Nigeria can boast something only a half-dozen other teams in the world can right now: theyâ€™ll be playing the World Cup on their home continent come June.
Beyond that, they canâ€™t boast much because they donâ€™t know much. The uninspiring performance at the African Cup of Nations saw Shaibu Amodu relieved of his duties atop the Nigerian coaching pyramid and Lars Lagerback rewarded for not taking Sweden to the World Cup with an all expense paid trip to that same World Cup. So theyâ€™re in a bit of transition right before summer festival.
So maybe a shake-up will be good; or maybe a shake-up will be just that â€“ a shake-up.
Nickname: Super Eagles
Group: B; Argentina, Greece, South Korea
Coach: Lars Lagerback. Fresh off their lackluster showing at the African Cup of Nations, they â€œreassignedâ€ Shaibu Amodu in February, naming Lars Lagerback in his place for the summer. Lars is also coming fresh off a disappointing set â€“ failing to get Sweden, his post for the last ten years, to South Africa. This means his first official game of the stint will be against Argentina. Joy.
Key Players: The big names are concentrated towards the front, with a blend of speed, strength and size providing a bounty of physical gifts. Yakubu is nicknamed Yak because his shoulders dwarf most of the bovines (no other reason, swear); Obafemi Martins has pace and skills for days on end, ditto (to a lesser degree) for Victor Obinna; Chinedu Obasi provides something of a tall, speedy, skillful wild card; and beanpole captain Nwakwo Kanu is still going strong at 87â€¦oh, only 33. (Seriously â€“ heâ€™s been around forever.)
Thereâ€™s little to go on in midfield with the new gaffer in town, but most will know Chelseaâ€™s John Obi Mikel (or Mikel John Obi, orâ€¦however you prefer) and Ayilla Yussuf is no small talent currently catching his checks in Kiev.
In the back Joseph Yobo is the central leader, with Chidi Odiah, an attacking fullback, on the right and Taye Taiwo, a tank with implanted cannon for a left leg, on the left.
In net will be the quietly impressive Vincent Enyeama, who doesnâ€™t get the pub of some other quality keepers simply because he plays in Israel. (And because he canâ€™t get on most goalkeeper amusement rides â€“ heâ€™s 180cm.)
Player with best name: According to Wikipedia he only has one cap, but that cap accompanies what will be the best name by some distance at the World Cup if he makes it: Thankgod Amaefule. (Bit of a troublemaker for such a religious fellow, though.)
Player with best nickname: Certain people were obviously born for certain nicknames: Yakubu â€œThe Yakâ€ Aiyegbeni is somewhere up the top of the list.
Qualification: It wasnâ€™t terribly easy, and it took a bit of help from Mozambqiue to just squeak into the tournament. Tunisia were ahead by two points heading into a last day, which meant Nigeria needed to get real lucky. They did: they beat Kenya 3-2 with an Obafemi goal nine minutes from time while Mozambique stunned Tunisia seven minutes from time for a 1-0 victory. Fashionably late, but still invited.