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Super Eagles of Nigeria: The Push for a 4-4-2 formation

With the talent at their disposal Nigeria should be doing better than they currently are. Olarinmoye Segun from suggests a return to the formation used by the successful Super Eagles team of ’94.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria is a household name in African soccer. The Super Eagles (formerly called the Green Eagles) is one of the most successful African teams, with 3 Confederation of African Football Nations Cup, 1 Olympic Gold medal in Football, 5 World Cup appearances and 2 Confederation Cup appearances.

Even the name of the team would cause a lot of African teams to tremble, but recent poor performances, results and the frequent change in managers as well as inconsistent handling of matters at the nation’s football association (NFF) has affected the team both on and off the pitch.

The reputation of the team has dropped drastically, and this has led a lot of football pundits and lovers to question where it all went wrong. will highlight some of the key points in the tactics employed in 1994 (which is arguably the highest point of the team in terms of form).

Super Eagles of 1994

In January 1994, the Super Eagles of Nigeria won their 2nd African Cup of Nations title in Tunisia, after coming from a goal down to defeat the Zambian National team (Chipolopolo) 2 – 1 in the final.

On the 21st of June 1994, the Super Eagles of Nigeria, made their World Cup debut, and against all odds defeated Bulgaria 3 – 0. The Bulgarian team would eventually come fourth after losing the bronze medal match to Sweden in the tournament.

The Bulgarian team had the likes of the great H. Stoichov and Letchkov at their peaks, as they also defeated the Greek team 2 – 0 and lost to the Argentines who had players like Diego Maradonna (though he played only 2 matches and failed a 12 panel drug test), Gabriel Batistuta, Cannigia, Ortega and Redondo by a 2 – 1 margin after a spirited performance to qualify for the second round.

The Super Eagles eventually lost 1 – 2 to Italy, after leading the match upto the 89th minute, only for the Italians to score 2 goals late on. This Italian team with the likes of Roberto Baggio at his peak went on to the finals losing on penalties to Brazil.

Summary of Super Eagles in USA ’94 World Cup

Group D Results:


Second Round:

NIGERIA 1 – 2 ITALY [AFTER EXTRA TIME] has highlighted some key tactical points used then:

The formation frequently used by the Super Eagles was 4-4-2.

Nigerian Team Lineup:


1. GK Peter Rufai
2. DF Augustine Eguavoen
3. DF Benedict Iroha
4. DF Stephen Keshi
5. DF UcheOkechukwu
6. DF ChidiNwanu
7. FW Finidi George
8. MF Oliha Thompson
9. FW RashidiYekini
10. MF Augustine Okocha
11. FW Emmanuel Amuneke
12. MF Samson Siasia
13. DF EmekaEzeugo
14. FW Daniel Amokachi
15. MF Sunday Oliseh
16. GK AlloysiusAgu
17. FW Victor Ikpeba
18. FW Evan Ekoku
19. DF Michael Emenalo
20. FW UcheOkafor
21. MF MutiuAdepoju
22. GK Wilfred Agbonavbare
Coach: Clemens Westerhof

The 4-4-2 formation

This is one of the most famous formations. The advantage is that it covers the full length of the field and uses 2 strikers who help battle defenders.

It is a formation that has been used by some of the great coaches like: Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan team, which is arguably one of the best European teams ever, after winning the European Cup (the old form of the Champions League), Sir Alex Ferguson(one of the greatest British Managers) at Manchester United, Fabio Capello, Diego Simeone who used it to win the Spanish league in 2013/14, Carlo Ancelotti for Real Madrid, winning the Champions League (La Decima) and many others.

The 4-4-2 formation is one in which there are 4 midfielders, who contribute both to attack and defence. There are several variations of this formation like, the 4-4-2 Diamond, flat 4-4-2, or even modifications like the 4-4-1-1 or the 4-3-2-1 etc. Of all these various forms of the 4-4-2 formation, the 4-4-2 flat was employed by the Super Eagles of 1994.

The 5 unique features of this formations were:

Exploiting the wings: The Super Eagles had pace down the wings and tall well-built strikers, with the likes of Rashidi Yekini, and Daniel (the bull) Amokachi. The Eagles exploited the wings of their opponents with pace and focused on good crosses into the box. Most of the crosses were hit early and floated for a good contest with the opponent’s defenders.

The speed of the wingers or wide midfielders (Victor Ikpeba, Finidi George, and Amuneke) always kept the opposing full backs busy. Like a popular saying, the best form of defense is attack, consistent pressure was applied, while the central midfielders were on hand to cover up for the attacking players. These wide midfielders also contributed to the team’s defensive parts by dropping deep when defending.

Modern Super Eagles Players for this Philosophy: Speed on the wings through the likes of Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi and Moses Simon.

Full use of the aerial ability of the strikers: The team used fully, the aerial and physical abilities of their strikers. The likes of Yekini, Amokachi and even Mutiu Adepoju (Head Master) was fully utilized. Crosses were delivered in time and floated up into the box for a proper aerial duel with the opposition defenders. The positioning and finishing of the strikers was world class. They anticipated balls and were very tenacious.

Modern Super Eagles Players for this Philosophy: Tall physical and muscular strikers like; Shola Ameobi, Brown Ideye, Odion Ighalo and Victor Anichebe.

Counter attack initiations through the goal keeper: The team’s goal keeper communicated and organized the defense. He also contributed to some fantastic counter attacks through quick and good distribution. The fantastic saves also contribute to the overall team’s morale.

Modern Super Eagles Players for this Philosophy: The likes of Karl Ikeme and Vincent Enyeama.

Ball holding and creative midfielders: The likes of creative midfielders like Augustine (Jay-Jay) Okocha, known for his dribbling abilities and long shots, Sunday Oliseh, known for his passing accuracy and long shots, and Samson Siasia contributed to the team’s ball retention ability, passing and creativity. They remained a constant threat to their opponents even when the opponents stayed back to defend. Okocha’s dribble frustrated opponents and won a lot of free kicks for the team.

Modern Super Eagles Players for this Philosophy: Obi Mikel, Joel Obi and Rabiu Ibrahim.

Ball winning midfielders: The team had ball winning midfielders who also served as anchor men, closing down opponents quickly. They served as cover for the defense and rarely deviated from their positions. This allowed total freedom of the wide midfielders. This ball winning midfielders where restricted to long range shots and long range passes as they rarely left their positions, except during attacking set pieces. Players like Sunday Oliseh, Samson Siasia and Oliha.

Modern Super Eagles Players for this Philosophy: Mikel Obi, Oguenyi Onazi and Chinedu Ogu.

Written by Olarinmoye Segun

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