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Some decisive moments in Nigeria’s World Cup history


The Super Eagles of Nigeria will be making their sixth appearance at the FIFA World Cup in two weeks time when they face Croatia in their Group D 2018 opener.

Here are five crucial moments that defined the fortunes of the Super Eagles over the course of their tournament history.

Nigeria vs Bulgaria — Rashidi Yekini scores Nigeria first goal.
Nigeria took to the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas, USA, for their first ever World Cup game in 1994.

What marked the start of a new era in Nigerian football was the first goal of the game, which was also the country’s first in the competition.

The most prolific striker in Nigeria’s football history, the late Rashidi Yekini, scored the goal.


His celebration after that strike, crying while holding the goal’s net, became one of the iconic images of the tournament till date.

Spain vs Nigeria — Sunday Oliseh’s wonder strike at France ‘98.
Not much of Nigeria’s World Cup football story would elicit emotion like Sunday Oliseh’s screamer against tournament favourites, La Roja, at the France ‘98 edition.

With the game deadlocked between two teams who have undoubtedly given their all, it was the former Nigeria manager who popped up with the game winner, and in breathtaking fashion too.

Picking up a half cleared ball from over 30 yards out, the midfielder belted in a daisy cutter past Andoni Zubizarreta with less than 12 minutes left on the clock. The Stade de la Beaujoire erupted.

Nigeria vs South Korea — Yakubu Aiyegbeni’s horrible miss in 2010.
This was one definitive moment Nigerians would not want to remember. A win for Nigeria in the last group game at South Africa 2010 against the Asian Tigers of South Korea would be enough to guide her to the next stage.

A game, which started brilliantly soon descended into chaos for the African giants. South Korea not only equalized, but also nudged themselves ahead to leave the Super Eagles needing a miraculous plunge.

But then, what happened in the 66th minute of the second period remained indelible in most people’s minds.

Ayila Yusuf made a nuisance of himself down the left flank to get on the end of a pass before crossing to an unmarked Yakubu in front of the Korea goal.

For some reasons inexplicable, Yak fluffed his lines from that spot to leave not just spectators at the Durban Stadium, but every Nigerian shell-shocked.

By the time he redeemed himself with a penalty goal three minutes later, the deed had been done already. Nigeria failed to advance past that stage.

Greece vs Nigeria — Sani Kaita’s avoidable red card in 2010.
Nigeria’s folklore at the World Cup will not be complete without the midfielder’s faux pas against Greece at the 2010 tourney in South Africa.

The Super Eagles were in the lead as early as the 16th minute in Bloemfontein and their opponents were looking very much for the taking.

Quite why Kaita thought it wise to kick out at Vasilis Torosidis remain a mystery many fans might never know, but what was clear was that center referee, Oscar Ruiz, duly gave him his marching orders, leaving the team sitting ducks for the rest of the game.

The eventual result? Greece went on to score their first World Cup goals, and win their first match in the history of the World Cup.
France vs Nigeria — Ogenyi Onazi’s heartbreaking injury in 2014.

Nigeria have engaged 1998 tournament winners, France, in a pulsating second round clash at the Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha in the race for a quarterfinal slot.

The game looked to go down the wire and Onazi; he particularly looked the most scintillating of the Eagles to watch, hassling and harrying while taking the game to every one of the French midfielders.

But sadly, it was when Blaise Matuidi snapped into the then Lazio starlet with a criminal tackle a minute shy of the hour mark that things inevitably fell apart for the Stephen Keshi led team.

While Les Bleus went on to win 2-0 and move into the next round, why Matuidi’s action failed to earn him a dismissal is still up for debate even till today.
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