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About Nigeria


Nigeria

FIFA Rank: 57
Coach: Stephen Keshi
Captain: Joseph Yobo
Nickname: Super Eagles
Best AFCON finish: Champions (1980, 1994)
AFCON 2012 finish: Did not qualify

AFCON PEDIGREE:

When Nigeria failed to qualify for AFCON 2012 in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, it was the first time in 26 years they had missed out on reaching the continental showpiece.

The two-time African champions moved to appoint Stephen Keshi in November 2011. That decision was vindicated when the former national team captain guided the Super Eagles to the South Africa extravaganza with an emphatic 8-3 aggregate win over Liberia in the final round of qualifying.

It was Keshi, who as captain of the side led Nigeria to their second AFCON success in 1994. The 50-year-old will be hoping to inspire his charges to another triumph some 19 years down the line.

However, Keshi has yet to taste victory as a coach in the AFCON, having failed to win any games whilst in charge of Togo and Mali in previous editions of the tournament. There is no doubt he will be determined to change that statistic in Mzanzi come January.

Nigeria have finished runners-up in the AFCON on four occasions - 1984, 1988, 1990 and 2000 - while they claimed third place seven times.

SQUAD OVERVIEW:

The Super Eagles are led by the vastly experienced Joseph Yobo, who is his country's most capped player having featured 88 times for the national team.

The Fenerbahce defender has taken home three bronze medals at AFCON - in 2004, 2006 and 2010 - but will be hoping to go all the way this time around as Nigeria look to be crowned African champions for a third time.

Veteran goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama will likely be first-choice between the sticks, while Taye Taiwo is another stalwart in defence for Keshi's side.

Jon Obi Mikel is expected to play a major role for Keshi in South Africa. The Chelsea midfielder is the most capped player in the engine room for Nigeria.

West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie, Villarreal frontman Obafemi Martins and recent Blues addition Victor Moses will be amongst those tasked with supplying the goals for the Super Eagles at the tournament.

FULL SQUAD:

Goalkeepers: Chigozie Agbim (Enugu Rangers), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Be'er Sheba/ISR), Vincent Enyeama (Maccabi Tel Aviv/ISR)

Defenders: Efe Ambrose (Celtic/SCO), Elderson Echiejile (Braga/POR), Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves), Kenneth Omeruo (ADO Den Haag/NED), Godfrey Oboabona (Sunshine Stars), Juwon Oshaniwa (Ashdod/ISR), Joseph Yobo (Fenerbahce/TUR)

Midfielders: Reuben Gabriel (Kano Pillars), Nosa Igiebor (Real Betis/ESP), John Obi Mikel (Chelsea/ENG), Obiora Nwankwo (Calcio Padova/ITA), Fegor Ogude (Valerenga/NOR), Ogenyi Onazi (Lazio/ITA)

Strikers: Sunday Mba and Ejike Uzoenyi (Enugu), Emmanuel Emenike (Spartak Moscow/RUS), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kyiv/UKR), Victor Moses (Chelsea/ENG), Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow/RUS), Ikechukwu Uche (Villarreal/ESP)

Player to Watch: John Obi Mikel

Joseph Yobo, Nigeria's most capped player and current captain, will be crucial to the team's bid for a third AFCON title. The 32-year-old is by far the most experienced member of the Super Eagles squad and will bring a measure of calmness to the back-four. Ikechukwu Uche has also come on in leaps and bounds since making his international debut in 2007, scoring the majority of his 18 goals for Nigeria in the last two years.

However, one feels that Nigeria’s fortunes will depend largely on John Obi Mikel’s form. The Chelsea midfielder is back in the national team set-up after an extended absence for a variety of reasons. He will be expected to keep things ticking over in the middle of the park. Mikel is not much of a goal threat, having only scored three times for his country, but he more than makes up for that with his no-nonsense combative style and the tireless back-breaking shifts he puts in.

Rising Star: Victor Moses

Victor Moses had previously represented England at every level from Under-16 to Under-21, but switched allegiances to the country of his birth in November 2011. He went on to make his debut for the Super Eagles three months later against Rwanda. The 22-year-old has already scored a couple of important goals for Chelsea following his switch from Wigan in the off-season, and will be determined to make a similar contribution for Stephen Keshi's side in South Africa.

