Group D: Nigeria         Castellano   Page 2

Argentina  2

Austria  2

Belgium  2

Brazil  2

Bulgaria  2

Cameroon  2

Chile  2

Colombia  2

Croatia  2

Denmark  2

England  2

France  2

Germany  2

Iran  2

Italy  2

Jamaica  2

Japan  2

México  2

Morocco  2

Netherlands  2

Nigeria  2

Norway  2

Paraguay

Romania

Saudi Arabia  2

Scotland  2

South Africa 2

South Korea

Spain  2

Tunisia

United States

Yugoslavia  2

   Nigeria Football Association   

Coach: Bora MILUTINOVIC

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vs. SPAIN

13.06.98 Nantes

vs. BULGARIA

19.06.98 Paris

vs. PARAGUAY

24.06.98 Toulouse

Team Colors: Green shirts, White pants

Confederation: CAF

2nd World Cup appearance (1994,1998)

African Nations Champions 1980 and1994

Olympic champions Atlanta in 1996

Key players: F Tijani Babanigida (Ajax, Netherlands),

D Taribo West (Inter Milan, Italy),

M Sunday Oliseh (Ajax).

Bora Milutonovic & Daniel Amokachi: Ready for another Olympic type surprise?

Keep an Eye on: Jay Jay Okacha: Charmingly creative,whimsically unpredictable, predicted by Michel Platini to be a player of the tournament.

Nwanku Kanu: The story of the World Cup if he recovers fitness after heart surgery.

Daniel Amokachi: An agressive foward who was the leading scorer in 1998 qualification with 4 scores.

Analysis: Individual brilliance of the players long has been overshadowed by the political chaos that surrounds the team. Can Nwankwo Kanu, who had heart surgery, be effective? Many players were 1996 Olympic gold medalists. F Daniel Amokachi should be factor. Defense a problem.

Allegations of human rights violations by the ruling military junta almost got Nigeria kicked out of the Cup and the rulers are using the World Cup team to assauge fears about them.

History: The Nigerian Football Federation was created in 1945. It was the first year that a competition was organized, bringing together clubs from Lagos, Port Harcourt and Calabar.The championship was also renamed the Challenge Cup replacing the Governor's Cup, as it had been known under their British colonizers. It was only several years later that the Challenge Cup became a national trophy when other top clubs from different provinces were invited to play. However, the clubs had to wait until 1990 for the professional league to be introduced.

Nigerian clubs have done well in the continental club competitions, even though they haven't won the 'Blue Ribbon' event, The African Champions Cup. Shooting Stars Club (1976), Rangers Enugu (1977) and the BBC Lions (1990) have won the African Cup Winners Cup, while Shooting Stars (1976) and Bencel Insurance (1994) won the CAF Cup. The national side claimed its first major trophy when they won the 1980 African Nations Cup in front of its own fans. They repeated their success in 1994 with a team made up principally of players who played for European clubs. 1994 also saw Nigeria compete for the first time in the World Cup finals.

They finished on top of their group, in front of Bulgaria, who went on to be semi-finalists, and Argentina, before going down to Italy in the last 16 (2-1 in extra-time). Confirmation that they were among the strongest footballing nations came in Atlanta in 1996 when they captured the gold medal, beating Brazil 4-3 in the semi-final and then downing Argentina 3-2 in the final. Because of these performances, players like Victor Ikpeba (AS Monaco), Daniel Amokachi (Besiktas), Finidi George (Real Betis) and Daniel Amunike (Barcelona) are now justifiably part of the soccer aristocracy.

What a pity that Nigeria have been drawn in the "Group of Death". If any team can fulfil the prophecy of Walter Winterbottom, the former England manager, that an African nation could win the World Cup by the end of the century, it is Nigeria. They have the players, pace, power and experience of the European club game - but do they have the politics?The question is loaded. Human rights campaigners have called for Nigeria's expulsion because of the policies of the military junta of General Sani Abacha. By contrast, Fifa's leader, João Havelange, was decorated as an honorary chief. 

Nigeria's skill is not in question. They won the Olympic football title, coming from behind to beat strong Brazil and Argentina sides. However, their captain then, the athletic and uncannily aware Nwankwo Kanu, is now recovering from heart surgery for a problem that threatened his playing career. He hopes to be available in France but if not, others of note include the muscular pair of Emmanuel Amunike and Daniel Amokachi - the latter, never given a fair chance while at Everton - in attack. Jay Jay Okocha is a delicate midfield impressionist and the gangly Sunday Oliseh, 22, is so gifted that he defies attempts to subdue or pigeonhole him. Before joining Ajax, Oliseh had played for clubs in Belgium, Italy and Germany.

As for a coach . . . well, the men at the head of the Sports Ministry annulled the contracts of the last two, a Dutchman and a Frenchman, and seemed in no panic to find a manager or formulate a training program. If they don't know in which direction they are going, how do others stop them? They finally decided on México-dismissed Bora Mulitonovic and he seems to be having a rocky time of it already. Nevertheless, the country's political climate is again bothering their preparation. There is talk that they should be told not to come to France '98 because of the way the dissidents are treated by the military dictatorship. Never a dull moment. But it didn't stop them from winning the Hong Kong Cup this past March.

Home Shirt

POSITION NAME AGE CAPS

G Abiodun Baruwa 23 2

G Peter Rufai 35 65  

G Ike Shorounmu 28 4

D Celestine Babayaro 23 6

D Austin Eguavoen 31 49

D Ben Iroha 27 33

D Chidi Nwanu 30 15

D Uche Okafor 30 31  

D Uche Okechukwu 29 40

D Mobi Oparaku 23 8

D Taribo West 23 7

M Mutiu Adepoju 27 34

M Victor Ikpeba 24 14

M Nwankwo Kanu 21 4

M Garba Lawal 22 3

M Sunday Oliseh 22 20

M Jay-Jay Okocha 23 25

M Godwin Okpara 25 15

M Wilson Oruma 22 4  

F Jonathan Akpoborie 27 9

F Daniel Amokachi 24 42

F Emmanuel Amunike 26 25

F Tijani Babangida 23 5

F Finidi George 27 35

F Chris Ohenhen 26 41  

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