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Best Nigeria playing XI of all time

  • The best all-time XI from the Nigeria National team
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
Modified 21 Dec 2019, 01:19 IST

Scotland v Nigeria X
Scotland v Nigeria X

An all-time playing XI featuring players who have played in the Nigerian National team will likely be dominated by the 1993/94 "Golden Generation". They earned that nickname based on their blistering performances during the mid-90s.

It was this team that took Nigeria to their highest ever FIFA World ranking (5th) and how can we forget their heroics at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics where they won the Gold medal against all odds.

1. Goalkeeper - Vincent Enyeama

Vincent Enyeama impressed for Lille
Vincent Enyeama impressed for Lille

Standing in between the sticks is none other than former Lille keeper Vincent Enyeama, who also played for Hapoel Tel Aviv, Enyimba and Super Eagles. He is one of few players on this list who is not from the "Golden Generation" but there is hardly any doubt regarding his abilities between the sticks.

Overall in his career, Enyeama kept 29 clean sheets in 101 appearances for the Eagles of which 84 were in competitive fixtures. One notable achievement of his club career was when he went 1062 minutes without conceding a goal in Ligue 1.

2. Right Back - Joseph Yobo

Iran v Nigeria: Group F - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Iran v Nigeria: Group F - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Another player who wasn't part of the "Golden Generation" but makes our all-time XI is Joseph Yobo. The 39-year-old was a very reliable go-to defender at all times and showed how committed he was to the Super Eagles every time he was called up.

Although in the latter stages of his career he was deployed at the centre-back position, we must remember that he started off as a right-back and was a wall to the opposition attackers.

Yobo also shares the record for most appearances for the Super Eagles, representing his nation in 10 World Cup matches, 24 AFCON matches, and 18 World Cup qualifiers amongst other friendlies. He was defiant and strong, a leader and above all a humble personality.

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3. Left Back- Taribo West

Taribo West, Victor Agali
Taribo West, Victor Agali

The first player on our list from the "Golden Generation" is Taribo West. West was a fearless, and rugged defender who never took his eyes off his opponents. Having represented Nigeria at the Atlanta '96 Olympics and playing every match, West established himself as not only one of the best defenders in Nigeria but also on the African continent.

A player who played for both Inter Milan and AC Milan as a defender during his prime should go a long way to tell you how gifted and special he was.

West was versatile enough to play both as a centre-back and as a full-back. He was part of the Europa League-winning Inter Milan team of the 1997/98 season.

4. Center Back - Uche Okechukwu


Credits: Yahoo Sport
Credits: Yahoo Sport

The Giant" like he was fondly called, Uche Okechukwu was a resilient defender who never took anything for granted at the back and hardly recognised a friendly match.

He was fearless in all his dealings and in that regard cemented his place in the hall of fame of Nigeria national team players.

Uche won the 1994 AFCON with the Super Eagles and played significant role en route to Nigeria earning their first World Cup ticket in USA '94.

5. Center Back - Stephen Keshi

Stephen Keshi
Stephen Keshi

A real composed and commanding defender in the early 90s. Stephen Okechukwu Keshi was a real presence in the Nigerian defence. His positive attitude and passion to defend earned him his place in the heart of Nigerians during his playing days.

He holds the record for the first Nigerian player to play abroad when he joined KSC Lokeren in Belgium in 1985. He did not really have a long stint with the Super Eagles but he was able to represent Nigeria 64 times.

6. Defensive midfield - Sunday Oliseh


Sunday Oliseh
Sunday Oliseh

A long-range effort against Spain in USA '94 was the pinnacle of Sunday Oliseh's Super Eagles career. He was a fan favourite in 1994 going into that first game and he paid back the faith the fans had in him in fantastic fashion with an unbelievable long-range effort.

Oliseh plied his club football trade in both Germany and Netherlands and was a main part of the Super Eagles Atalanta 96' Gold winning team. It is no argument that no one has ever stepped up to the high standards Oliseh set at the Super Eagles defensive midfield position. He was a real joy to watch, thrilling fans with his tackling abilities and composure in the middle of the park.

7. Attacking midfield - Jay-Jay Okocha

African Cup of Nations Third Place Playoff Senegal v Nigeria
African Cup of Nations Third Place Playoff Senegal v Nigeria

Jay Jay Okocha is the unrivalled choice for this position. He is one player Nigerians and the world of football miss for the excitement he brought to the game. He played football in his own very unique fashion and he always had something new for the fans every time he played. He was a menace and a disaster to opposition players.

He made his International debut on May 3, 1993, and since then, was a blessing and epitome of joy for his fans.

8. Attacking midfield - Kanu Nwankwo


Nigeria v South Korea: Group B - 2010 FIFA World Cup
Nigeria v South Korea: Group B - 2010 FIFA World Cup

Have you ever thought of how magical a feeling it would be to score against both South America giants in a single tournament and winning a gold medal against one of them in the process? That was the feeling Kanu Nwankwo had in Atlanta '96 where he became both a national hero.

Kanu stands as the most decorated Nigerian player, not just for his country but for his club as well. He was among the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League-winning team with Ajax, 3 Dutch League titles (Ajax), 3 FA Cups (1x Portsmouth, 2x Arsenal), UEFA Cup (Inter Milan), Under 17 World Cup, Intercontinental Cup(Ajax), Community Shield (Arsenal), and is also a two-time African player of the year (1996 and 1999).

He represented the Super Eagles 87 times.

9. Right Winger - Emmanuel Amunike


GREECE V NIGERIA
GREECE V NIGERIA

Emmanuel Amunike is one of the few exciting wingers Nigeria has ever seen, he was very comfortable with the ball and fearless going forward, although his career was threatened with injury, he was able to impress within the little spell he had with the national team and was a one time African player of the year. He enjoyed successful stints in Zamalek, Barcelona, Sporting CP, and Albacete.

10. Left Winger - Finidi George

Finidi George and Thomas Helveg
Finidi George and Thomas Helveg

Pace, skill, passion, cross, goals, commitment, these are all you can get from this man. Finidi George is one of the few Nigerian players who are well decorated and respected.

George was a key part of the Super Eagles team. He rose to prominence in club football with Ajax where he played in two Champions League finals winning one against AC Milan in 1995. His efforts down the left-wing ensured Nigeria to victory in the 1994 Nations Cup.

11. Striker - Rashidi Yekini

ITALY V NIGERIA
ITALY V NIGERIA

If you took your eyes off him as a goalkeeper for a second, he would leave you disappointed. Rashidi Yekini was the best thing to have ever happened to the Nigeria national team in the centre forward position. He was so powerful, reliable and clinical in front of goal.

Yekini was the first Nigerian player to score at the World Cup, a goal he scored against Bulgaria in USA '94. He won the top scorer award in the 1994 AFCON with 5 goals.

His 37 goals haul in 57 games has not been surpassed to date. He enjoyed successful stints with Portugal outfit, Vitoria Setubal where he scored 34 goals in 32 matches in the 1992/93 season and 21 goals in 28 matches the following season.

Published 14 Dec 2019, 14:23 IST
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