The Nigeria national football team formed in 1945. The team joined both FIFA and the Confederation of African Football in 1959. There is some dispute as to the date of Nigeria’s beginnings, with records of a national team dating back to the 1930’s. More recently, the team was banned from international football in 2010 after political influences on the team.
Nigeria first played a recorded international game in 1949, when they beat Sierra Leone 2-0. Ten years later the team notched up a national record 10-1 victory over Dahomey (now Benin). Nigeria’s record defeat is a 7-0 annihilation by Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1955. The team has enjoyed great success in the Africa Cup of Nations, winning the cup in 1980, 1994 and 2013. Nigeria has also finished third in the competition on four occasions.
Winning the Cup of Nations in 1994 meant the Nigeria national football team travelled to the 1995 FIFA Confederations Cup. In the first round, Nigeria beat Japan 3-0 and drew with Argentina to finish second in their group. The team missed out on the final by a single goal and instead played for third place against Mexico. The play-off was a tight game, locked at 1-1 after a period of extra time. Nigeria lost the game 5-4 on penalties, with Mexico scoring all of their spot-kicks.
World cup 1994
The Nigeria national football team first qualified for the world cup in 1994. The team faced Argentina, Bulgaria and Greece in what turned out to be the tightest of the first round groups. Nigeria won their first ever world cup game 3-0 against Bulgaria, while Argentina defeated Greece. In their second game, Niger narrowly lost 2-1 to favourites Argentina. The final group game brought a 2-0 win over Greece and Nigeria surprised many by topping the table on goal difference. Argentina were ultimately knocked into third place after a shock defeat to Bulgaria.
The second round knock-out stage saw Nigeria draw Italy. Nigeria led the game through a first half goal but were pegged back by a late Roberto Baggio strike. During extra time the Italians were awarded a penalty which Baggio again converted to send Nigeria home. The team’s world cup début was a huge success and established the Nigeria national football team firmly on the world stage.
World cup 1998
With many of the squad members from the 1994 finals, Nigeria arrived at France 1998 with high hopes. This time the team faced Bulgaria, Paraguay and Spain in the first round. Nigeria beat Spain 3-2 in their opening game and once again defeated Bulgaria in a world cup match in game two. With two wins from two matches, Nigeria had already won the group before their defeat by Paraguay.
Nigeria again drew a European team in the second round, this time Denmark. Denmark dominated the game, scoring their first of four after just three minutes. Though Nigeria managed a consolation goal, 4-1 was an embarrassing scoreline. The 1998 world cup was another good tournament for Nigeria, who were still new to the stage. The Denmark game took the shine off what was still a notable achievement.
World cup 2002
The Nigeria national football team were renewed for the 2002 finals and full of optimism. The team faced Argentina once again, as well as England and Sweden. In a tight opener, Nigeria lost 1-0 to Argentina while England and Sweden drew 1-1. The team then lost to Sweden, leaving them without a point after two games and exiting the competition. Fortunes improved with a 0-0 draw against England, but the 2002 finals were a huge disappointment to the team.
World cup 2010
Nigeria missed out on the 2006 world cup but returned to the finals in 2010. For the third time in four finals, they faced Argentina in the first round. Nigeria also drew Greece for the second time but did face new faces in South Korea. Once again the Nigeria national football team was defeated 1-0 by Argentina in their first game. Greece then gained revenge with 2-1 win in the second match, albeit after Nigeria had a man sent off. The team regained some pride with a 2-2 final game draw with South Korea. Despite this, Nigeria again finished bottom of their group with a single point. The team’s world cup performance lead to the country’s president banning the team from competing for two years. This stance was swiftly overturned after FIFA threatened to ban Nigeria from competing anyway due to political influences. A ban was put in place, despite the change in policy, but lifted a few months later.
World cup 2014
The world cup in 2014 was hosted by Brazil and won by Germany who became the first European side to win the tournament in South America. The tournament didn’t start well for the Nigeria national football team as they recorded a disappointing 0-0 draw with Iran. In the next match the side improved to record their first world cup win since 1998, a 1-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina. An exciting 3-2 defeat to Argentina followed but the side had done enough to qualify in second place. In the last-sixteen two late goals for France put Nigeria out of the competition, after a 2-0 defeat.
World cup 2018
Fixtures to be announced.
Find out more
- Nigeria national football team website.
- Nigeria on Twitter.
- Confederation of African Football qualifying.