile (Rennes/France), Chidi Odiah (CSKA Moscow/Russia), Joseph Yobo (Everton/England), Daniel Shittu (Bolton/England), Ayodele Adeleye (Sparta Rotterdam/Netherlands), Rabiu Afolabi (Salzburg/Austria)
- Midfielders: Dickson Etuhu (Fulham/England), Ideye Brown (Sochaux/France), Sani Kaita (Alaniya/Russia), Lukman Haruna (Monaco/France), Ayila Yussuf (Dynamo Kiev/Ukraine), Peter Odemwingie (Lokomotiv Moscow/Russia)
- Forwards: Yakubu Ayegbeni (Everton/England), Chinedu Obasi (Hoffenheim/Germany), Nwankwo Kanu (Portsmouth/England), Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg/Germany), Ikechukwu Uche (Zaragoza/Spain), John Utaka (Portsmouth/England), Victor Obinna (Malaga/Spain)
Style of play: Nigeria has experimented with formations over the years, but new coach Lars Lagerback seems to favour a diamond-shaped 4-4-2 setup. Nigeria's modis operandi when it comes to attack is based on speed, so look for them to get the ball out wide to Chinedu Obasi and Peter Odemwingie - they'll use their pace down the flanks before delivering a pass for the equally speedy forwards, Obafemi Martins and Yakubu Aiyegbeni.
1st round matches:
- June 12 vs. Argentina in Johannesburg
- June 17 vs. Greece in Bloemfontein
- June 22 vs. South Korea in Durban
Projected starting lineup (4-4-2): (GK) Vincent Enyeama - (D) Joseph Yobo, Obinna Nwaneri, Onyekachi Apam, Taye Taiwo - (M) John Obi Mikel, Chinedu Obasi, Dickson Etuhu, Peter Odemwingie - (F) Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Obafemi Martins
- Speed - If the World Cup was the 4x100 relay, Nigeria would run away with the gold medal. From the back to the front, the Flying Eagles boast some incredibly fast players. Obafemi Martins, in particular, has incredible acceleration and can outrun just about any defender in the game.
- Coaching - Lars Lagerback, installed as the team's new coach in February, has a wealth of international experience - during his tenure as Sweden's national coach, he helped the team qualify for four consecutive major tournaments (two European championships and two World Cups).
- Attacking depth - Nigeria is loaded with top-quality strikers - so much so that Everton's Victor Anichebe didn't even make the final roster. Between the veterans (John Utaka and Nwankwo Kanu) and the youngsters (Victor Obinna and Chinedu Obasi), Nigeria is spoiled for choice up front.
- Loss of Mikel - Influential midfielder John Obi Mikel has been ruled out of the World Cup with a knee injury. It was always going to be struggle for the Super Eagles to advance from Group B, but the task is a lot tougher now that they've been robbed of their best player.
- No playmaker - Former playmakers Jay-Jay Okocha and Sunday Oliseh have not been replaced since their international retirements, leaving Nigeria short of creativity in midfield. Without a genuine conductor, the Flying Eagles may struggle at times to carve out scoring chances.
- Defence - Yes, Nigeria only conceded five goals in 12 qualifying games, but that came against opponents the calibre of Mozambique and Kenya. Nigeria's defenders, led by the tackle-happy Joseph Yobo, have a penchant for picking up needless yellow cards and are too easily exposed by opposing forwards.
Players to watch:
- Obafemi Martins - Martins is a firecracker; the kind of striker who takes the ball on his foot and explodes. The vivacious forward will either run at a tremendous pace with the ball at his feet or throw the considerable might of his five-foot-eight-inch frame behind a shot, from any distance.
- Joseph Yobo - It is true that Joseph Yobo is prone to bouts of indiscipline and loses his concentration from time to time, but the defender is a mountain of muscle who is not easily alarmed or overpowered.
Key injuries/squad omissions: Midfielder John Obi Mikel was forced to bow out with a knee injury. Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback cut the following seven players from his provisional squad: strikers Victor Anichebe, Peter Utaka, Ideye Aide Brown and Ike Uche; defenders Onyekachi Apam, Terna Suswam and Peter Suswan; and goalkeeper Akpan Bassey. Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi missed parts of the end of the English Premier League season with a knee injury.
Prognosis: First-round exit. There's no denying that Nigeria has a potent and dangerous crop of forwards, as well as speed at almost every position. But they are defensively frail, goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama is far from a world-class shot stopper, and the loss of Mikel is huge.
ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Current FIFA ranking: #21
- Qualification route: Nigeria finished in first place in Group 4 (16 points) ahead of Sierra Leone and South Africa (11 points each) in the third round of the African qualifiers. In the final round, Nigeria (12 points) finished first in Group 2 ahead of Tunisia (11 points)
- Key to qualification: Like Cameroon, Nigeria soared through the qualifiers thanks to a well-balanced squad. The Flying Eagles spread their wings on offence (with an impressive tally of 20 goals) and were just as solid in defence, with only five goals against.
- Crucial result: A 3-2 win over Kenya (Nov. 14, 2009, in Nairobi) allowed Nigeria to secure their first World Cup berth since 2002.
- Qualifying record: 12 games played, 9 wins, 3 draws, 0 losses
- Goals for: 20
- Goals against: 5
- Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Victor Obinna and Ikechukwu Uche (4)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
- June 1, 2008 - Nigeria 2, South Africa 0
- June 7, 2008 - Sierra Leone 0, Nigeria 1
- June 15, 2008 - Equatorial Guinea 0, Nigeria 1
- June 21, 2008 - Nigeria 2, Equatorial Guinea 0
- Sept. 9, 2008 - South Africa 0, Nigeria 1
- Oct. 11, 2008 - Nigeria 4, Sierra Leone 1
- March 29, 2009 - Mozambique 0, Nigeria 0
- June 7, 2009 - Nigeria 3, Kenya 0
- June 20, 2009 - Tunisia 0, Nigeria 0
- Sept. 6, 2009 - Nigeria 2, Tunisia 2
- Oct. 11, 2009 - Nigeria 1, Mozambique 0
- Nov. 14, 2009 - Kenya 2, Nigeria 3
- Number of World Cup appearances: 3
- All-time record: 11 games played, 4 wins, 1 draw, 6 losses
- Goals for: 14
- Goals against: 16
- Biggest victory: 3-0 vs. Bulgaria in 1994
- Biggest defeat: 4-1 vs. Denmark in 1998
- Top scorer: Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amunike (2 goals)
- Most appearances: Jay-Jay Okocha (nine matches)
- Hosted the World Cup: Never
World Cup track record
- 1930-1958 -Did not enter
- 1962 - Did not qualify
- 1966 - Did not enter
- 1970-1990 - Did not qualify
- 1994 - Second round
- 1998 - Second round
- 2002 - First round
- 2006 - Did not qualify
- FIFA member since: 1960
- Team nickname: Super Eagles
- All-time caps leader: Mudashiru Lawal (86)
- All-time leading scorer: Rashidi Yekini (37)
- African Cup of Nations Champions: 1980, 1994
- Under-17 World Champions: 1985, 1993, 2007
- African Youth Champions: 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 2005
- Olympic Gold Medal: 1996
- Olympic Silver Medal: 2008
- Muda Lawal: The midfielder was a hero of the Nigerian side that won its first African Cup of Nations in 1980 - his goal in the final against Algeria secured victory for the "Super Eagles."
- Segun Odegbami: A former captain of the national team, Odegbami led Nigeria to victory at the 1980 African Nations Cup and is considered one of the greatest African soccer players of all-time.