By Okey
Onwugbonu
Great
players have donned the green and white jersey of Nigeria’s Super Eagles at the
World Cup so selecting a best eleven and good formation isn’t an easy task but
here is my pick in a 4-4-2 formation.
Goal Keeper –
Vincent Enyeama
Only
three goal keepers have kept goal for Nigeria in 18 matches played across 5
World Cups, Peter Rufai, Ike Shorunmu and Vincent Enyeama.
Peter
Rufai was in goal at the first two World Cups in USA and France whereas Ike
Shorunmu had just two games in Korea/Japan.
Vincent
Enyeama is at the peak of this pack with various outstanding performances.
Rufai
should have been my pick but for his horrendous showing in France 98.
Vincent
Enyeama’s Eagles’ breakthrough came in Korea/Japan 2002 in the last group game
against England.
With
Nigeria already eliminated from the tournament after two loses, Enyeama kept a
clean sheet in the goalless game with his save from a Paul Scholes’ screamer
the high point for him.
Enyeama
will go on to make the Eagles number one jersey his own, participating in two
more World Cups and winning two man of the match awards consecutively against
Argentina and Greece in South Africa 2010.
In
all, Enyeama has conceded 10 goals in 9 World Cup games, keeping a clean sheet
on 3 occasions.
Right Full Back –
Joseph Yobo

This
was the most difficult pick for me as many players have been tried out in this
position. Augustine Eguavoen was the pioneer at the World Cup in USA, while the
likes of Chidi Nwanu, Mobi Okparaku, head master Mutiu Adepoju, Chidi Odiah,
Godwin Okpara, Efe Sodje and Efe Ambrose had manned the position at various
World Cup games.
Joseph
Yobo was Mr. Utility in Korea/Japan playing defensive midfield against
Argentina, right back against Sweden and at center back against England. It was
his assist from the right back position for Julius Aghahowa against Sweden that
got Nigeria’s only goal in Korea/Japan.
Although
Yobo who is the most capped Eagle at the World Cup with 10 caps played just two
games for the Eagles from the right full back position, a 2-1 loss to Sweden
where he shone like a million stars and against Argentina from the 73rd
minute after starting the game from midfield. He gets my nod for this position.
Left Full back –
Celestine Babayaro
Celestine
Babayaro was capped 27 times for The Super Eagles, 5 of those caps was at the
World Cup.
He
also played the most games in that position for the Super Eagles at the World
Cup.  Touted as Eagles best left back
ever after playing over 200 games for English club Chelsea, Babayaro was solid
in the air, excellent in tackles and his forays in over lapping runs were a
beauty to behold. He even had a cameo performance as a left winger in the game
against Sweden in Korea/Japan 2002.
Center back –
Uche Okechukwu
Eagle’s
captain in France 98 nicknamed “the gentle giant” marshalled the Eagles defense
superbly at two World Cup tournaments, USA 94 and France 98.
He
played the full 90 minutes in all seven games he played at the World Cup missing
out in the game against Paraguay in France 98. He was calm, calculated, and not
one to press the panic button on the field of play.
The
last of his 47 caps for Eagles came at the World Cup, the humiliating 4-1 loss
to Denmark in France 98.
Center Back –
Taribo West

The
dread-locks wearing defender starred at two World Cups for Nigeria. In France 98
he formed a lovely partnership with Uche Okechukwu and made it to Korea/Japan
2002 after surviving the clear out by the Nigerian Football Association (NFA),
a fallout from the Super Eagles poor performance at the African Cup of Nations in
Mali.
West
was a rugged defender that never backed out from a challenge but became an
outcast from the Eagles after infamously referring to his team mates as “junk
players” and blasting the Nigerian Football Association for disorganizing the
team after the World Cup in Korea/Japan.
Coach
of the Eagles, Adegboye Onigbinde blamed West for the teams’ woes insisting he
refused to play to instructions.
Defensive
Midfielder – Sunday Oliseh

