Expectations are diminished for Nigeria at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, but it was not long ago that the Super Eagles were seen as the most likely African nation to finally reach the last four of a FIFA World Cup. And though they have just one point from their last five matches in the finals and missed out on Germany 2006 altogether, the continent’s most populous nation looks likely to be a dangerous dark horse with little to lose up against the world’s best.
That was how the side came to USA 94, where they dismantled eventual semi-finalists Bulgaria 3-0 in their first match before going on to cruelly fall 2-1 against Italy in the second round. However, that was not before the likes of Sunday Oliseh, Victor Ikpeba, Jay-Jay Okocha and Finidi George had become synonymous with the next generation of explosive African football. A similarly quick start in 1998 - they stunned Spain 3-2 in one of the matches of the tournament to start and beat Bulgaria again 1-0 - gave way to another second round defeat, this time a disheartening thumping at the hands of Denmark 4-1. But after dramatically reaching South Africa in their final qualifier, Nigeria could be forgiven for going into the finals with a positive attitude.
The road to South Africa
A surprising scoreless draw in their first match in the final round of CAF qualifying to Mozambique left Nigeria playing catch-up to Tunisia from the start, and consecutive draws with the Carthage Eagles had the west ...