5 Nigeria players to watch at the World Cup
Powered by forwards Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses, Nigeria won its first African Cup title in nearly two decades last year. The next step is to achieve something at the World Cup.
Emenike was one of the African Cup’s top scorers and Moses won the Man of the Match award in the final.
Alongside those two, central midfielder John Obi Mikel will likely play a pivotal role in Brazil when the team comes up against Argentina, Bosnia and Iran in Group F.
Here are five players to watch:
The difference between Nigeria with and Nigeria without Emmanuel Emenike is clear.
In the latter stages of last year’s African Cup, the Super Eagles powered past Mali 4-1 in the semifinals with him, then sorely missed the injured striker in a tense 1-0 win over Burkina Faso in the final.
The 26-year-old Fenerbache forward continued his good form with crucial goals in Nigeria’s World Cup qualifying campaign, scoring twice in Ethiopia for a 2-1 win in the playoffs.
Struggling for game time at Liverpool, Victor Moses plays a valuable role for Nigeria.
His work out wide or as a second striker was an important factor in the success of Emmanuel Emenike as the pair combined well at the African Cup of Nations.
Moses’ lack of action at Liverpool is a cause for concern for Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi, who views the powerful and pacey player as one of his best attacking threats.
JOHN OBI MIKEL
Like Victor Moses, Jon Obi Mikel’s time on the bench in the Premier League with Chelsea raises worries for his readiness at the World Cup.
With Mikel, Nigeria has the stability in central midfield that allows forwards Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses, and midfielders like Ahmed Musa and Sunday Mba, create and score goals.
Still only 26, Mikel is one of Nigeria’s most experienced players.
Few players had a more successful African Cup than Sunday Mba, the attacking midfielder with a hard shot whose stunning long-range goal gave Nigeria a 2-1 win over favored Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals.
Mba also scored the winner in the final with a goal worthy of winning a title. He controlled a bouncing ball, clipped it over a defender and volleyed into the net.
His breakthrough tournament earned him a European contract.
A right back or central defender, Efe Ambrose gives Nigeria an extra attacking outlet on the right flank as well as defensive solidity in times of trouble.
Ambrose was also a regular in the African Cup of Nations-winning team and has Champions League experience with Scottish club Celtic.