3. They’ve qualified for five of the last six World Cups, but have yet to make it very far.
Nigeria made its World Cup debut in 1994 and made it to the round of 16 that year and in 1998. Since then, the team hasn’t managed to make it past the group stages, and their appearances have often often been overshadowed by Nigerian government corruption.
4. And in 2010, they were briefly banned from world soccer.
In January 2010, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan suspended the Super Eagles from competition for two years, due to embarrassment from poor performances. However, under FIFA regulations, governments aren’t allowed to interfere with national teams, and the organization went back and forth with the government for the next several months. In October, Fifa finally banned the team, but reversed the decision four days later.
5. However, they’ve started bouncing back in recent years, thanks in large part to Stephen Keshi, their coach.
Keshi is widely credited with turning Nigeria’s performance around since joining the team as coach in 2011, and for leading them to their first Cup of Nations victory since 1994 last year. He is one of only two men to have won a Cup of Nations both as a player and a coach. His dedicated coaching also earned him a headline as “Football’s Tactical Genius of 2013,” despite not being paid a salary for seven months last year.
6. Now, they’re the reigning champions of African soccer.
Nigeria won the Africa Cup of Nations last year. The team has finished in the top three nearly every year since 2000.
7. And they have the best youth soccer team in the world.
The Golden Eaglets won the most recent FIFA U-17 World Cup, and have the best performance history of any country in the tournament. They’ve been known to employ wrestler Daniel Bryan’s famous “YES!” chant.
8. One of their best players, Obafemi Martins, won’t be playing in the Cup.
Martins, a forward for the Seattle Sounders, has scored 18 goals and earned 38 caps while playing for Nigeria in the past. However, he hasn’t been very involved with Nigeria’s national team in recent years and wasn’t listed on the country’s preliminary roster for this year’s World Cup.
9. But some of their other most notable players—like Emmanuel Emenike, Victor Moses, and John Mikel Obi—will.
Emenike, a striker for Turkey’s Fenerbahçe, was named Top Scorer in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and contributed four goals to Nigeria’s victory. Moses, who plays mostly as a winger, is currently on loan to Liverpool from Chelsea, where he scored 10 goals in his first season. Obi, a midfielder for Chelsea, was one of the most sought-after players in Europe when he signed with Chelsea in 2005. Despite mixed reviews in recent years, he has continued to be considered one of Nigeria’s star players and was team captain in the last World Cup.
10. Their fans aren’t afraid to get political.
“I HAVE A DREAM THAT ONE DAY A BLACK AFRICAN CAN BE THE FIFA PRESIDENT.”
- The Trump administration wants to send immigrants caught at the southern US border to Mexico even if they're not from the country.
- Several states will keep enforcing bans against transgender discrimination in schools after Trump withdrew guidelines protecting students.
- Police arrested at least 10 people on Wednesday as they began clearing out protester camps at the Dakota Access Pipeline site.
- And people with disabilities are having their photos stolen and Facebook isn't helping them.