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Nigeria 2002 World Cup: Remembering the Super Eagles' Classic Team

01:33 GMT 19/11/2022
Jay-Jay Okocha, Nigeria 2002
GOAL's Ed Dove remembers the Super Eagles side that held England at the World Cup, but ultimately failed to make the knockout stages.
  • Ike Shorunmu

    Ike Shorunmu

    Injured on the eve of World Cup ’98, but returned to take his place between the sticks for the 2002 tournament.

    He was criticised for his performances at the ’02 Africa Cup of Nations, where his rustiness showed through after being without a club for most of the season.

  • Efe Sodje of Nigeria, 2002

    Efe Sodje

    Lower-league cult hero in English football, Sodje’s ‘Against All Odds’ bandana made him one of the most recognisable players at the 2002 tournament, even though he’d not featured for Nigeria before the tournament.

    He played in the games against Argentina and England, putting in a whole-hearted play in the latter fixture as the Three Lions were held to a 0-0 draw.

  • Taribo West & Joseph Yobo, Nigeria 2002

    Taribo West

    Started both Argentina and Sweden matches in the centre of the defence, seeing off competition from Ifeanzi Udeze to start.

    This would represent the premature end of the legend’s international career.

  • Isaac Okoronkwo of Nigeria, England's Michael Owen, 2002

    Isaac Okoronkwo

    Struggled during the tournament, despite playing every minute of every game, and failed to really generate chemistry alongside West in the heart of the backline.

    Udeze or Joseph Yobo might have been a wiser option alongside the Pastor.

  • Celestine Babayaro

    Celestine Babayaro

    Entered the tournament on the back of a disrupted season with Chelsea, where a thigh strain had stymied his progress.

    Featured in the first two matches, taking a more advanced role in the defeat by Sweden.

  • Joseph Yobo

    Joseph Yobo

    The only player to have featured for every single minute of both the Nations Cup and the World Cup, Yobo occupied Nigeria’s right-back position, before coming inside later in his career.

  • Austine Okocha

    Jay-Jay Okocha

    An undisputed starter in the heart of the park for Nigeria, Okocha didn’t have as much influence as he had done in 1998—perhaps because of the absence of Sunday Oliseh—but he still starred in the draw with England.

    He wore the armband in Oliseh’s absence.

  • Garba Lawal of Nigeria, Argentina's Pablo Aimar, 2002

    Garba Lawal

    Started against Argentina, but was deemed to be responsible for the Eagles’ underwhelming showing, and wasn’t seen again for the rest of the tournament.

    He’d return to feature for Nigeria at two Afcons.

  • Bartholomew Ogbeche Nigeria

    Bartholomew Ogbeche

    Paris Saint-Germain starlet, who was thrust into the action despite having been overlooked for the Nations Cup campaign earlier that year.

    He started both of the opening matches, featuring initially in tandem with Nwankwo Kanu and Julius Aghahowa.

  • Julius Aghahowa - Nigeria

    Julius Aghahowa

    Striking sensation at the time, who entered the World Cup hotly tipped to make an impact following three goals in the Nations Cup earlier that year.

    He scored against Sweden, as the Super Eagles tumbled out of the tournament, but was unable to truly build on his Afcon heroics.

  • Claudio Lopez of Argentina, Nigeria's Nwankwo Kanu, 2002

    Nwankwo Kanu

    Another World Cup passed Kanu by, as he started the Eagles’ Argentina defeat, was introduced as a substitute against Sweden, but wasn’t used against England.

    He’d also take part in the 2010 tournament, but never truly left a mark on the grandest stage of all.

  • Pius Ikedia of Nigeria

    Pius Ikedia

    Lightning right winger was expected to start for the Eagles, but ended up coming on as a substitute in each match as other options were used on his flank.

    He struggled to have the desired effect.

  • Justice Christopher

    Justice Christopher

    The midfielder only featured once at the 2002 Nations Cup—in the third-placed playoff against Mali—but replaced Garba Lawal in the starting XI during the course of the World Cup.

    The strapping Belgium-based got his opportunity due to Sunday Oliseh’s fallout with Festus Onigbinde.

  • Ifenanyi Udeze of Nigeria, England's David Beckham, 2002

    Ifeanyi Udeze

    Played four matches at the Nations Cup earlier in the year, but the versatile defender was overlooked for the Argentina game before coming into the side against Sweden and England.

    He was part of the fine rearguard display against the Three Lions.

  • Rabiu Afolabi

    Rafiu Afolabi

    Back-up left-back option who was one of four players who didn’t see any action during the tournament.

  • Eric Ejiofor of Nigeria, 2002

    Eric Ejiofor

    Provided home-based representation in the squad, and looked to compete for minutes at centre-back, but the Enyimba man ended up not getting on the field at the tournament.

  • Mutiu Adepoju of Nigeria

    Mutiu Adepoju

    One of the squad’s older heads, the Salamanca veteran featured in three matches in 1998—scoring against Spain—but was unused for the duration of the 2002 tournament.

  • Benedict Akwuegbu of Nigeria, England's Trevor Sinclair 2002

    Benedict Akwuegbu

    Unlucky not to have been selected for the Nations Cup in Mali, Akwuegbu was one of five changes made by the head coach for the England game, as the Eagles gave several youngster the opportunity to taste World Cup action.

    He would never again feature for Nigeria at a major tournament.

  • Austin Ejide of Nigeria

    Austin Ejide

    He was used by Onigbinde in warm-up games ahead of the competition, prompting speculation that he may feature, but ended up not getting any playing time.

  • Femi Opabunmi

    Femi Opabunmi

    One of a number of promising players included in the squad, Opabunmi—like many of his youthful compatriots—failed to truly realise his promise.

    He started the England game, aged just 17, having not featured in the Eagles’ two defeats.

  • Vincent Enyeama of Nigeria vs. England

    Vincent Enyeama

    In contrast to Ejide, Enyeama wasn’t really on anyone’s radar ahead of the tournament, and even found himself behind Ademola Bankole of Crewe Alexandra in the pecking order.

    He started against England—his competitive debut, aged 19—having only made his senior debut against Kenya in the May.

    One outstanding save from Paul Scholes set him on his way to a remarkable international career.

  • James Obiorah of Nigeria, Paul Scholes & David Beckham of England, 2002

    James Obiorah

    An unexpected addition to the squad after impressing in pre-tournament friendlies, Obiorah played the full 90 minutes in the 0-0 draw with England, providing an effective midfield screen alongside Christopher.

  • John Utaka, Nigeria 2002

    John Utaka

    Didn’t feature at the Nations Cup, but was introduced for the World Cup and was an unlikely starter against Sweden.

    He wasn’t able to truly make a mark in the bout, and wasn’t called again in the England match.