Sorely Missed: Odemwingie

Two notable absentees from Keshi's 23-man AFCON squad are Taye Taiwo and Peter Odemwingie. AC Milan left-back Taiwo, who is currently on loan at Ukrainian giants Dynamo Kyiv, has racked up 53 appearances for Nigeria since making his debut in 2004. It is Odemwingie whose omission came as a big surprise.

After impressing for West Brom over the past 18 months, scoring 14 Premier League goals in that period, surely the Super Eagles could have done with a proven goal scorer of his calibre. The 31-year-old has also played 55 times for the Super Eagles, but will not get the chance to add to that in South Africa.

ROAD TO FINALS

Nigeria’s failure to reach the finals of the previous AFCON edition in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon meant that they had to get through two qualifying rounds to secure their 2013 berth.

Stephen Keshi's side were made to work for their place in the second round by Rwanda before progressing on the back of a 2-0 aggregate win.

After a goalless first leg in Kigali the Super Eagles sealed their progress to the next round with a 2-0 victory on home turf in Calabar, thanks to goals from Ikechukwu Uche (9) and Ahmed Musa (56).

The two-time AFCON champions clinched their qualification for South Africa with an emphatic 8-3 aggregate victory over Liberia.

Nigeria surrendered the lead in Paynesville to draw the first leg 2-2, with Nosa Igiebor (22) and Uche (26 pen) responding to Omega Roberts' fifth-minute opener for the hosts before Sekou Oliseh (66) came to their rescue.

Keshi's charges dismantled the Lone Stars in Calabar, winning the return fixture 7-1 as Efe Ambrose (1), Musa (38), Victor Moses (48, 88) John Obi Mikel (50 pen) and Uche (72) weighed in with goals for the dominant hosts. Patrick Wleh's 80th-minute goal was scant consolation for the beaten Liberians.

Qualifying Results:

First round, first leg
Rwanda 0-0 Nigeria
First round, second leg
Nigeria 2-0 Rwanda
Second round, first leg
Liberia 2-2 Nigeria
Second round, second leg
Nigeria 6-1 Liberia

Ten things you never knew about Nigeria

1. Nigeria is home to the world’s third-largest film industry known as “Nollywood”. The two biggest are Hollywood (USA) and Bollywood (India).

2. Nigeria is the 3rd largest market in the world for Guinness and one of the few places outside Ireland where Guinness is brewed. Interestingly the Nigerian stout has a slightly different flavour to the Irish one; according to experts it is less bitter but stronger.

3. Nigeria has the largest population of any country in Africa. Approximately one out of every two West Africans, one out of every four Africans, and one out of every five persons of African origin is a Nigerian.

5. Defender Taye Taiwo, who was on loan at QPR last season, is famed for his powerful long-range shooting and free kicks. Reports suggest that his shot has been clocked at over 130kph.

6. Blackburn midfielder Dickson Etuhu only started playing football when he was 15. Up to that point he represented Great Britain at youth athletics events doing both the triple jump and long jump.

7. In 2004 several Nigerian football stars, including then national team skipper Jay-Jay Okocha, Taribo West and Nwankwo Kanu were slammed by the government for their "gay hairstyles." A leading government official from the information ministry slammed the soccer trend-setters on national television saying: "Our youths are now taking after our great football stars... don't forget that in the developing world that the braiding of hair and earrings have a sense of homosexuality."

8. Nigeria's West Bromwich Albion striker Peter Odemwingie was actually born in Kazakhstan but he chose to play for his fatherland Nigeria.

9. Chelsea and Nigeria star John Mikel Obi has a strong connection to South Africa. He began his career at Ajax Cape Town where he played for the Urban Warriors Youth Team before making the move to London via Lyn in Norway.

10. In Nigeria it is possible to get married for a set period of time. While traditional marriage is possible it is also permissible to engage in Nikah mut'ah or “marriage for pleasure.” This is a fixed-term union, which is a marriage with a preset duration, after which the marriage is automatically dissolved.

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