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Another failed World Cup bid looms for Super Eagles

Three-time African champions, the Super Eagles of Nigeria made their first appearance at the FIFA World Cup in 1994, the same year they won their…

Three-time African champions, the Super Eagles of Nigeria made their first appearance at the FIFA World Cup in 1994, the same year they won their second Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title. They had won their first AFCON title in 1980 after a 3-0 white-wash of the Desert Foxes of Algeria at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos.

Before the Super Eagles debuted at the 1994 World Cup in the USA, there were so many failed attempts. However, after the jinx was broken in 1994, the Eagles appeared at every edition till 2006 when for the first they failed to qualify for the edition that Germany hosted.

However, after the 2006 mishap, the Super Eagles steadied themselves and qualified for three tournaments in a row before they again failed to qualify for the 2022 edition which was staged in the Middle East by the oil rich country, Qatar.

The failure of the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2022 World Cup impacted negatively on the political ambition of the then president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, who was forced to jettison his third term aspiration.

The current member of the FIFA Executive Committee shared the same fate with Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima who was forced out of office after the Super Eagles lost the 2006 World Cup ticket. It will be recalled he infamously said the ticket wasn’t Nigeria’s birthright.

Once again, the Super Eagles are ‘romancing’ another failure in the ongoing 2026 World Cup qualifiers. After playing four out of 10 matches in their group, the Super Eagles have managed to pick only three draws while one of the matches ended in a defeat to lowly ranked Cheetahs of Benin Republic. They had drawn against Southern African oppositions, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa before the loss to Benin Republic last Monday in Abidjan.

 At the moment, the Super Eagles who finished as runners-up at the 2023 AFCON in Cote d’Ivoire and their coach Finidi George have come under fire as most Nigerian football fans are demanding that the team should be disbanded without delay.

In the same vein, some are of the opinion that even if the team is not disbanded, the President should constitute a Presidential Task Force like former President Goodluck Jonathan did for the Super Eagles to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

With a paltry three points from four matches, the Super Eagles are no doubt on the verge of another World Cup qualifying calamity and many Nigerian football fans have concluded that unless a miraculous transformation occurs in the team, Nigeria would miss the 2026 World Cup to be staged in the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Super Eagles’ failed World Cup bids

Germany 2006

After the Super Eagles made their debut at the 1994 World Cup in the USA where they narrowly missed reaching a historic quarter-final, they appeared at the next two editions in 1998 in France and 2002 in Korea/Japan.  

However, the momentum of World Cup appearances was halted ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Having taken part in the 2002 World Cup, the Super Eagles automatically made it to the second round of the qualifiers where they were paired with Gabon, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola and Algeria in Group C.

Expecting an easy journey to the finals, Nigeria was all hyped up when the group opponents were announced, but that was when the first failure happened.

The Super Eagles played 10 games in the second round and won six, drew three and lost one. Nigeria and Angola ended up with the same 21 points, but the Palanca Negras advanced to Germany 2006 on a better head-to-head record.

Although the Super Eagles finished the race with superior goal difference, they were undone by the 1-1 draw with Angola in Kano because the Southern African country had won the first leg 1-0 in Luanda.

Despite the pain of missing the 2006 World, some people saw the failure as a blessing in disguise; it was said to have prompted a time of introspection and reorganization, focusing on nurturing young talents and enhancing the local football setup.

These changes were instrumental in bringing about positive outcomes for Nigerian football in the long run as the Super Eagles went on to qualify for the next three tournaments on the spin- the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018.

Qatar 2022

Again, Super Eagles World Cup qualifying streak was broken when they failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 16 years, losing to Ghana on the away goal rule.

After the Super Eagles progressed to the third and final round of the qualifiers, they needed to win against an underperforming Ghana team to qualify. The first leg clash ended in a goalless draw in Kumasi, paving the way for a dramatic second leg in Abuja.

Despite playing at home and with thousands of supporters rooting for the home side, the Super Eagles were unable to soar as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Eleven minutes into the must-win match, Black Stars and Arsenal defensive midfielder, Thomas Partey scored after his low shot outside the 18-yard box rolled past Francis Uzoho for the opening goal.

Six minutes later, Ademola Lookman was fouled in the box and after VAR’s intervention, William Troost Ekong stepped forward to draw the Super Eagles level but the Black Stars took the ticket on away goal rule.

The outcome left a bitter taste in the mouths of the teeming supporters of the Super Eagles whose desire to watch their darling team at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was dashed completely.

Unfortunately, lightning may strike twice as the Super Eagles who are in fifth position in Group C now need a miracle to qualify for the next edition of the FIFA World Cup. 


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