In 60 years of independence, Nigeria has made some impacts in the world of football. Nigerian footballers and exploits comes to mind for some foreigners, when they hear the name Nigeria. Three-time winners of the African Cup of Nations, One Olympics Football gold medal, Five FIFA U-17 World Cup titles are some of the prominent football accolades that the country has won.
In all of this, picking a best XI of all-time is never an easy task. It is difficult to agree on a list that cuts across generations. This writer has done a compilation of his best XI of all-time, you can agree or disagree in the comment section. The team is made in a 4-4-2 formation.
GK – Vincent Enyeama
Vincent Enyeama has not been getting the accolades he deserves. Due to the feeling of nostalgia that Nigerian’s have for the 1980 and 1994 teams, majority put the likes of Peter Rufai and Emmanuel Okala ahead of Enyeama. While not taking anything away from Okala and Rufai, Enyeama did more than them.
Enyeama helped Enyimba win the once elusive CAF Champions League twice in 2003 and 2004. He won the AFCON in 2013, played at three World Cups and was arguably Nigeria’s best player in two of those. He came third in the African Footballer of the Year in 2014. He jointly holds the appearance record for the Super Eagles. Bring your goalkeeper and lay down the facts, Enyeama is ours.
Honorable mentions: Emmanuel Okala, Peter Rufai, Ike Shorounmu
RB – Joseph Yobo
Though he played as a center-back for most of his Super Eagles career, he started out as a right-back. He shares the Super Eagles appearance record with Enyeama. He was a super regular for the Super Eagles for like 13 years. Won one AFCON and played at three World Cups.
Honorable mention: Austin Eguavoen
CB – Stephen Keshi
The big boss was one of the first Nigerians to make exploits in Europe. He captained the Super Eagles to AFCON success in 1994 and captained the team to their first World Cup appearance. His commanding personality was reflective when he led the team as coach to another AFCON success in 2013.
CB – Taribo West
His funny hairstyle apart, West no dey laugh for pitch. He was solid and commanding in his time in the Super Eagles. No ordinary defender would have played for both AC Milan and Inter Milan at the height of Italian football.
He won Olympics gold with the U-23 team in 1996. He also played at two FIFA World Cups.
Honorable mentions: Uche Okechukwu, Christian Chukwu
LB – Celestine Babayaro
Babayaro started out by winning the U-17 World Cup in 1993 to winning the Olympics gold in 1996. He was a Super Eagles regular till 2004 when he left the team in controversial circumstances. Sturdy in defence and brilliant in attack, no left-back did it better than Babayaro.
Honorable mention: Ben Iroha
DM – Sunday Oliseh
That winning goal and celebration against Spain at the 1998 World Cup says a lot about Oliseh’s passion. He was solid defensively and had a brilliant passing range. He won the Olympics gold in 1996, won the Nations Cup in 1994 and played at two FIFA World Cups.
CM – Austin Okocha
One of the most naturally gifted Nigerians to ever play the game. He won the AFCON in 1994 and Olympics gold in 1996. He won the BBC African Footballer of the Year twice. Okocha was a delight to watch and probably no Nigerian footballer entertained Nigerians better.
Honorable mentions: Muda Lawal, Mutiu Adepoju
RW – Segun Odegbami
The mathematical Odegbami starred as Nigeria won her first Nations Cup title in 1980. A wizard down the flanks, Odegbemi combined pace, dribbling skills and an eye for goals.
LW – Finidi George
Usually a right winger, Finidi was comfortable playing across the midfield. He won the Nations Cup in 1994 and played at two FIFA World Cups. Alongside Kanu Nwankwo, Finidi was the first Nigerian to win the prestigious UEFA Champions League. He combined blistering pace with a good technical ability.
Honorable mentions: Emmanuel Amuneke, Adokiye Amiesimaka
FW: Kanu Nwankwo
Gangling Kanu Nwankwo rose from winning the U-17 World Cup in 1993 to leading Nigeria to Africa’s first Olympics gold in football in 1996. He played at two FIFA World Cups.
Kanu won the African footballer of the year twice, the only Nigerian to achieve the feat. He also won numerous trophies in Europe, perhaps the most decorated Nigerian footballer ever.
FW: Rashidi Yekini
The goals king. Yekini holds the record for the highest goalscorer in the history of Nigeria with 37 goals. He won the AFCON in 1994 and played at two FIFA World Cups, scoring Nigeria’s first ever World Cup goal in 1994.
He had a raw combination of pace, power and shooting ability. No Nigerian no. 9 comes close.
Honorable mention: Daniel Amokachi
Drop your thoughts. Which of our selections do you agree or disagree with?
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