Nigeria may be better-placed than ever to go far at the World Cup — if the problems posed by an overbearing football federation stay away.
Nigeria ended a long slump to win the African Cup last year with a powerful display in South Africa under coach Stephen Keshi, beating Ivory Coast and Mali on the way to its first continental title in nearly 20 years.
But off-the-field issues have followed the team and Keshi, Nigeria's captain in 1994 when the country previously won the African Cup and went on to make the second round at the World Cup in the United States as group winner over Argentina.
Keshi quit as coach right after Nigeria won the continental title a year ago, a clear indication of the friction between him and the Nigeria Football Federation. He was convinced to stay, but has sometimes gone months without pay and in the latest of many squabbles has had to fend off demands from the NFF that he name his World Cup players two months before the tournament.
"There is no other country that is going to the World Cup that has released the list, but here in Nigeria I must bring my team list even when the top teams of this world are yet to do so," Keshi said.
The Nigerian public, boosted by the African Cup triumph, also demand the team's best-ever performance at a World Cup and a place in the quarterfinals, even if the Super Eagles failed to win a game in their last two World Cup appearances and haven't made the second round since 1998.