CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said Sunday that his current team could be even better than the 1994 side which reached the World Cup second round and was tipped as a possible future world champion.
Ahead of Nigeria's first game in the World Cup against Iran in Curitiba, Keshi said his team was still young — "like a baby" — compared to the experienced crop of 1994 that lost out to eventual runner-up Italy. Keshi, toward the end of a distinguished international career, played one match in that World Cup.
That 1994 team included a host of talented players, such as Jay Jay Okocha, Rasheed Yekini and Finidi George, many of whom had been playing together for five years. By contrast, Keshi said his current side — which won the Africa Cup of Nations last year — has only been together for around a year and a half.
"In 1994 the spirit was very high," Keshi said. "Here we're building that, we try to bring the same spirit and once we get that spirit, it's going to be two times as strong as 1994."
Having fallen at the last 16 stage in 1994 and in 1998, Nigeria has had two fairly dismal World Cup campaigns since, in 2002 and 2010. Its failure to win a single match in those two tournaments has contributed to doubts over the ability of an African team to win the World Cup in the near term.
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