What records did the Super Eagles set at the World Cup?
Nigeria's World Cup campaign ended in disappointing fashion a week ago today, when they were defeated by Argentina in St Petersburg.
The Super Eagles had been given a preparation unparalleled in their history of participation at the tournament, raising expectations given they reached the Round of 16 in Brazil four years ago with way less support, but they failed to match their pre-finals projections.
Regardless, the Super Eagles broke records in their sixth appearance at a World Cup finals.
Unbeaten Against World Cup Debutants
Nigeria were always going to bank on their perfect record against World Cup debutants when they faced Iceland after an underwhelming performance in the defeat by Croatia.
The Super Eagles had previously defeated first-time qualifiers Greece (2-0 in 1994) and Bosnia (1-0 in 2014), and they extended that record against the Scandinavians in their second group game, in Volgograd. They recorded their best performance of Russia 2018 in defeating Iceland 2-0, with two goals from Ahmed Musa.
Curse of the No. 9
Odion Ighalo's barren run in front of goal heading into the World Cup -- he had not scored since the home qualifier against Cameroon in September, 2017 -- saw huge question marks hanging over his ability to deliver for Nigeria at the tournament.
More worrisome was the fact that he was allocated jersey No. 9, a squad number reserved for a centre forward that had bizarrely produced just one World Cup goal for Nigeria, their first ever, against Bulgaria 24 years ago.
That goal drought had included players such as Rashidi Yekini, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Obafemi Martins and Emmanuel Emenike, and it extends now, after Russia 2018, to 20 games and 1139 minutes.
Nigeria could have written a different story entirely in Russia had Ighalo been clinical enough to have converted either of his two chances against Argentina.
Nigeria had played Argentina four times in FIFA World Cup finals, losing all four, but they went into the fixture in St Petersburg with high hopes given their 4-2 victory in a friendly in Krasnodar, Russia, in November 2017.
As in the previous four encounters, however, the Super Eagles lost by a one-goal margin. The latest defeat -- conceding the decisive goal with just four minutes of regulation time to play -- was particularly devastating as it cost the team a spot in the Round of 16
World Cup Penalty Drama
Never in the history of Nigeria's World Cup participation had penalties been awarded in each of their three group-stage games.
In 18 previous matches at the tournament, Nigeria had been involved in only three games that featured a penalty: against Italy in 1994, Sweden in 2002, and South Korea in 2010.
That number was equaled in Russia, as Nigeria conceded penalties against Croatia and Iceland and were awarded one in the heart-breaking defeat by Argentina. It was got even more interesting as Gylfi Sigurdsson's failed spot kick was the first missed penalty in a match involving Nigeria. The Super Eagles have now conceded four penalties and been awarded two at the FIFA World Cup.
All-time Top Goal Scorer
No individual had held the honour of being Nigeria's all-time top goal scorer at the World Cup since their first participation in 1994.
Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amuneke scored two goals apiece in the U.S., and they were later joined on that number by Kalu Uche and Musa.
Musa moved clear at the top of the list with his brace against Iceland -- his second at two different tournaments, as he scored twice against Argentina in Brazil, where he became the first Nigerian to score more than once in a single game.