The Nigeria national football team, nicknamed the Super Eagles, is the national team of Nigeria and is controlled by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). The team has ranked as high as 5th in the FIFA World Rankings, in April 1994. They won a gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics and the Africa Cup of Nations on two occasions, and have reached the FIFA World Cup finals four times. On 4 October 2010, Nigeria was indefinitely banned from international football due to government interference (fraud) following the 2010 World Cup. Four days later, however, the ban was "provisionally lifted" until 26 October, the day after the National Association of Nigerian Footballers dropped its court case against the NFF.
After playing other colonies in unofficial games since the 1930s, Nigeria played its first official game in October 1949, while still a British colony. The team played warmup games in England against various amateur teams like Dulwich Hamlet, Bishop Auckland and South Liverpool. The team's first major success was a gold medal in the 2nd All-Africa games, with 3rd place finishes in 1976 and 1978's African Cup of Nations to follow. In 1980 the team had such players as Leyton Orient's John Chiedozie and Tunji Banjo, and the Muda Lawal / Christian Chukwu-led Super Eagles won the Cup for the first time in Lagos. In 1984 and 1988, Nigeria reached the Cup of Nations final, losing both times to Cameroon. Three of the four African titles won by Cameroon have been won by defeating Nigeria. Missing out to Cameroon on many occasions has created an intense rivalry between both nations. Two notable occasions; narrowly losing out on qualification for 1990 World Cup and then the controversial final of the 2000 African Nations Cup where a goal scored by Victor Ikpeba during a penalty shoot out was disallowed by the referee.
1994 World CupNigeria finally reached the World Cup for the first time in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. 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 one minute of qualifying for the Quarter finals of 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.
1998 World CupIn 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 win against Bulgaria and loss to Paraguay. The team's hopes of surpassing its 1994 performance was shattered after a 4–1 loss to Denmark.
2002 & 2006 World CupsThe 2002 FIFA 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 defense 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.
2010 World CupOn 14 November 2009, Nigeria qualified for the 2010 World Cup after defeating Kenya by 3–2 in Nairobi.
Nigeria lost its opening match against Argentina 1–0 at Ellis Park Stadium following a Gabriel Heinze header in the 6th minute. 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 equalizer early in the second half and Nigeria conceded the second goal and lost the game 2–1. They then drew 2–2 with South Korea and failed to qualify for the next round. On 30 June 2010, following its early exit and poor showing, the President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan suspended the national football team from international competition for two years This suspension put the team at risk of being banned from international football by FIFA for reasons of political interference. On 5 July 2010, the Nigerian government rescinded its ban of the national football team from FIFA/CAF football competitions, but the sanction of suspension was applied by FIFA some three months after.
African Nations CupNigeria won the African Nations Cup twice (1980 and 1994). More recently they took third place at the 2002 African Nations Cup, the 2004 African Nations Cup, the 2006 African Nations Cup, and the 2010 African Nations Cup.
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