The Nigeria national football team, nicknamed Super Eagles or previously Green Eagles, is the national team representing Nigeria and is controlled by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). During April 1994, Super Eagles ranked 5th in the FIFA World Rankings, the highest ranking achieved by an African football team. They are the current Africa Cup of Nations champions. They have won the Africa Cup of Nations a total of 3 times, and have reached the FIFA World Cup round of 16 twice. They have qualified for five of the last six World Cups, with their first appearance coming in the United States in 1994.
Nigeria finally reached the World Cup for the first time in 1994. They were managed by Clemens Westerhof. Nigeria topped its group which included Argentina, Bulgaria, and Greece. In its first game Nigeria defeated Bulgaria 3–0, lost to Argentina 1–2, and qualified for the second round after a 2–0 victory over Greece. In the second round Nigeria played Italy and took the lead with a goal from Amunike at 25 min. Nigeria were within two minutes of qualifying for the Quarterfinals of the 1994 World Cup in the game against Italy but Roberto Baggio scored to take the game to extra time. He also scored the eventual winning goal. The game ended 2–1 in favour of the Italians.
1998 World Cup
In 1998 Nigeria returned to the World Cup alongside Cameroon, Morocco, Tunisia, and South Africa. Optimism was high due to its manager Bora Milutinović and the return of most 1994 squad members. In the final tournament Nigeria were drawn into group D with Spain, Bulgaria, Paraguay. Nigeria scored a major upset by defeating Spain 3–2 after coming back twice from being 1–0 and 2–1 down. The Eagles qualified for the second round with a win against Bulgaria and a loss to Paraguay. The team's hopes of surpassing its 1994 performance was shattered after a 1–4 loss to Denmark.
2002 & 2006 World Cups
The 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, saw Nigeria again qualify with optimism. With a new squad and distinctive pastel green kits the Super Eagles were expected to build on its strong performances in the 2000 and 2002 African Cup of Nations. Nigeria were drawn into group F with powerhouses Sweden, Argentina, and England. The first game against Argentina started with a strong defence that kept the first half scoreless. In the 61st minute Gabriel Batistuta breached the Nigerian defence to put Argentina in the lead 1–0 and win the game. Nigeria's second game against Sweden saw them take the lead but later lose 2–1. Nigeria then drew 0–0 with England and bowed out in the first round.
Nigeria missed out on qualification for the 2006 World Cup after finishing level on points in the qualification group with Angola, but having an inferior record in the matches between the sides.
Nigeria lost its opening match against Argentina 1–0 at Ellis Park Stadium following a Gabriel Heinze header in the 6th minute.4 In its second game Nigeria led early on by a goal from Kalu Uche. A red card against Sani Kaita gave Greece the advantage. Greece scored the equaliser late in the first half and Nigeria conceded the second goal in the second half and lost the game 2–1. They then drew 2–2 with South Korea with goals from Kalu Uche and Yakubu but failed to qualify for the next round. On 30 June 2010, following the team's early exit and poor showing, the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan suspended the national football team from international competition for two years.5 This suspension put the team at risk of being banned from international football by FIFA for reasons of political interference.6 On 5 July 2010, the Nigerian government rescinded its ban of the national football team from FIFA/CAF football competitions,7 but the sanction of suspension was applied by FIFA some three months after.8 On 4 October 2010, Nigeria was indefinitely banned from international football due to government interference following the 2010 World Cup.8 Four days later, however, the ban was "provisionally lifted" until 26 October, the day after the officially unrecognised National Association of Nigerian Footballers (NANF) dropped its court case against the NFF.9
^All African nations withdrew due to a lack of qualifying berths.
Africa Cup of Nations
Nigeria has won the Africa Cup of Nations 3 times (1980, 1994 and most recently, 2013). They have been runners-up four times (1984, 1988, 1990, and 2000). They have finished in third place seven times, including four times recently (2002, 2004, 2006, and 2010). On 10 February 2013 they beat the Stallions of Burkina Faso to lift the Africa Cup of Nations for the third time. This was the first time a Nigerian coach, Stephen Keshi the captain of the 1994 AFCON champions, would lead the Super Eagles to Cup success.11