Leading a team to the World Cup is always a thing of pride and while a lot of players have been opportune to feature in the Mundial, only a very small fraction have been privileged to go as captains.
It is not any different with Nigeria which has taken almost 100 players to the World Cup but with just four captains.
No coach has enjoyed the luxury of leading Nigeria to more than one World Cup and only Joseph Yobo has captained the Nigeria national team at two editions of the mundial.
As part of PREMIUM TIMES special for the Russia 2018, we look at Nigeria’s World Cup appearances: coaches and captains.
Head Coach: Clemens Westerhof
The Dutchman opened the way for Nigeria as far as playing in the World Cup is concerned. It had always been one heartache or the other before Westerhof came into the picture.
In late 1989, Westerhof was signed by the Nigerian Football Association to coach the national team.
This was after the team failed to qualify for the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy by failing to get at least a draw away to Cameroon on the last day of qualifying.
The decision to get Westerhof proved to be the right one as the coach, then with no experience handling any national team, got silver, bronze and the Africa Cup for Nations for Nigeria before also delivering the World Cup ticket.
Captain: Stephen Keshi
It was the twilight for the Big Boss but going by his contribution he was not denied the chance to be part of Nigeria’s first World Cup squad.
He was also honoured with was largely a ‘ceremonial’ captain’s armband for the USA 94 tournament.
Head Coach: Bora Milutinović
After the unceremonious sacking of Philippe Troussier who qualified Nigeria for the tournament, the NFF opted to hire a Serbian football coach, Bora Milutinović.
Before taking the Nigeria job, Bora has led three other countries to previous World Cups and interestingly all three made it to the second round.
It was not different with the Super Eagles as Nigeria won its group, notching a notable 3–2 upset win over Spain, and reaching the knockout rounds of the second successive edition.
The Gentle Giant was handed the leadership role in France where Nigeria blew up the chance to go beyond the Round of 16 again.
After finishing top in their group, the Super Eagles took their Danish opponents for granted as they were already projecting a quarter-final clash against Brazil. It turned out that the Super Eagles were condemned to their heaviest World Cup defeat: losing 4-1 to Denmark.
Head Coach: Adegboye Onigbinde
Like the build-up to the last World Cup in France, there was chaos in the air again for the Super Eagles and the Moadekeke High chief was beckoned to save the day for Nigeria. Though in terms of the result, it was the worst outing ever for the Super Eagles at the World Cup, Onigbinde brought to the limelight a handful of players who went on to serve Nigeria meritoriously many years after.
Captain Austin Okocha
At 28 years, Okocha became Nigeria’s youngest captain at the World Cup as he led a fairly young squad to the Mundial. Most of the experienced players that helped secured qualification were all discarded after the debacle at the Mali 2002 Nations Cup safe for Mutiu Adepoju, Garba Lawal, and Ike Shorunmu.
South Africa 2010
Head Coach: Lars Lagerbäck
The Swede was another makeshift recruitment by the NFF who felt the then incumbent manager, Shaibu Amodu, will not do a decent job at the first World Cup on African soil.
As it turned out, Lagerback had no larger fortunes for Nigeria as the Super Eagles were also stopped in the Round of 16 in South Africa.
Captain: Joseph Yobo
Though not a favourite of many fans, Yobo started from the bottom and deservedly led the Super Eagles to the 2010 World Cup, that was the second mundial appearance for the central defender who was part of the youthful 2002 team to Korea/Japan.
Head Coach Stephen Keshi:
It was finally a dream come true for the Big Boss who qualified Togo for the nundial in 2006 but was denied the chance of the leading the Hawks to Germany.
Keshi had a knack for records and he did have some in Brazil; including becoming the first indigenous coach to win a World Cup game and more so to qualify a team out of the group phase.
Captain: Joseph Yobo
Yobo passes for a silent achiever who has several records but not seen as a legend my some. It is on record that Yobo has played more World Cup games than any Nigerian. He is the only player to lead Nigeria to two World Cups; that would not be matched in Russia or anytime soon.