IKENWA NNABUOGOR presents the Super Eagles’ World Cup all-time best eleven who never got to feature at the biggest stage of world football
Had Eagles made to the World Cup in two fruitless attempts at Argentina 1978 and Espana 1982, towering Enugu Rangers goalkeeper would have been between the sticks. Making his debut in 1972, Okala was a rock in the posts for the national team, winning the bronze medal at the Nations Cup in 1978 in Ghana and capping his illustrious Eagles’ spell by winning the title on home soil in 1980. He was capped 59 times.
Right full back
The modern right back was the undisputed choice for Serbian coach Bora Milutonovic at France’98 but devastating injury copped against Germany in the France’98 warm up friendly on 22 April 1998 in Koln, put paid to his World Cup dreams. The exciting right back never recovered from it and his career entirely. He was capped only seven times.
His surging runs down the left flank for the Eagles that contributed immensely to the Nigeria’s first Nations Cup triumph, were solely missed in the World Cup. He was ever-present in the Eagles who lost the chance to qualify for Espana’82 World Cup no thanks to Algeria.
‘Chairman’ was a rock at the rear for Nigeria and could pass for one of the major World Cup absentees. He came closest to showcasing his defensive skills for his country in 1978, but was denied by Tunisia. Chukwu, no doubt, would have caught the eye at world level if he had led Eagles to qualify the World Cup. He was solid, skilled, quick, tough and his long balls were legendary.
No doubt Eboigbe was a quintessential central defender who never compromised his approach. Hard, tough, Eboigbe, two-time African Nations Cup finalist, was feared by strikers on the continent but still could not showcase his undoubted class at the world stage.
The former Eagles captain was a leader on and off the pitch. Great motivator who led by examples and scored important goals as well. The Espana’82 and Mexico’86 World Cup missed this little battle ship, who would taken the world by storm with his array of skills. Capped 60 times for his country and netted eight goals.
Esin had everything going for him in the late 80s and would have showcased his skills to the world at Italia’90 had Cameroon not stopped the Eagles in the final play-off return leg in Yaoundé when they fell to the a lone Emmanuel Kunde’s strike. The then Lokeren of Belgium star forward attracted bigger clubs and appearances at Italia’90 would have opened bigger doors for him. Sadly that didn’t come to pass.
The one-time IICC Shooting Stars skipper was your classic box-to-box midfielder. He was a durable as he was exciting on the ball for both club and country at the peak of his career.
Late Eagles record scorer Rashidi Yekini made sure Owubokiri was overlooked at Eagles’ maiden World Cup outing in the US in 1994. Earlier he was voted Europe’s top scorer with 30 goals for Boavista and was expected to transform his impressive goals haul at US’94 but coach Clemens Westerhof saw no need for him, no thanks to Yekini’s incredible goal harvest.’ Ricky’ was available for just a game in the US’94 qualifier, netting once in the 4-0 victory against South Africa in Lagos. He made 23 appearances for his country and scored just a goal.
A proven goal scorer and widely regarded as one of Nigeria’s top centre-forwards of all time. He was as deadly as he was exciting to watch when he was on the ball. Those who watched him in his hey days speak of a specially gifted striker who scored almost for fun for both club and country.
Only Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic would explain why he dropped Akpoborie from the France’98 World Cup squad, after playing five of the six qualifiers. He was also joint second top scorer in the 1997-98 Uefa Cup Winners’ Cup competition and would have surely transformed his hot scoring form to the World Cup. He was indeed missed as Eagles capitulated to Denmark in the second round. He was capped 13 times for his country and scored four goals.
Best Ogedegbe, Ademola Adeshina, Ikechukwu Uche, Segun Odegbami, Godwin Odiye, Yisa Sofoluwe