The Super Eagles were pitched alongside Spain, Bulgaria and Paraguay in the Group D of the 1998 World Cup held in France.
Walter Winterbottom prophesied that an African team would win the World Cup by the end of the century. He must have been on cloud nine when he made this prophesy.
Nigeria struck Olympic gold two years before in Atalanta and their captain and chief inspiration in that competition, Nwankwo Kanu, was happily back in their fold.
The Internazionale player was one of several striking assets that the coach Bora Milutinovic had at his disposal.
The 1997 African Footballer of the Year Victor Ikpeba, of Monaco, the lightning-quick Tijani Babangida, of Ajax, and the old Evertonian Daniel Amokachi, were also in the Yugoslavian coach’s squad.
Add to that the attacking qualities of defenders like Chelsea’s wing-back, Celestine Babayaro, and Inter’s Taribo West, and it was clear that they will be one of the competition’s most entertaining sides.
Milutinovic as likely to be a key figure himself. Appointed in April 1998, he had coached Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States in the World Cup finals, but this time he had a richer reserve of talent at his disposal.
He had a happy squad too, having won over his squad by making the players’ wives welcome in France. “A month of abstinence would have been bad for them,” he reasoned. Scoring, then, is unlikely to be a problem.
How far did Nigeria go in France after friendly losses to Germany, Yugoslavia and Holland?
The rest will be revealed in subsequent bulletins.
Nigeria World Cup Squad To France 1998
1 Peter Rufai (Deportivo La Coruna)
12 William Okpara (Orlando Pirates)
22 Abiodun Baruwa (Sion)
2 Mobi Oparaku (Kapellen)
3 Celestine Babayaro (Chelsea)
5 Uche Okechukwu (Fenerbahce)
6 Taribo West (Inter Milan)
16 Uche Okafor (Kansas City Wizards)
17 Augustine Eguavoen (Torpedo Moscow)
19 Ben Iroha (Elche)
21 Godwin Okpara (Strasbourg)
7 Finidi George (Real Betis)
8 Mutiu Adepoju (Real Sociedad)
10 Jay-Jay Okocha (Fenerbahce)
11 Garba Lawal (Roda JC Kerkrade)
13 Tijani Babangida (Ajax)
15 Sunday Oliseh (Ajax)
18 Wilson Oruma (Lens)
4 Nwankwo Kanu (Inter Milan)
9 Rashidi Yekini (FC Zurich)
14 Daniel Amokachi (Besiktas)
20 Victor Ikpeba (Monaco)