Nigeria: World Cup 2014 Team Preview
Best Ever Finish: Last 16 (1994, 1998)
Captain: Vincent Enyeama
Manager: Stephen Keshi
Having already won the African Cup of Nations earlier this year, Nigeria then eased past Ethiopia in the World Cup play off.
Oddly, despite this success, coach Keshi has been having problems with his own football federation. Including not being paid for several months and disputes regarding players. It remains to be seen whether this has an impact upon the team during the summer.
Keshi sets up his team in a defensive manner, then looking to counter attack with plenty of pace and power. This team has an abundance of talented athletes but is also young and hungry.
While this is an exciting prospect it can lead to recklessness and the abandonment of such a sound defensive structure. Getting a balance right is crucial and up to now, there is little to suggest they have been able to achieve that.
Nigeria are certainly capable of making a strong run in this tournament and the knockout stages are by no means out the question. Consistency and maturity will be key if these hopes are to come to fruition.
Key Player – John Obi Mikel
The athletic Chelsea man has been much improved for his club over the past few seasons and this from has translated into his international play, where he has been a key man in the heart of the Nigeria midfield.
He is the anchor in midfielder, a skilled passer and a tough tackler. These attributes help release and accentuate the qualities of players around him. Most notably blocking off the midfield and releasing counter attacks for his quick and powerful front men.
Whilst it’s not immediately obvious, Mikel is tantamount to how this Nigerian team play. He needs to be switched on defensively and seamless in transitioning the ball from defence, through midfield and into attack.