NIGERIA CHALLENGE: How Stephen Keshi May Bring Déjà vu to the World Cup in Brazil

 You may know that Nigeria went to FIFA World cup for the first time ever in 1994. But did you know that Stephen Keshi was the captain of that Super Eagles team? What does that immediately tell you, especially if you knew all the story of how Clemence Westerhof, the Dutch technical advisor of the team then and his assistant, Bonfrere Jo, always consulted with Keshi - Sometimes, they ask him to draw up his own first team list for an upcoming game – then you will understand the experience and insight of this man fondly called ‘the Big Boss.’

20 years after, Keshi will be returning to the world cup, but this time as the head coach of Nigeria national team. This may bring the pictures of déjà vu. Indeed, 2014 world cup seem to present a similar scenario for the Nigerian side.

Keshi, Captain 1994

Deja Vu
In 1994, Nigeria went to the world cup in USA as African champions, but with largely unknown players, just Rashidi Yekini whom played for Vitoria Setubal. Then, Keshi, who was on the verge of retirement, but sat on the bench of Molenbeek.  And perhaps, a few others, Finidi George of Ajax, Uche Okafor, Chidi Nwanu, Mike Emenalu that played University football in USA,  made up the team. Definitely not a squad you would want to reckon with until it showed up 4th place in the FIFA World ranking in May 1994.

Now in 2014, Nigeria is also going to the World cup in Brazil as African champions, and with ex-players of 1994 squad, Keshi and Daniel Amokachie, now in charge of the team as Head coach and Assistant respectively. The team will also be going to the Mundial with largely unknown players.

Apart from Mikel Obi, who played a few times in Chelsea team this season and Victor Moses that sat more on the bench of Liverpool, may be the biggest players that may likely make the Nigerian team. Then old war horse, Shola Ameobi of Newcastle; goal keeper Vincent Enyeama of OS Lille in France and perhaps few other notable players are likely to make up the team.

Although, the team is currently placed 45th at FIFA World ranking, and doesn’t have such a high caliber captain in Joseph Yobo of Norwich, who is likely to return to the team to play a bit-part as Keshi did in 1994. But even among the players, is believed that Yobo wears the ‘lucky Charm’ of the team.

Keshi, Head Coach 2014

Team Status
By statistics, Super Eagles of Nigeria may be seen as the weakest team in the World Cup Group F, which include: Argentina, Bosnia and Iran. But that’s just the way Nigerian side likes to be seen, a deceptive look of weakness help create the opportunity to unleash another upset in World Cup history.

Well, Keshi seem to be an expert in turning minnows into heroes. He did it with the Togolese national team. Though, the team wasn’t even reckon in Africa, keshi qualified Togo for their first ever World Cup in 2006.

Again, Keshi dropped some big names like, Osaze Odenwingie, Kalu Uche, Obinna Nsofor, Chinedu Obasi, and Victor Anichiebe from the Nigeria national team and took team of rookies made up of some home based players to win Africa’s cup of nations (AFCON) in 2013.

The current team plays a fine free flow South American style of football, but with quick counter attacks spearheaded by CSKA Moscow speed racer, Ahmed Musa and Frenebache’s attacking bull, Emmanuel Emenike. The team has shown a glimpse of what it can do in some of its recent friendly games with Italy and Mexico. You dare not take this Nigerian team for granted!

Remember, Pele as well as many other football pundits had predicted in the past that Nigeria is likely to be the first Africa team to win the World Cup trophy. “Is this the set time?”

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