Super Eagles is the nickname for the Nigerian senior national football team. It is governed by the Nigerian Football Federation formerly called Nigerian Football Association which was formally created in 1945.
The national team played its first official game in October 1949 while Nigeria was still a British colony against amateur teams in England. The team’s first major success was a gold medal in the 1973 2nd All-Africa games in Lagos, Nigeria. Subsequently, Nigeria finished 3rd-place twice in the 1976 and 1978 African Cup of Nations.
In 1980, the Super Eagles won the Cup for the first time in Lagos. In 1984 and 1988, Nigeria reached the Cup of Nations final, losing both times to Cameroon which created an intense rivalry between the two countries.
In late 1989, Clemens Westerhof was signed by the Nigerian Football Association as head coach to the national team. Nigeria reached the final of the 1990 African Cup of Nations where they lost to the host nation Algeria.
The Super Eagles nickname was fully adopted during the 1992 African Cup of Nations because of the teams success and how they beat other teams. They ended up third in the tournament losing to arch rivals Ghana in the semi-final.
Westerhof is credited with turning Nigeria into a perennial powerhouse in African football and on the world stage. He is responsible for what could be described as a golden period in Nigerian football.
Players such as Jay-Jay Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Nwankwo Kanu, Rashidi Yekini, Daniel Amokachi who all went on to successful careers with various high-profile European clubs, entered the world spotlight while playing under Westerhof.
Nigeria reached the World Cup for the first time in 1994 after years of struggling to get there. Nigeria topped their group which included Argentina, Bulgaria, and Greece. In the second round, they were beaten by the Italians in extra time.
Two years later, Nigeria won the men’s football event at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, beating Mexico, Brazil and Argentina in the process.
In 1998, Nigeria returned to the World Cup with manager Bora Milutinović and most of the 1994 squad. Nigeria was drawn with Spain, Bulgaria, Paraguay. The Eagles qualified for the second round but could not surpass its 1994 performance.
They lost to Denmark. The 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan was not one to remember as the team bowed out in the first round. Nigeria then failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.
After securing qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on the last day, The Super Eagles had a poor showing and failed to make it past the group stage as in 2002.
Following the team’s early exit and poor showing, the then President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan suspended the national football team from international competition for two years which attracted a FIFA ban for government interference. Both bans were later lifted.
In 2014, Nigeria was able to get their first win in the tournament since 1998 against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nigeria qualified for the round of 16 but was unable to make it past France.
Major Achievements and Honors
Africa Cup of Nations; Winners: 1980, 1994, 2013; Runners-up: 1984, 1988, 1990, 2000
World Cup; Round of 16: 1994, 1998, 2014
All-Africa Games; Gold Medal: 1973; Silver Medal: 1978