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AFCON: Nigeria's record through the years

Nigeria will target a fourth Africa Cup of Nations crown when they begin their campaign on 13th January.

The Super Eagles, champions in 1980, 1994 and 2013, have been drawn in Group A alongside hosts Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau and are 11/8 to top the pool.

Jose Peseiro is the man in charge and will be looking to emulate Otto Gloria, Clemens Westerhof and Stephen Keshi by guiding 10/1 Nigeria to continental glory.

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Super Eagles emerge

Various issues contributed to Nigeria featuring in just three of the first nine AFCONs, but they soon found a feel for the tournament.

The Super Eagles finished third in both 1976 and 1978 before Segun Odegbami's brace and a Muda Lawal strike saw them beat Algeria 3-0 as hosts in front of 85,000 fans in Lagos in 1980.

A frustrating group stage exit followed in 1982, and while they failed to qualify in 1986, that disappointment interrupted a period of being there or thereabouts, with heartache never far behind.

The Nigerians were runners-up in 1984, 1988 and 1990, the latter seeing Algeria get their own back on home soil. Nigeria were then third in 1992 before future Barcelona winger Emmanuel Amunike scored twice to see off Zambia 2-1 and claim their second title in 1994.

Nigerian football comes to the world

That success coincided with Nigeria's national team gaining wider global recognition, debuting at the World Cup in 1994. They reached the Round of 16 in the USA and repeated that feat in France four years later.

They then missed the 1996 and 1998 AFCONs but that did not prevent them from winning Olympic Gold in Atlanta in 1996. The Atlanta Games attracted a star-studded cast, but the Super Eagles soared. 

After losing to Brazil in the group stages, they again met a Selecao side featuring Roberto Carlos, Juninho Paulista, Bebeto, Ronaldo and Rivaldo, all either reigning or future world champions, in the semi-finals, and Nwankwo Kanu's Golden Goal saw them grab a 4-3 win.

Their opponents in the final, Argentina, were just as good. Roberto Ayala, Jose Chamot and Javier Zanetti played in defence behind a forward line including Ariel Ortega, Hernan Crespo and Claudio Lopez, while Diego Simeone came off the bench.

Twice they fell behind, Lopez opening the scoring and Crespo netting a penalty. Former Chelsea and Newcastle man Celestine Babayaro and Everton alumni Daniel Amokachi both equalised before Amunike came off the bench to fire in a stoppage-time winner.

That group of players was a Golden Generation for Nigeria, with Taribo West, Jay-Jay Okocha and Sunday Oliseh also in the squad for the Olympics. Considering that Champions League winner Finidi George was also around, they arguably failed to live up to their potential either continentally or globally.

More frustration for Nigeria

Nigeria returned to the AFCON as co-hosts in 2000 but suffered more heartache, with Kanu one of those to fail from 12 yards as they lost the final on penalties to Cameroon.

A quarter-final elimination in 2008 punctuated four more bronze medals in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010, but after failing to qualify in 2012, Emmanuel Emenike, once of West Ham, scored four times to help them win a third African title in 2013.

Sunday Mba netted the only goal in the final, a 1-0 win over Burkina Faso in Johannesburg, but that pre-empted more failures to qualify in 2015 and 2017.

The Super Eagles were back in 2019, going down in the semi-finals as Riyad Mahrez's 95th-minute winner sent Algeria through to the final in which they beat Senegal. Nigeria again had to settle for third, beating Tunisia 1-0 courtesy of Odion Ighalo's early strike.

To summarise an inconsistent period for Nigerian football, they won all three group games in 2021, only to be undone by Tunisia in the Round of 16, with Youssef Msakni grabbing the deciding goal in Garoua, Cameroon.

Nigeria's AFCON Record

1957GabonNot affiliated to CAF
1959United Arab RepublicNot Affiliated to CAF
1963GhanaGroup stage
1968EthiopiaDid not qualify 
1972CameroonDid not qualify 
1974EgyptDid not qualify 
1976EthiopiaThird place
1978GhanaThird place
1982LibyaGroup stage
1984Ivory CoastRunners-up
1986EgyptDid not qualify
1992SenegalThird place
1996South AfricaWithdrew
1998Burkina FasoBanned
2000Ghana and NigeriaRunners-up
2002MaliThird place
2004TunisiaThird place
2006EgyptThird place
2010AngolaThird place
2012Equatorial Guinea and GabonDid not qualify
2013South AfricaChampions
2015Equatorial GuineaDid not qualify
2017GabonDid not qualify
2019EgyptThird place
2021CameroonRound of 16
2023Ivory CoastQualified

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