3 reasons why Nigeria could be the surprise package of the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Nigeria has a storied record at the World Cup, beginning in 1994 when the likes of Rashidi Yekini, Emmanuel Amenike, Peter Rufai, and Daniel Amokachi captured the imagination of the world en-route a round-of-16 elimination at the hands of Italy.
In that game, the West Africans had led for most of the match until a last-minute penalty eliminated them and since then, the Super Eagles have become regular feature at the Mundial, qualifying for five of the six editions and the colourful brigade of their supporters makes them one of the most loved teams for the neutrals.
To date, the country's best performance remains three second-round finishes, with qualification to the knockout rounds recorded in 1998 and 2014 in addition to their maiden appearance. The last edition of the World Cup ended in heartbreak for Nigeria, as a late goal from Marcos Rojo ended their aspirations in the group stage and ensured Argentina qualified in their stead.
However, there are plenty of reasons why Nigeria can look ahead to the 2022 World Cup with optimism and here, we shall be highlighting three reasons why Nigeria can do well at the World Cup in three years.
#3 The team has been on the ascendancy in recent years
Having failed to qualify for consecutive Nations Cups in 2015 and 2017, in addition to their 2012 absence, Nigeria sealed qualification to the 2019 edition in grand style, recovering from a 2-0 home reversal against South Africa to impressive top a group also containing Libya and Seychelles.
At the tournament proper, the Super Eagles exceeded expectations, finishing in third place after dispatching teams like defending champions Cameroon and South Africa on their way. Earlier, they had also topped the 'group of death' including Cameroon, Algeria, and Zambia to secure qualification to the World Cup in Russia, while they also gave a good account of themselves in the tournament.
Impressive results have been recorded over the last two years, including a 4-2 comeback friendly victory over Argentina, while they also beat Egypt and drew with Ukraine and Brazil. It cannot be argued that Nigerian football has been on an upward trajectory in recent years after an earlier lull and it is very likely that they could continue with their good run of form in Qatar.
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