Rashidi Yekini celebrates Nigeria’s first-ever goal at the World Cup

IKENWA NNABUOGOR presents the Super Eagles’ all-time World Cup XI since Nigeria came to the party at US’94.

 

Peter Rufai – Goalkeeper

It’s certainly a fierce battle between Rufai and Vincent Enyeama for the war of the gloves, but Rufai gets the nod on account of his superlative performance at US’94. Rufai’s heroics, no doubt, were noteworthy especially against Bulgaria in the opening round at US’94 to inspire the team to the second round for the debuting Nigeria team. He played a total of eight games for his country in two World Cup outings – US’94 and France’98.

Augustine Eguavoen – Right Back

Never will this big defender shy away from his duties at right back with the former KAA Gent of Belgium ace held down his position gamely at US’94. He was a delight to watch going forward, tough in tackling and great in team play. But his infamous wrestle on Antonio Benarrivo for the penalty kick that led to Italy’s defeat in the second round at US’94. He would lose his place at France’98, playing just a game against Paraguay in the group’s last game,to the surprise of many but his US’94 performance got him the nod ahead of Joseph Yobo.

Celestine Babayaro – Left Back

The then young Chelsea left back was great at France’98, defending, running down the flank and initiating attack. He initiated the attack that Victor Ikpeba finished off coolly after receiving a sumptuous pass from Daniel Amokachi against Bulgaria for the second victory. He also appeared at Japan/Korea 2002 World Cup.

Okechukwu Uche – Central Defence

There is no doubt who the best rock at the rear for the all-time Eagles’ World Cup 11 is as the “Gentle Giant” stood like a rock in the defence for his country. He gave  very little away at US’94 and France’98 World Cup to emerge the undisputed centre back in this all-time best pick. Played a total of seven games as the Eagles reached a consecutive second round finish.

Chidi Nwanu (left( challenges Diego Maradona (right) at the 1994 World Cup in USA

Chidi Nwanu – Central Defence

His performance at US’94 and only World Cup appearance still remains unrivaled till date. Like a thief in the night, the then Anderlecht of Belgium star gatecrashed into the World Cup team to hold down his position as a central defense pair alongside Okey Uche to give his all and help his country get to the historic second round. He played all four games.

Sunday Oliseh – Defensive Midfield

You would need to take a long walk to recall a better defensive midfielder than Sunday Oliseh, who played the position with relish and assurance. No defensive midfielder has come near Oliseh’s qualities till date.

Augustine Okocha – Central Midfield

No doubt who is the orchestra conductor is in the central midfield in the all-time best Eagles’ 11 than the former Bolton Wanderers’ playmaker Austin “Jay Jay” Okocha. The Enugu-born star was magical in the middle for his country, passing, dribbling, showboating to the admiration of spectators. He played just two games in his debut World Cup outing at US’94 to return to be super regular at the subsequent appearances at France’98 and Korea/Japan 2002.

 Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha doing his magic in his hey days

Finidi George – Right Midfield 

Since the exit of Finidi George, Eagles have struggled to get his replacement in that department. Such was his quality that Finidi was never going to disappoint at US’94 and France’98 World Cups. His pin point crosses were delight to watch and his celebration against Greece at US’94 still remains a talking point.

Emmanuel Amuneke – Left Midfield

Same with Finidi, Amuneke took personal possession of the role in his Eagles’ days and delivered 100 percent at US’94, which remains his only World Cup outing. His bullet header against Bulgaria for the Eagles’ third goal at US’94 still remains a marketable advert shot for a product.

Rashidi Yekini – Attack

It was only going to be the late Yekini to set a record for Eagles and he surely did netting his country’s first-ever World Cup goal in the famous 3-0 win against Bulgaria at US’94. Unfortunately that was his only World Cup goal as he continued his fruitless search for goal thereafter. Had his bicycle kick against Spain at France’98 had gone in, perhaps, Yekini would have scored more than his this goal.

Daniel Amokachi – Attack

“Da Bull” had everything going for him at the two World Cups he attended – US’98 and France’98. Goals, assists, dance steps, bullish runs, confidence as the former Club Brugge of Belgium striker caught the eye of the world. Even Barcelona and Real Madrid at some point, inquired about him. Injury was not fair to them post World Cup.

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