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World Cup 2018: 5 Nigerian players to watch out for

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8.59K   //    05 Jun 2018, 11:50 IST

England  v Nigeria  -International Friendly
Nigeria started their strongest eleven against England

The Eagles' jersey received a huge amount of sales overseas and the preorders were up to 3 million. Although their jersey is a hit among the masses, Nigeria are nonetheless underdogs. As of 2018, the nation has qualified for six of the last seven FIFA World Cup, reaching the round of 16 thrice.

They are one of the better teams from Africa but when compared to the European nations and some South American teams, Nigeria are still not highly regarded as fierce competitors.

During the international friendlies held in March, Nigeria faced two World Cup sides, Poland and Serbia. The African nation beat the former but lost to the latter. It seems like the team's performance stays rather inconsistent as they drew with DR Congo in late May before losing to England a few days ago.

The game against the Three Lions was a stern test for Nigeria even though it was simply a friendly match. It surely made the head coach, Gernot Rohr, more certain of his choices and the best 23-man squad.

Also read: World Cup 2018: 9 Players Playing in their Fourth World Cup

Looking bright and smart in their Naija jersey, there are a few sparks who have performed well on the international stage. In the upcoming World Cup, they could bring further glory to their nation and lead Nigeria to advance through the stages. Here is a look at the five stars to look out for.

#5 John Obi Mikel

Mikel will continue to be his team's captain

The former Chelsea man is one of the most experienced in the Nigeria football team. As the captain of the team, he has 83 caps to his name and scored six goals since his international senior debut in 2005. Over the decade that he has spent in Chelsea, he was known to be a reliable defensive player but rarely stole the show with his performances. Despite his average showing in the English Premier League, he is regarded as a hero in Nigeria.

Mikel is able to play different roles across the midfield and can at times be deployed to play as a centre-back too. Now at 31 years of age, Mikel plays at Tianjin Teda. The competition in the Chinese Super League is surely not as stiff and demanding as in England. However, it still allows him to remain active on the pitch and make his way into the World Cup squad.

The tall midfielder is proficient with dribbling from midfield. He likes to play through balls and short passes, which allows his team to advance quickly and keep possession. Mikel has been a key player for the Nigeria football team especially during the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations and 2014 World Cup. The leader will undoubtedly be a source of inspiration for the rest of the players during their games in Russia.

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