Wednesday, May 26, 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup: Nigeria

We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.

Appearance: Fourth
Last time there: 2002, exited in first round
Best performance: Lost in second round (1994 and 1998)

Fact: Nigeria, at over 100 million people, is the most populated nation in Africa.

You'd think they'd be a little better at soccer, but they have never really done much with that mass of potential athletes they have available.

After missing out in 2006, Nigeria qualified for this year's tournament amid plenty of adversity. A Tunisian loss to Mozambique clinched the Nigerians' trip to South Africa, but they weren't done dealing with controversy.

Coach Shaibu Amodu was fired after a third-place finish in the 2010 African Nations Cup. Swede Lars Lagerback was brought in with just a couple months to go until the finals, with hopes of stabilizing things and providing Nigeria with a chance to advance out of a top-heavy Group B.

On the field, there is talent, but Nigeria is not the stereotypical African nation. They don't mind playing a fast pace, but their game is more of a slowdown style. They don't take a lot of chances, and they lack the creativity teams like Cameroon and Ghana have. This isn't a bad thing, because if Obafemi Martins and Yakubu Aiyegbeni are at their best, this will be a tough team to beat, even if they're not scoring a ton of goals.

In the midfield, veteran Peter Odemwingie is a top-notch player capable of making huge plays, and he is a real leader on this team.

June 12 vs. Argentina (Johannesburg -- Ellis Park)
June 17 vs. Greece (Bloemfontein)
June 22 vs. South Korea (Durban)

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