Nigeria’s Rising Talent Could Make Super Eagles World Cup Group D Surprise

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Nigeria is heading to the 2018 World Cup after qualifying for the third time in a row. So what can we expect from the Super Eagles this time around?

They have been managed by Gernot Rohr since 2016, and although the German has led them through a somewhat dominant qualification campaign, the Super Eagles have always been plagued with inconsistency.  

In the past, the team also had problems with funding, with key players like John Obi Mikel having to rescue Nigeria’s 2016 Olympics campaign by arranging things like food and places to train for the players. 

But things have been looking good for the Super Eagles recently, and Nigerian fans should go into the competition with some optimism. And even if the squad puts in disappointing performances, at least they will look amazing in those new Nike kits. Here’s what you need to know about Nigeria entering the World Cup.


How They Qualified

Nigeria’s qualification campaign was rather dominant. It topped a group that also included Zambia, Algeria and Cameroon. 

The Super Eagles started off their qualification campaign in impressive fashion, securing an away win against Zambia with two first-half goals from their young Premier League stars, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho. They then beat Algeria 3-1 at home and went on to trounce Cameroon, winning 4-0. 

That particular performance showed that Nigeria’s team is capable of working as a single cohesive unit rather than a group of individuals with little chemistry. 

Each goal came from a different player, which shows that it does not need to rely on the talent of one or two key players. It ended up qualifying with a game to spare after a tough 1-0 victory over Zambia. 


Group Stage Games

Nigeria will be competing in Group D with Argentina, Iceland and Croatia. It needs to really be at its best to make it through to the next stage. 

Argentina is favored to top the group as it has the likes of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero that the other three countries will struggle to defend. Nigeria always seems to play Argentina in international tournaments, and Argentina usually winds up as the victor. 

Croatia will also offer significant challenges for Nigeria. A midfield that boasts the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic is sure to give the Super Eagles some trouble. Nigeria will need to get at least a point from this fixture.

Iceland showed its strength at Euro 2016 when it knocked out England despite being huge underdogs. Nigeria will need to take the debut side very seriously if it is to win there, too. There are no easy games in this group. 


Possible Route to the Final

If Nigeria makes it out of its Group then it will play a team from Group C, which consists of France, Denmark, Peru and Australia.

France is expected to top the group, and if Nigeria comes in second, then it may wel play against Didier Deschamps’ side. 

This is clearly not ideal, and Nigeria would be huge underdogs and unlikely to progress further than the last 16.

If Nigeria somehow makes it through, then it could face the likes of Spain, Portugal or Uruguay in the quarterfinals before a likely showdown against Brazil or Belgium just to make the final.


Provisional Squad List

So far, Nigeria has only cut its squad down to 25 men. Here they are:

Goalkeepers: Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Daniel Akpeyi, Francis Uzoho, 

Defenders: William Ekong, Leon Balogun, Olaoluwa Aina, Kenneth Omeruo, Bryan Idowu, Chidozie Awaziem, Abdullahi Shehu, Elderson Echiejile, Tyronne Ebuehi,

Midfielders: Mikel John Obi, Ogenyi Onazi , Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo, John Ogu, Joel Obi, Mikel Agu

Forwards: Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho, Victor Moses, Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi, Simeon Nwankwo


Predicted Lineup 

(4-2-3-1): Uzoho; Echiejile, Troost-Ekong, Balogun, Shehu; Mikel, Ndidi; Moses, Iwobi, Iheanacho; Ighalo.


Outlook

In reality, it will be tough to progress to the last 16 for Nigeria, but it is not impossible. However, it is unlikely to top its group and is likely to face tough opposition once it has reached the knockout stage. 

The ceiling figures to be the round of 16 given the opposition, but with a young, eager group complementing veterans like Mikel, any nation would be unwise to take Nigeria lightly in Russia.

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