This team could be the first African nation to make it to the semis; but their qualifying run-up to the Cup was less than impressive.
Team: The Super Eagles
Colors: Green and white
Nigeria has come in second twice in the past five years in big tournaments (Argentina beat them in both finals). But this squad is full of talent and speed, and they’re hoping to outrun opponents throughout the World Cup competition.
Operating under the philosophy of strength through numbers, the Nigerian team can flat out fly. No wonder they’re called “Eagles.” Although their style of play can be boring at times, Nigeria’s all about catching the defense sleeping and getting a fast break.
Key Players: Joseph Yobo, John Obi Mikel and Yakubu Aiygbeni
Yobo and his three co-defenders will have their hands full, especially during the first game; but the captain can shut down just about anyone one-on-one, and he will hope to do so against Argentina’s miracle man, Lionel Messi.
Mikel has controlled the midfield all year for club team Chelsea, and now he’ll try to take that control to the World Cup, using long accurate passes and crosses to his forwards on the break.
A lot is riding on the performance of top scorer Yakubu. If he has a chance to break free, he can score against anyone, but unless he’s getting the ball played into his feet, he won’t be as effective.
Key Matchup: Nigeria vs. Argentina
Nigeria is 0-2 against Argentina in big games. They lost the ’08 Olympic gold and the U-20 title in ’05. Now The Super Eagles have a chance for revenge. This underplayed rivalry is sure to stir things up in Group B. Watch for the big tackles.
Prediction: Is this the year Nigeria finally beats Argentina? The Super Eagles will fly through the group stage without a problem, but their lack of finesse on the pitch will hurt the one-and-done team in the end, and they’ll head home early after making it to the knockout round.
Related link: World Cup 2010 Countdown