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Jun 9, 2014

Nigeria's World Cup predictions

After four years of waiting, the time has come. Another World Cup is here, and our bloggers across all 32 competing countries have each predicted the fate that awaits their team. The country's Outlook gives a general view of its situation ahead of the tournament, while Pitfalls takes a look at any potential problems. Each blogger will also predict the top scorer and breakout star and suggest how far that nation can go.

OUTLOOK

After three friendly matches, Nigeria do not look like they intimidate anyone. Draws against Scotland and Greece and a limp performance in the 2-1 defeat against the U.S. suggest that the team still has some way to go. Coach Stephen Keshi has tinkered with his personnel, tactics and style in all three games, but so far, nothing has quite worked out.

As if that was not bad enough, injury to first-choice left-back Elderson Echiejile has made the side look somewhat unbalanced. Worse, goal scoring has proved to be a major issue, and Keshi's wards will have to find a way to create, and finish, chances.

PITFALLS

So far, the team looks like anything but one. Victor Moses provides the main creative spark, but he does not seem to have imbibed the ethos of team work. In all three warm-up games, players have run into each other's spaces, tactical discipline has been hard to achieve, and the defence has looked somewhat out of shape.

Ogenyi Onazi runs himself aground in midfield but barely gets any support. With time short before Nigeria get their campaign off the ground, Keshi will have to find a way to get his first XI playing like a team. And for each other.

STAR SCORER

Everyone looks up to Emmanuel Emenike for goals, and he could well earn top scorer honours, at least for his team. But one man who could upstage him is Uche Nwofor. The second-choice line leader is a natural predator. Not only does he know his way around the penalty area, but he is also as precise with his finish as he is good with his positioning. Having spent the season on loan at SC Heerenveen from VVV Venlo in the Dutch Eredivise, Nwofor will be keen to showcase his skills and possibly earn a move this summer.

Ogenyi Onazi will be a powerful influence in the middle of the pitch.

WILD CARD

Onazi is the oil that keeps that Super Eagles' engine room going. For a man of small size, he is a brutish, uncompromising tackler who takes no prisoners. When in sight of goal, he will not hesitate to let fly from distance. If there is one man on the team who could play a starring role, Onazi would be it, and he will be a key figure in central midfield. Chelsea's John Obi Mikel may get more of the spotlight, but his partner in crime could have more of an impact in Brazil.

PREDICTION: Last 16

If the Super Eagles get in their groove before that opening game against Iran and secure those first three points, the confidence could carry them in its swell and lead to victory against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Given that Argentina are likely to prove a much tougher test, it would be good to have points in the bag before they arrive. A place in the last 16 would represent a fine tournament, and the Nigerian fans will believe that if they can do that, anything is possible.