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Nigeria Making Third Straight World Cup Finals Appearance - 2002-05-14


Nigeria played well four years ago in World Cup competition in France. But the Nigeria team now appears to be somewhat unstable as it travels to Asia.

Nigeria is among the most respected football teams in Africa. The Super Eagles showed potential at the last two World Cup finals after easing through the first round. But both times, the team quickly imploded in the knockout stage.

Nigeria is making its third successive World Cup finals appearance, and many key players from 1998 are returning. But international football commentator Derek Rae says frequent coaching changes have led to disarray.

"With Nigeria this time, it is all a bit confusing again," said Mr. Rae, who went on to note the frequent dismissal of team managers. "We have the political aspect creeping in with managers biting the dust with gay abandon. And who knows what team we will see? Who knows how the team will line up come the World Cup finals in the Far East?"

Nigeria has been drawn into what is considered the toughest group of the tournament. Mr. Rae says Nigeria will have a difficult time in Japan battling for one of the top two places in Group F with Argentina, England and Sweden. "I think it is an awfully difficult group for them to get out of. We saw wonderful things from Nigeria in the group stage last time in France. But then they fell apart in the knockout stage. So they do have this tendency to self-destruct," he added.

Nigeria had to watch for a second successive time as African rival Cameroon won the continental championship last month. The Super Eagles reached the semifinals before losing 2-1 to Senegal. The team is hoping for some redemption at the World Cup, where Nigeria's best finish was ninth place in 1994.

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