WORLD CUP FORECAST: Group F – Which Nigeria will turn up in Brazil?

It is difficult to define exactly which Nigeria side will turn up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
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It is difficult to define exactly which Nigeria side will turn up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The reigning African champions have the potential to cause plenty of problems for their opponents but can just as easily be brushed aside as we saw four years ago in South Africa.

Nigeria recorded one solitary point in 2010, losing to Argentina and Greece, while drawing with South Korea in their final group stage match.

This time around, they come into the tournament on the back of their 2013 African Cup of Nations success which is sure to provide some sort of confidence.

Recent friendly results have thrown up a trio of draws with Mexico, Scotland and Greece, making it a tough task to analyse just how Stephen Keshi’s Super Eagles will perform.

There is plenty to like about the squad on paper but that does not necessarily mean they will be able to recreate the outcome of the 1994 and 1998 teams who both finished top of their group before losing out in the Round of 16.

Nigeria

Manager: Stephen Keshi

Fixtures: Iran - June 16 (Curitiba), Bosnia & Herzegovina - June 21 (Cuiaba), Argentina - June 25 (Porto Alegre)

Past outings against group opponents: Nigeria have played Iran once in the past, for a 1-0 friendly win in Hong Kong in 1998.

Nigeria and Bosnia have never met at international senior level.

Nigeria and Argentina have played each other six times previously. The Super Eagles have won just once, while drawing once and losing on four occasions. The Africans have lost three times to Argentina in the group stage of World Cups for three losses in 1994, 2002 and 2010.

Key players: John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Emmanuel Emenike (Fenerbahce), Vincent Enyeama (Lille), Victor Moses (Chelsea)

World Cup utopia: Making it any further past the Round of 16.

Doomsday scenario: Finishing bottom of Group F.

Qualified by virtue of: CAF play-off win over Ethiopia (4-1 on aggregate)

Best result at a World Cup: Round of 16 (1994, 1998)

tribal’s forecast:

Keshi has instilled in his side a belief that they can beat anybody they come up against.

Whether the Nigerian players actually believe that is another story but at least the boss has plenty of faith in his men.

Recent allegations of match-fixing, following goalkeeper Austin Ejide’s disallowed own-goal in the 2-2 friendly draw with Scotland, are sure to bind the players together but can they take the extra step?

The usually defensive-minded Mikel relishes his creative role in the national team and will be supported by the likes of Liverpool loanee Moses and Lazio’s Ogenyi Onazi.

The midfield will be where most of Nigeria’s influence comes from as they look to feed Emenike who had a decent season in Turkey, scoring 12 goals for Fenerbahce.

Other than Emenike though, it is hard to see exactly where the goals will come from. Peter Odemwingie hasn’t scored an international goal since August 2010, Ahmed Musa doesn’t have the best of strike rates, Shola Ameobi is noted more for his hard work rather than finesse while Uche Nwofor and Michael Uchebo are largely untested at this level.

Group F is something that Nigeria could successfully navigate when at their best but if they fail to make the most of the opening fixture against Iran, their chances of progressing to the knockout phase will decrease massively.

Sure, the talent is there but do the Nigerians have the mettle to mix it with the likes of Argentina and Bosnia?

Prediction: Group stage elimination.

 
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