Nigeria Team Preview

The Players

Vincent Enyeama (captain) goalkeeper, Lille

Joseph Yobo defender, Norwich City

Uwa Elderson Echiéjilé defender, Monaco

Reuben Gabriel midfielder, Waasland-Beveren

Efe Ambrose defender, Celtic

Azubuike Egwuekwe defender, Warri Wolves

Ahmed Musa forward, CSKA Moscow

Peter Odemwingie forward, Stoke City

Emmanuel Emenike forward, Fenerbahce

10 Mikel John Obi midfielder, Chelsea

11 Victor Moses midfielder, Chelsea

12 Kunle Odunlami defender, Sunshine Stars

13 Juwon Oshaniwa defender, Ashdod

14 Godfrey Oboabona defender, Caykur Rizespor

15 Ramon Azeez midfielder, Almería

16 Austin Ejide goalkeeper, Hapoel Be’er Sheva

17 Ogenyi Onazi midfielder, Lazio

18 Michael Babatunde midfielder, Volyn Lutsk

19 Uche Nwofor forward, Heerenveen

20 Michael Uchebo forward, Cercle Brugge

21 Chigozie Agbim goalkeeper, Gombe United

22 Kenneth Omeruo defender, Middlesbrough

23 Shola Ameobi forward, Newcastle United

Star man

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As hard as it may sound for Chelsea fans, Mikel John Obi was the creative force behind last year’s Africa Cup of Nations triumph in South Africa. Having been hailed as the successor to Jay-Jay Okocha a decade ago, the 27-year-old had become used to being ridiculed in his homeland for an increasingly defensive approach. All has now been forgiven and – free from the constraints of José Mourinho’s bus – Mikel’s big moment may have arrived.

Most likely to be sent home in disgrace
Celtic’s Efe Ambrose was sent off against Burkina Faso but the likelihood as ever with Nigeria is the government, or FA, shooting themselves in the foot and alienating the players by withholding payments or making asinine knee-jerk condemnations

The coach.

Known as The Big Boss, Keshi is reminiscent of a middle-aged Obi-Wan Kenobi for possessing an unwavering belief in his own ability. The decision to resign within 24 hours of the Africa Cup triumph before performing a U-turn showed the sort of balls required to survive repeated battles with the prickly NFF.

Grudge match

Drawn for the second time against Argentina, Nigeria will be looking to improve on a pair of timid 1-0 defeats in their final Group F match in Porto Alegre. The opening match against Iran will also carry an interesting subtext – Nigeria’s pro-Iranian Shia Muslim community was virtually non-existent 30 years ago but now comprise about 5% of the country’s 80 million Muslims, with close ties remaining between Tehran and the Islamic Movement in Nigeria.

Holed up

Located 96km from São Paulo in one of Brazil’s oldest cities, the Vitória Hotel Concept in Campinas has four restaurants, 253 rooms and a heliport. That could come in handy when the issue of player bonuses inevitably rears its ugly head.

How they qualified
Won the Cup of Nations this year and were unbeaten in six group games before a 4-1 aggregate victory over Ethiopia in the two-legged play-off which owed a debt of gratitude to the fine form of Lille’s unbreachable goalkeeper Victor Enyeama.

World Cup high
Eighty-eight minutes into their round of 16 match at their debut tournament in 1994 against 10-man Italy, Nigeria were 1-0 up until Rip Van Baggio at last awoke and equalised with a superb shot and then scored the extra-time winner from the spot.

World Cup low
Two defeats, one to Greece, and a draw in 2010 enraged Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, to such a peak of Rumpelstiltskin rage that he banned the team from playing international matches for two years before backtracking a week later.

Familiar faces
Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea) and John Obi Mikel (Chelsea), Victor Moses (Chelsea), Shola Ameobi (ex-Newcastle United), Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City).

Title odds

The stereotype is …
Chaotic organisation, defensive indiscipline, John Obi Mikel doing his Ray Wilkins crab-dance and flash, amusement arcade forwards more interested in winning goal of the tournament than the golden boot.

The reality is …
Excellent goalkeeper, industrious and mean defence, Mikel less inhibited and betraying hints of why Chelsea fought so hard to get him and a dangerous, bullocking forward in Emmanuel Emenike. The key to Keshi’s success since taking over the Super Eagles in 2011 has been managing to get the best out of Mikel. Deployed in a more advanced role than he is used to for Chelsea, Nigeria have long abandoned 4-4-2 and play a variation of 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, with Lazio’s Ogenyi Onazi providing the bite alongside Mikel and Africa Cup hero Sunday Mba offering support. Victor Moses, Emenike and a potential recall for Odemwingie could make for an exciting front three.

What they’re known for?
Potent Guinness 12 per cent
419 scams 21 per cent
Band on the Run 9 per cent
Oil 40 per cent
Sub-Australian standard soaps 18 per cent

How Google translates the national anthem
Help our youth the truth to know, in love and honesty to grow

A breezy, Ronnie Hazlehurst-esque 55sec.

How to dress like their fans

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Green and white face-paint, green and white Harpo Marx wigs, green and white clothes. Think Plymouth Argyle or retro, spearmint-flavoured, sickly confectionery, Pacers, formerly Opal Mints.

Commentator’s go-to stat
One sixth of Africa’s population lives in Nigeria. Ameobi scored as many England Under-21 goals (seven) as Jermain Defoe.