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Ranking Nigeria’s greatest World Cup moments

16:01 EAT 20/11/2022
Vincent Enyeama of Nigeria, Argentina's Lionel Messi
GOAL grade the Super Eagles’ finest events at the global showpiece

Nigeria may not be participating in Qatar 2022 but the country has had a plethora of momentous games and stand-alone incidents at the finals since 1994.

The Super Eagles’ first participation came in the USA and they were involved in the following two finals in 1998 and 2002 before missing out in 2006.

Another three appearances in succession in 2010, 2014 and 2018 have preceded this year’s non-involvement, but the nation’s six appearances have not been devoid of weighty episodes.

In this feature, GOAL rank some of the West African giants’ finest.

  • Peter Odemwingie - Nigeria

    Ending winless run in 2014

    After initially impressing in 1994 and 1998, Nigeria’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of Denmark in the Round of 16 in France began a run of nine games without success at the finals.

    No victories in 2002 and eight years later meant the Super Eagles failed to make it out of the group in those tournaments, so they faced a losing battle before 2014.

    A goalless encounter against Iran in their opening game meant a result was needed when they faced off with Bosnia and Herzegovina if they wanted to avoid requiring maximum points against Argentina in their final game.

    Peter Odemwingie shoot between Asmir Begovic’s legs just before the half-hour mark to put Nigeria in front and they held on for another hour to win 1-0.

    The game could have gone differently had Edin Dzeko’s 22nd-minute goal stood or had Vincent Enyeama not made a timely save in second-half stoppage time.

    Nigeria advanced from Group F, ending their two-tournament run without progress.

  • Ahmed Musa Nigeria Argentina World Cup 2018

    Ahmed Musa brace vs Argentina

    Despite suffering a 3-2 defeat by Argentina in their final game, the individual performance of Musa must go down as one of Nigeria’s finest at the World Cup.

    Lionel Messi netted twice but the Super Eagles’ wide attacker matched one of the sport’s revered players by netting a brace, with the quality of those strikes especially impressive.

    The first was a curled effort from the inside-left channel while the second demonstrated his in-game intelligence and composure to connect with Emmanuel Emenike and finish coolly past Sergio Romero.

    Nigeria were beaten 3-2 but Musa’s double lives long in the memory.

  • Sunday Oliseh

    Sunday Oliseh’s Spain piledriver

    No Nigeria strike at the World Cup finals matches Oliseh’s rocket-propelled effort against Spain in France ’98.

    The Super Eagles captain’s shot arrowed past Andoni Zubizarreta to seal the nation’s unexpected success.

    The West African nation had lost all their tune-up games preceding that fixture and the mood was sullen before facing La Furia Roja, so success was not anticipated.

    It made Oliseh’s goal taste even sweeter as it got Nigerians believing again despite their underwhelming preparation.

  • Rasheed YEKINI

    That Rashidi Yekini moment

    Nigeria’s World Cup debut will probably be remembered for Yekini’s iconic celebration after putting then-African champions ahead in the 21st minute.

    The goal itself was nothing special — it was effectively a poacher’s tap-in from two yards — but the centre-forward’s reaction is iconic to this day.

    Bellowing what remains unintelligible, the striker’s roar and clasp of the net is one of the finals’ stirring images.

    Goals from Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amunike sealed a 3-0 success over Bulgaria, and they went on to progress as group winners in a section that had Argentina, before succumbing to Italy in the Round of 16.

  • Vincent Enyeama & Lionel Messi

    That Vincent Enyeama performance

    If Yekini’s celebration lives long in the memory, so does Enyeama’s outstanding showing against Argentina in 2010.

    It was essentially Enyeama vs Lionel Messi in that encounter, with the shot-stopper thwarting the attacker four times to prevent a worse defeat for the Super Eagles.

    The goalkeeper made five saves in total to limit the final score to 1-0, and his showing will forever be remembered as one of the best-ever individual World Cup performances.