As the world continues to mourn the former Super Eagles Coach Stephen Keshi, many have chosen to take solace in the indelible marks Keshi left first as a player and then as a coach.
Keshi was indeed a pacesetter and a pioneering achiever in many spheres. Here five key achievements by the 54-year-old respected soccer icon.
USA 1994 World Cup
Keshi was Nigeria’s first captain to the FIFA World Cup. After years of near misses, Nigeria finally qualified for the prestigious FIFA World Cup in 1994. Keshi undoubtedly played a huge role in that historic feat, playing in six of the eight qualifying matches.
His man-of-the match exploit in the decisive away game against Algeria which ended 1-1 is fresh in the minds of many. In that game, Keshi marshalled the Eagles defence and helped Nigeria break the jinx and finally feature in football’s biggest showpiece.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations and that saw the bringing in of Keshi to handle the national team.
Though the appointment of Keshi was met with resentment in some quarters, it turned out to be a worthy choice as Nigeria’s 19-year AFCON trophy fiasco was ended by Keshi.
Having first ensured that the Eagles staged a return to the continental football tournament, Keshi against all odds went on to mastermind Nigeria’s third AFCON triumph, beating the likes of Ivory Coast and Mali en-route being crowned as African champions for the third time. Earlier AFCON wins were achieved with expatriate coaches.
Togo at World Cup
Keshi took his trade across the border to Togo where he shocked the world, qualifying the Hawks of Togo for their first ever world cup tournament in 2006.
He was able to achieve this enviable feat despite his team being tagged underdogs in their qualifying group. Keshi qualified Togo for Germany 2006 against all odds from a group that consisted of bigger teams like Senegal, Mali and teams like Liberia, Congo and Zambia.
Sadly Nigeria failed to qualify for the World Cup that same year, after losing out to Angola.
Nigeria 2014 CHAN qualification
After failing to make the first two editions of the African Nations Champions in 2009 and 2011 in Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan respectively, Keshi made another first as he led the home-based Eagles to the 2014 edition in South Africa for the very first time.
To secure a place to the 2014 CHAN, the home-based Eagles overcame Cote d’Ivoire 4-3 on aggregate in the final round of the qualifiers.
With gallant display, Nigeria narrowly missed out on making it to the finals in their maiden appearance and settled for Bronze after beating Zimbabwe in their place game
Nigeria’s first World Cup win
Prior to the Super Eagles group games at the Brazil 2014 World Cup, victories by the country’s national team at the World Cup came under expatriates, namely, Clemence Westerhof and Bora Milotinovic (Westerhof, USA 1994:3-0 against Bulgaria, 2-0 against Greece and Milotinovic, France 1998: 3-2 against Spain, 1-0 against Bulgaria).
But against Bosnia-Herzegovina, a goal from Osaze Odemwingie, secured a 1-0 win for the Eagles. The goal was the Eagles’ fifth overall since making their debut in 1994.