I
started following the Super Eagles actively in the early 90s and since then I
am yet to see a better defensive midfielder than Sunday Oliseh.
The
former coach and captain of the Super Eagles is physical, yet technically
gifted, superb in tackles and interceptions and has an eye for that long pass
which quickly turns defense into attack.
Oliseh
was a stalwart of two World Cups for Nigeria, playing eight games, starting all
of them and failing to complete just two of those games- against Argentina in
USA 94 and against Paraguay in France 98.
The
high point of Oliseh’s World Cup performance for the Super Eagles was when he
netted the winner against Spain in France 98, a screamer from 25 yards.
Sunday
Oliseh failed in his quest to lead Nigeria to the World Cup in Korea/Japan 2002
and despite being captain at the Nations’ Cup in Mali 2002, he was omitted from
the World Cup for disciplinary reasons after allegedly insulting then sports
Minister, Ishaya Mark Aku.
Attacking
Midfielder – Augustine “Jay Jay” Okocha

The
mercurial, dazzling midfield maestro bestowed with football skills comparable
to the best of the best in World football played for Nigeria at three World
Cups. He was involved in nine games coming in as a substitute on two occasions.
Although
Jay Jay doesn’t have a goal to his name at the World Cup, he was named as a
reserve in the all-stars team of France 98 a tournament where he was a bright
light in the Eagles dim performance, especially in the game against Denmark.
He
led the Super Eagles to the World Cup in Korea/Japan 2002 in spite of other
senior stars being ousted from the team for indiscipline, a testament to his humble
disposition.
Right Winger –
Finidi George

The
Super Eagles have a penchant of producing beautiful right wingers from the days
of mathematical Segun Odegbami.
In
modern era the Super Eagles have had the likes of Finidi George, Tijani
Babangida, Pius Ikedia, Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses run the right flank in the
attacking third at the Mundial.
But
it is a certain Port Harcourt born winger Finidi George that stands head and
shoulder above the rest for me.
Finidi
George played in two World Cups for Nigeria USA 94 and France 98, playing eight
games, scoring one goal and bagging three assists.
George
will be remembered for his beautiful chip against Greece in USA 94 and for and
equally beautiful but bizarre celebration where he mimicked a urinating dog.
Left Winger –
Emmanuel Amuneke
Ever
since Emmanuel Amuneke retired from international football prematurely due to
nagging injuries in 2001 Nigeria is yet to produce an outstanding left footed
winger. Amunike played for Nigeria at the World Cup in USA 94 playing four
games, scoring twice and getting an assist in Super Eagles debut at the World
Cup.
He
dazzled for the Super Eagles in his only World Cup appearance from the left
flank and the Super Eagles crumbled when he was substituted due to injury
against Italy.
He
was arguably Eagles best player in USA 94 and his best moment was scoring that
diving header, the third goal in the 3-0 win against Bulgaria.

Striker – Daniel
“The Bull” Amokachi

Daniel
Amokachi was nicknamed ‘the bull’ for his style of play, a robust style – not
scared to go into a challenge and hunting down defenders forcing them to commit
errors.
Amokachi
played five games at the World Cup, four in USA 94 and a 67 minutes appearance
against Paraguay in France 98. He scored two goals and bagged an assist.
Despite
Super Eagles fans and supporters not having the bull as long as they’d want due
to nagging injuries, his two goals in USA 94 are etched in their memories as
beautiful moments for Nigeria at the World Cup, not forgetting ‘his hip hop
flavour dance’ after his goal against Bulgaria.
Striker –
Rashidi Yekini
Nigeria’s
all-time leading scorer with 37 goals Rashidi Yekini is my pick for the other
striking position. The Super Eagles went into her debut World Cup in USA 94
with Yekini as Africa’s finest after winning the 1993 African player of the
year award.

Yekini
was also the best player and highest goal scorer when Nigeria won the Africa
Nations Cup in Tunisia 1994 and was the highest goal scorer for the 1994 World
Cup qualifying in Africa with 8 goals.

Coming
into the World Cup with all these accolades a lot was expected from Yekini but
opposing teams were already aware of the danger he poses and went all out to
nullify Nigeria’s most dangerous threat.

Despite
all these, Yekini still scored the Nigeria first goal at the Mundial and bagged
an assist. He also made it to France 98 but played second fiddle to Victor
Ikpeba.

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