As the countdown to the FIFA World Cup continues, itâ€™s now 23 days before the world biggest soccer showpiece begins in South Africa. In our World Cup team profile today we feature West African powerhouses Nigeria.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria who are making a return to the grand arena after watching the 2006 global showcase from the sidelines boast an unbeaten qualifying record going into the World Cup in South Africa. Nigeria however had to ensure some tense final moments to finish only a point above Tunisia to take the sole qualifying spot from the group, following a thrilling 3-2Â win over Kenya.
The Super Eagle’s new manager, Lars Lagerback named his first provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup in South Africa last week on Monday, after taking over the reins from Shaibu Amodu, who was fired after leading the Super Eagles to a third place finish in the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.
One of the biggest strengths of Nigeriaâ€™s squad is their experience of playing in a number of European and worldwide leagues.
This compelled Lagerback to name squad with a heavy emphasis on players from the English Premiership. Everton’s Victor Anichebe has been recalled after only recently returning from injury.
Lagerback has also retained veteran striker Nwankwo Kanu as the team’s captain. Others have however questioned his inclusion arguing that if he was not fit enough for the Nations Cup, what more a tournament of the magnitude of the World Cup.
There is however no place for Kanu’s countryman Seyi Olofinjana, who was also relegated this season with Hull City. The tall midfielderâ€™s inability to command a regular starting place has been seen as one of the reasons for his omission.
Lagerback has included Chelsea’s injured midfielder John Obi Mikel. The influential playmaker missed the last four games for Chelsea including the F.A. Cup final win over Kanu and John Utaka’s Portsmouth. Other players to look out for are Lokomotiv Moscow striker Peter Odemwingie, CSKA Moscow defender Chidi Odiah and Almeria midfielder Kalu Uche.
There are also places for Nigeria based players with goalkeeper Bassey Akpan of Bayelsa United, defender Terna Suswan of Lobi Stars, and the Super Eagles’ 2007 Under-17 World Cup-winning captainÂ Lukman Haruna part of the squad.
Â The Super Eagles are set to take on Saudi Arabia in Austria on 25 May and Colombia in London on 30 May, before heading to South Africa for further pre-tournament friendly matches against the Democratic Peoples Republic ofÂ Korea and South Africa.
At the World Cup, Nigeria will vie for supremacy in Group B, which also includes Argentina, Greece and South Korea.