This by far is Nigeria’s best qualifying campaign to a FIFA organized World Cup at the biggest level in football.
The Super Eagles ensured their passage to the Russia 2018 soccer fiesta after overcoming the stubborn Chipolopolo of Zambia in a tough game on Saturday, October 7, in Uyo.
In retrospect, Nigeria have had a history in making it to the World Cup finals as one of Africa’s strong representatives after passing through the rigors of the qualifying stages.
Nigeria’s participation in Russia 2018 will mark her sixth successful entry into the biggest tournament in the world.
NAIJ.com reviews the Super Eagles qualifying campaigns from past till present.
Here is how it all started from how the Super Eagles qualified from their first to the sixth World Cup qualifications.
1. USA 94’
The squad that had a third place finish at the Senegal 92’ Nation Cup metamorphosed into a formidable team as the quest for World Cup ticket began.
The Nigerian team scrapped past South Africa and Congo in the first round with three wins and a draw. The Super eagles were drawn alongside Algeria and Cote d’ Ivoire in the final round where only a team would qualify for the tournament in the United States.
In the first match in the group, the Desert Warriors could not secure maximum points against the Ivoirians as they played a 1-1 draw in Algiers which sounded a note of warning of how tough the group was to the Nigerian team.
The Super Eagles knowing full well that they had to give their best shot in their first encounter with Cote d Ivoire went ahead through Rasheedi Yekini’s goal in Abidjan in the first half but the Elephants fought back and scored two goals from Abdulahi Traore and Ouattara to earn their first win in the group.
The Clemens Westerhof’s men came back strongly to defeat Algeria by 4-1 at the National Stadium Surulere, Lagos where Austin Okocha made his senior debut and scored for the Green and White men through his trademark free kick. Yekini scored two other goals while Amokachi added another as it ended 4-1.
In the reverse fixture, Thompson Oliha drew first blood for Nigeria while Daniel Amokachi added the second but the Elephants responded courtesy of a Joel Teihi’s strike five minutes after the re-start which made the score 2-1.
At this point the goal silenced the home crowd as the one-goal margin was not enough to convincingly lead the pack. The prolific Yekini tapped-in from close range following a swift counter attacking move from Amokachi and Amunike as he netted his brace from the penalty spot to guide the team to a 4-1 victory.
With the result, Nigeria just needed an away draw in Algiers to secure her first World Cup qualification. Stephen Keshi’s captained side did not disappoint as the team took the lead through their menacing winger Finidi George who fired his shot into the corner beyond the reach of the goalkeeper.
The Algerians did not relent as they gave the visitors a run for their money and the pressure finally paid off when Abdulahi Tasfaout restored parity in the 66th minutes as the game got to its climax.
The Super Eagles were able to defend all through the latter part of the match as it ended 1-1 and it was an emotional moment for some of the players as the long wait for a World Cup was over.
2. France 98’
The victorious Dream Team that won gold at the Atlanta 96’ Olympic Games formed the fulcrum of the refined Super Eagles side. Nigeria was one of the highest placed teams in Africa in the FIFA ranking as they were given automatic slot to qualify into the final phase of the qualification process.
The Nigerian squad was the most in-form team going into the France 98’ qualifiers, so they had a good squad and had a psychological advantage going into the group against Guinea, Kenya and Burkina Faso.
The Super Eagles won their first match against Burkina Faso by 2-0, then played a 1-1 draw away to Kenya and also secured a 2-1 victory over Guinea in a top-of-table clash. The Guineans gave the Green and White a run for their money as the game ended in a stalemate at half time.
The stubborn resistance was broken as Amokachi scored two goals in two minutes to give Nigeria the advantage. Titi Camara scored three minutes to the end but the Super Eagles held on to put themselves in commanding position in the group as it ended 2-1. The 1994 African Champions were on the driving seat after getting seven points from a possible nine.
The Eagles also secured maximum points away to the Stallions of Burkina Faso and the 3-0 thumping of Kenya at home was enough for Philippe Troussier’s side to earn yet another spot in the World Cup finals in the European continent.
However the already qualified Super Eagles lost their last group match by 0-1 to Guinea in Conakry as the second placed side claimed the bragging rights which was too little too late.
3. Korea/Japan 2002
The road to the World Cup tournament co-hosted by two Asian nations was supposed to be an easy ride for the Super Eagles but it went into the last game to decide their fate.
Nigeria ran ragged on the Eritreans in the first round with a convincing four-goal aggregate score line and was eventually grouped alongside Liberia, Ghana, Sudan and Sierra Leone.
Losing 1-2 away to Liberia and also picking up a point against Ghana in Accra put the Super Eagles on a tight rope but got back into contention after picking up maximum points at home to Sudan and Sierra Leone respectively.
However the George Weah captained side were already on the driver’s seat after Sunday Oliseh and his crew picked up another loss away to Sierra Leone in Freetown as they led the group without a defeat.
Mathematically, Nigeria had to qualify by winning their last three games to Liberia, Sudan and the Black Stars which they did emphatically and qualified to their third appearance at the soccer fiesta.
4. South Africa 2010
It would have been a shame if the Super Eagles did not make it through to the first World Cup staged in Africa as they failed to qualify for the previous Germany 2006 finals.
Nigeria had Tunisia Mozambique and Kenya in their group as the winners will qualify for the World Cup while the second and third placed teams advance to the Nations Cup.
The turning point in the group was the double-header against Tunisia which ended in a score draw in both legs as the late Shuaibu Amodu led team permutated on the outcome of the Mozambique/Tunisia game to make it through.
Luckily for the Eagles, the Southern African nations shocked the North Africans as Nigeria battled past Kenya to advance to her fourth World Cup in dramatic fashion.
5. Brazil 2014
It was a clean slate for the late Stephen Keshi and his boys after emerging group winners in the second round of matches in their group as they bettered the likes of Namibia, Malawi and Kenya.
The West African team was set for her final clash against the Ethiopians who knocked out South Africa, Botswana and the likes in the second phase.
Victor Moses and Obinna Nsofor were the goal scorers for the Super Eagles as they took a two-goal advantage to the second leg.
Emmanuel Emenike’s brace was enough for Nigeria to qualify for their fifth time in another historic tournament in Brazil.
6. Russia 2018
Since the appointment of Gernot Rohr, the Super Eagles team have been molded into a world-class side and one of the teams to beat in Africa.
The 2018 World cup qualifying Group B houses Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia. The Super Eagles have been cruising after winning her first three matches against the Chipolopolo, the Desert Warriors and the Indomitable Lions respectively.
Rohr’s men picked up a point in Yaounde against the Cameroonians and ensured her sixth qualification after making it a double over the Zambian national side at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo.
The outcome of the final encounter away to Algeria will be academic as the Super Eagles have already booked their tickets to the World cup and being the first African nation to do so.
Nigeria Super Eagles qualify for 2018 FIFA World cup - On NAIJ.com TV